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Nominee Discusses Asia-Pacific Challenges

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2011 – The United States faces difficult challenges in the Asia and Pacific regions, Mark Lippert said here yesterday.

Lippert testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee at a Nov. 17 hearing on his nomination as assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.

“The challenges of this dynamic and important portfolio are self-evident,” Lippert said.

Among the challenges, he said, are the fight to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to maintain and enhance the U.S. force posture with treaty allies and partners in East and Southeast Asia, to engage emerging powers such as India and China, and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

If confirmed, Lippert said he would help guide DOD policy in the Asia-Pacific region as the department works in an austere budget environment to address continuing national security threats.

Lippert also said he would work with the U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Central Command, and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and be responsible for oversight of security cooperation programs and foreign military sales programs in the region.

Lippert worked in the Senate for nearly 10 years as an adviser to several senators and as a professional staff member for the Senate Appropriations Committee before joining the National Security Council staff in 2009. At the same time, he served two tours on active duty as a naval intelligence officer, earning a Bronze Star in Iraq in 2008.

During the hearing, Lippert agreed that normalizing U.S.-Pakistan relations will require Pakistan to eliminate extremist safe havens inside its borders.

He also said that the 2007 U.S. surge of troops in Iraq was vital to the current success there.

“I was in Anbar province in 2007 [and] 2008, to witness the surge break the back of the insurgency firsthand,” Lippert told the senators, “so I think we are where we are because of the surge.”

Focusing on another part of the region, Lippert said he “strongly support[s] a comprehensive, durable, and unofficial relationship with Taiwan's vibrant democracy.”

Lippert also said he’s “deeply concerned” about the build-up of combat aircraft by the People’s Republic of China -- 2,300 operational aircraft to the government of Taiwan’s 490 aircraft.

The U.S. government made commitments under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to ensure Taiwan has the weaponry it needs to defend against aggression by China.

“If confirmed,” Lippert added, “I can assure you that I'm going to keep being an open-minded official that hears all sides of this debate.”

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