OPENING STATEMENT OF

THE HONORABLE ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA

AT THE

HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

SUBCOMMITTEE ON EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

JOINT HEARING ON

“U.S. SECURITY POLICY  IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC:

THE VIEW  FROM PACIFIC COMMAND”

FEBRUARY 27, 2002

  

Mr. Chairman: 

          Last week, President Bush traveled to Asia to reemphasize to our allies, Japan and South Korea, as well as to China, that the United States has major strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and our Nation intends to remain firmly engaged for the long-term. 

          In that light, I commend you for calling this timely hearing today to examine U.S. security policy in the Asia-Pacific region, where almost two-thirds of the world’s population resides.   With 55 percent of the gross world product coming from the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. conducts over $550 billion in annual trade there, along with billions more in U.S. investments.   

It is crucial that these interests be protected and peace and stability maintained in this region, which, incidentally, is home to the six largest armies in the world.    

          I join you in warmly welcoming to our committee today Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command (CINPAC).  As the chief military commander of all U.S. forces and operations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which encompasses 100 million square miles and over 300,000 military personnel, Admiral Blair is entrusted with tremendous responsibility and reports directly to President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.   

          In terms of pressing security concerns, the fight against international terrorism has now spread to the Asia-Pacific region, especially in Southeast Asia, which raises several questions.  

In the first U.S. deployment outside of the Afghanistan theater, over 600 U.S. special forces and support troops have been deployed to the Philippines to assist Philippine President Arroyo in combating the terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf.  While I support our involvement against these terrorist thugs who hold two Americans hostage, I question whether the six-month deadline for U.S. military assistance to the Philippine army is realistic.  Also, if the objective of the Philippine-U.S. cooperation is to eliminate Abu Sayyaf, shouldn’t we extend U.S. operations to Jolo Island, where Abu Sayyaf’s strength is reportedly much greater than on Basilan Island?  I am further concerned that in pursuing Abu Sayyaf, this not escalate into a conflict with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has thousands more followers and supposedly aids the Abu Sayyaf, while sharing the same areas of operation. 

The arrest of a significant Al Qaeda cell in Singapore has revealed the outlines of a terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiah, which stretches through Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.  The terrorists planned to commit mass murders by bombing U.S. and Western targets in Singapore.   

If this Al Qaeda-connected group could take root in a tightly controlled environment like Singapore, what does this portend for the rest of the region? Given the bombing plot, I would also be interested in finding out how the Indonesian government is responding to calls from the U.S., Singapore and Malaysian governments that it arrest Abu Bakar Baasyir, the head of Jemaah Islamiah, who resides in Indonesia.  In light of Admiral Blair’s extensive contacts with the Indonesian military, perhaps he can give us some insight as to the views of the Indonesian military leadership regarding Abu Bakar and  Laskar Jihad, the extremist Muslim group which allegedly enjoys military support?                         

           With regards to Northeast Asia, President Bush included North Korea in the “axis of evil” due to its role in proliferating missiles to Iran, Pakistan and other Middle East countries.  A recent CIA report asserted that North Korea made significant exports of missiles, missile components, and missile technology to these countries last year.   

Given the President’s strong language against North Korea, if North Korea does not voluntarily cease these missile exports, I would be interested to hear what strategy the Administration intends to pursue to prevent further exports? 

For example, in March 1999, a study group on North Korea headed by Richard Armitage (now Undersecretary of State) and including Paul Wolfowitz (now Deputy Secretary of Defense) issued a report, which proposed that the United States draw “red lines” around North Korean behavior and act against North Korea if it breached these red lines.  One of the U.S. actions proposed was the maritime interdiction of North Korean vessels bound for the Middle East in order to prevent North Korea from shipping weapons of mass destruction to that region.  

If the Bush Administration ordered such a policy, do naval forces under CINPAC have the capabilities to implement maritime interdiction of North Korean ships?  What cooperation would be required from Japan and South Korea in order to carry out interdiction?  I’d be interested to hear what would be the strengths, weaknesses, and dangers of such a policy?  

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to make these brief comments and I look forward to Admiral Blair’s testimony and responses to the matters raised.