WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2015 —
Korea and its unpredictable leader are U.S. Pacific Command’s biggest worries,
Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr. told the Military Reporters and Editors Association here
who has commanded U.S. Pacific Command since May, gave reporters and editors an
update on the progress of the military rebalance to the Pacific.
stopped in Washington on his way to the Australia-United States Ministerial in
greatest threat that I face on a day-to-day basis is the threat from North
Korea, because you have an unpredictable leaders who is in complete command of
his country and his military,” Harris said.
Un is “on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them
intercontinentally,” he said, adding that Un “poses a very real threat to the
28,000 Americans in South Korea, the nation of South Korea, Japan and on and
some point in the future, as he develops his capability, North Korea will
present a very real threat to Hawaii and the rest of the United States,” Harris
continued. “Now, I have to be ready from a position of strength to deal with
North Korea and we are ready to deal … any time that Kim Jong Un decides to
Pacom Area of Responsibility
Pacific Command has responsibility for U.S. military operations on more than 52
percent of the Earth’s surface. “It’s the oldest and largest of the geographic
combatant commands and responsible for all U.S. military forces from Hollywood
to Bollywood and from polar bears to penguins,” Harris said.
the command’s area are the three largest world economies. Seven of the world’s
10 largest standing armies are in the region, as are five of the seven nations
that have nuclear arms. “Most projections place seven out of every 10 people on
Earth within the Indo-Asian region by the middle of this century,” Harris said.
projections and facts prove that the region “matters,” the admiral said. The
region fuels growth in the United States and around the world. This is the
impetus behind the U.S. government push to pay more attention to the area, he
though the world gets a vote -- like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
and Syria -- we continue to make real progress on the rebalance and advancing
our interests in the Indo-Asia Pacific,” he said.
Barack Obama announced the rebalance more than four years ago as a
whole-of-government approach. Security matters are just one aspect of the
program that also includes diplomacy, economic integration and political
Peace is a Collaborative
presence of our joint military forces in key locations throughout the region,
underpins the rules-based, international order, and provides opportunity to
engage with other countries while being positioned to respond to crises,” the
forces are key to maintaining peace and prosperity in the region, he said, but
it now entails a more coordinated and cooperative process. U.S. forces do not
impose peace; they work with other nations militaries to increase their
capabilities and capacity. U.S. forces constantly exercise with nations of the
region and their presence strengthens the ties not only with the United States,
but among neighbors.
particularly cited cooperation with two treaty allies -- South Korea and Japan.
U.S. engagement with these countries “is the foundation for peace and security
in the region,” he said. “Not only do we share common values and common
concerns, but we face a common threat in North Korea.”.
by North Korea is one reason why Harris welcomes Japan’s decision to play a
greater role in regional security. He said he will do all he can to look for
ways for South Korea, Japan and the United States to collaborate.
Building the Relationship
reiterated that U.S. involvement in the region is not aimed at containing
China. The rebalance is about U.S. recognition of the increased importance of
the region to Main Street U.S.A. Simply put, security in the region has means
prosperity, he said.
in the best interests of the United States that we continue to embrace and enhance
our relationships with everyone in the region including China,” Harris said.
“While I’ve been known to be critical of China’s provocative military
activities these past two years … I will also acknowledge when China has been
helpful, such as China’s counterpiracy efforts off the Horn of Africa and the
search for the Malaysian airliner off the coast of Australia.”
admiral will meet with Chinese military leaders next month and he will
“maximize” these areas of cooperation and agreement, while trying to work
through areas where the United States and China disagree, he said.
Harris is prepared
to continue the conversation with Chinese leaders. “Obviously one of the topics
of on-going discussions is my continuing concern with what I call China’s ‘sand
castles in the sea’ in disputed waters of the South China Sea,” he said.
“Militarization by any claimant in the area makes it harder to resolve
will not discuss future operations in his area of responsibility, but he
referred reporters to his testimony before the Senate earlier this year. “To
reaffirm our ironclad commitment to international law, I think we must exercise
freedom of navigation operations throughout the region and throughout the
globe,” he said.
also said he told a regional chiefs of defense meeting -- which included China --
at his headquarters in Hawaii two weeks ago that the United States “will
continue to fly and sail and operate anywhere -- anywhere that international
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