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Washington, D.C. ­– The following statement by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was submitted for the record today at a hearing on the posture of U.S. Pacific Command:

“The evolving security situation in the Indo-Pacific presents a dynamic environment for safeguarding America’s deep and enduring interests in the region. The National Defense Strategy offers a new framework for thinking about the global challenges we face and places China squarely at the top of our priority list. As we turn our focus to great power competition and near-peer threats, we must face up to the true nature and reality of Chinese power and ambition.

“For decades, many Americans hoped that China’s ‘peaceful rise’ would lead Beijing to assume a role as a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in the rules-based international order. But China’s Communist Party leaders have made a different choice. China’s hostility to the rules-based order—which has been increasingly brazen under Xi Jinping—threatens to undermine peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. However, this is not merely a regional issue. As a Pacific power, this reality threatens America’s interests as well. I am convinced the only successful path to preserving the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific—and the peace and prosperity it has generated—is to renew America’s leadership in the region in full.

“In the military domain, China’s rapid modernization has been aimed at developing capabilities that directly challenge the American way of war. And they have succeeded in eroding our conventional military overmatch and countering our ability to project power. While America’s military remains the most powerful on earth, urgent action is required to keep to keep it that way. America no longer has the luxury of taking its military advantage for granted. 

“We must think differently about capabilities and concepts, forward basing and force posture, and logistics and mobilization. We must prepare for future threats with an eye to how the rapid diffusion of advanced technologies has changed the landscape of warfare. And we must recognize our adversaries are competing across the entire spectrum of conflict, which requires us to be more adaptive and innovative in order to expand the competitive space.

“While the long-term challenge of strategic competition with China looms, the most immediate threat in the Indo-Pacific is the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Last year in the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required the President to submit a report setting forth the U.S. strategy for North Korea. The administration missed that deadline this week.

“A North Korean missile with a nuclear payload capable of striking the U.S. homeland is no longer a distant hypothetical—it is an imminent danger. And the threats to our allies and partners and U.S. military bases in the region are even more severe. While I welcome any efforts to resolve the situation diplomatically, I remain skeptical of any assurances that North Korea is ready to denuclearize after decades of pursuing its current program at grave cost.

“At the core of every issue in this important region is the reality that securing our interests relies on working closely with the countries who share them. I am encouraged that the new National Defense Strategy commits to strengthening U.S. alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. In addition to our long-time allies in Japan and South Korea, Secretary Mattis has focused his efforts on developing and deepening partnerships with India, Indonesia, and Vietnam—where we recently witnessed an historic port call by a U.S. aircraft carrier that demonstrates just how far we have come. I welcome these efforts because ultimately, no policy for deterring aggression, maintaining stability, and achieving prosperity in the region will be successful without our allies and partners.

“As much as I am encouraged by efforts to provide more funding to meet our military requirements and to improve defense cooperation across the region, I fear these efforts will be in vain unless the United States takes action, especially in the economic sphere, to demonstrate that we are not a declining or disinterested power—and that we remain committed to playing our historic role as a Pacific power. That is why I urge the Trump administration to show the courage required to change course by reentering negotiations to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We also need to cease threats to withdraw from existing trade agreements, such as the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. And we need to ensure that America’s allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific are not targeted by steep steel and aluminum tariffs. 

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“Finally, on the occasion of today’s hearing, let me express my deepest thanks to Admiral Harris, who has served our nation honorably for decades, and has been a faithful steward of the post my father once held. Admiral, we thank you for your friendship and leadership. And we wish you well in retirement and as you continue to serve our nation as Ambassador to Australia.”

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Kris Osborncan be reached