Opening Statement

Representative James A. Leach

Chairman, Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific

U.S. Security Policy in Asia and the Pacific: the View from Pacific Command

February 27, 2002


On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to warmly welcome Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, to this joint hearing before the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, as well as the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. We deeply appreciate the cooperation of the Admiral and his staff for agreeing to appear before us today, and for expediting review of the U.S. Pacific Command Fiscal 2003 "posture statement" that forms the basis for his testimony.

The purpose of today’s hearing is to review the priorities and challenges for U.S. security policy in the Asia-Pacific, as assessed by America’s ranking military commander in the region.

As Members are aware, the Asia-Pacific region is looming larger in American national security policy. The reasons are self-evident. The U.S. has fought three major wars in Asia over the past century. Great powers and aspiring great powers, each with substantial and increasingly sophisticated military establishments, rub shoulders there. Although for the last quarter century the area has enjoyed a relatively placid security climate, this surface calm remains vulnerable to latent tension on the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Strait, and Kashmir. And in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, well-organized terrorist cells linked to al-Qaeda have been discovered and partly dismantled, throughout a wide swath of Southeast Asia. America’s economic stake in the region is also profound. Approximately 400,000 U.S. citizens live, work and study in the region. U.S. businesses conduct roughly $500 billion in trade and have invested more than $150 billion throughout the region. People-to-people and cultural ties, which result in part from growing commercial interaction, continue to expand at an impressive rate.

In this context, it is widely appreciated throughout the region that U.S. bilateral treaties and security partnerships, backed by capable forward-stationed and deployed armed forces, remain essential for deterring aggression and promoting peaceful development in the region.

Having said that, the threat of international terrorism now confronts the United States with a unique foreign policy and national security challenge. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the sacrifice of so many young American men and women serving with Pacific Command and elsewhere around the world, who are doing so much in so many ways to provide for our security. Likewise, as Admiral Blair knows so well, success in the campaign against terrorism crucially depends on intensive and ongoing multilateral cooperation between the United States and a broad coalition of other countries. Here it should be noted that America is deeply appreciative for all the assistance we have received from so many in the Asian region.

In the wake of our engagement in Afghanistan and deployment to the Philippines, some are asking what comes next – particularly in Southeast Asia.

In this regard, one has the sense that Washington is wrestling with novel and awkward judgment calls in East Asia that have yet to be explicitly articulated in a public setting, although there are some historical parallels. That is, what happens when we are dealing with an imperfect government, or let us put it a little bit different, an imperfect movement in an imperfect society? Should the U.S. be actively involved in military intervention, either in conjunction with that government or preemptively based on compelling exigencies? Or are U.S. interests better served, generally speaking, emphasizing appropriate intelligence and law enforcement cooperation, coupled more broadly with economic and cultural engagement? Obviously, it is not always an either/or and one has to reserve flexibility for differentiating judgments. But if it is established that country X has an activist al-Qaeda-related movement that the government is unable or perhaps unwilling to take decisive action against, should U.S. armed forces be sent in, or would that be as deeply counterproductive an engagement as one could conceive?

I raise this philosophical issue because this hearing affords the Committee a unique opportunity to engage the "CINC" on a wide range of exceptionally important issues touching on critical U.S. interests in Asia and the Pacific.

We look forward to your testimony and the exchange of views to follow.