Floor Statements

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered the following opening statement today at a hearing on U.S. policy and strategy in the Asia-Pacific region:

“The Senate Armed Services Committee meets this morning to receive testimony on U.S. policy and strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. I am pleased to welcome today our panel of expert witnesses, all with deep knowledge and experience in the region:

  • “Victor Cha, Senior Adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies;
  • “Aaron Friedberg, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University;
  • “Kelly Magsamen, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs; and
  • “Ashley Tellis, Senior Fellow and Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“America’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region are deep and enduring. That’s why for the past seventy years, we have worked with our allies and partners to uphold a rules-based order based on the principles of free peoples and free markets, open seas and open skies, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. These ideas have produced unprecedented peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. But now, the challenges to this rules-based order are mounting. And they threaten not just the nations of the Asia-Pacific region, but the United States as well.

“The most immediate challenge is the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Jong Un’s regime has thrown its full weight behind its quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. And unfortunately, the regime is making real progress. A North Korean missile with a nuclear payload capable of striking an American city is no longer a distant hypothetical, but an imminent danger—one that poses a real and rising risk of conflict. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about U.S. policy options on the Korean Peninsula.

“For years, the United States has looked to China—North Korea’s long-time patron and sole strategic ally—to bring the regime to the negotiating table and achieve progress toward a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula. We have done so for the simple reason that China is the only country with the influence to truly curb North Korea’s destabilizing behavior. But China has repeatedly refused to exercise that influence.

“Instead, China has chosen to bully South Korea for exercising its sovereign right to defend itself from the escalating North Korean threat. In response to the joint alliance decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system to the Korean Peninsula, China has waged a campaign of economic retaliation against South Korea, which has inflicted real damage. The twisted reality is that China is doing all of this to stop the deployment of a missile defense system, which is only necessary because China has aided and abetted North Korea for decades.

“I welcome the Trump administration’s outreach to China on the issue of North Korea. But as these discussions continue, the United States should be clear that while we earnestly seek China’s cooperation on North Korea, we do not seek such cooperation at the expense of our vital interests. We must not and will not bargain over our alliances with Japan and South Korea, nor over fundamental principles such as freedom of the seas.

“As its behavior toward South Korea indicates, over the last several years, China has acted less and less like a responsible stakeholder of the rules-based order in the region, and more like a bully. Its rapid military modernization, provocations in the East China Sea, and continued militarization activities in the South China Sea signal an increasingly assertive pattern of behavior. Despite U.S. efforts to ‘rebalance’ to the Asia-Pacific, U.S. policy has failed to adapt to the scale and velocity of China’s challenge to the rules-based order. And that failure has called into question the credibility of America’s security commitments in the region.

“The new administration has an important opportunity to chart a different and better course. For example, I believe there is strong merit for an ‘Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative’ similar to the European Deterrence Initiative pursued over the last few years. This initiative would enhance Pacific Command’s credible combat power through targeted funding to realign U.S. military force posture in the region, improve operationally-relevant infrastructure, fund additional exercises, preposition equipment and munitions, and build capacity with our allies and partners. These are important steps that should be taken as part of a new, comprehensive strategy in the Asia-Pacific that incorporates all elements of national power. I hope our witnesses will describe their ideas about what an APSI should fund and how they would articulate an interagency strategy for the Asia-Pacific.

“Thank you to all the witnesses for being here today. I look forward to your testimony.”