|| I thank our host, the United States Department of the Air Force, for the invitation to participate in this important conference on arms control issues in the Asia-Pacific region. It is, indeed, a privilege and an honor to address such a distinguished audience of experts in military and security concerns.
Historically, arms control negotiations are set by those who possess arms -- in accordance with the "golden rule." That is, he who has the gold, sets the rules. By that standard, perhaps it is appropriate that this conference take place here since the United States is the world's premier military power as well as the planet's leading arms exporter, with close to $11 billion in sales in 1997.
I have been an elected member of the House of Representatives since 1989, and have served with the House Foreign Affairs/International Relations Committee for over 10 years. When I first came to Congress, there seemed to be little interest in the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region and not many Members of Congress sought to serve on the Asia-Pacific Affairs Subcommittee. This, perhaps, was a reflection of the unhealthy fixation that the United States has long had with Europe and the Middle East. Today, in contrast, Congress has great interest in Asia, and my colleagues have competed hotly to serve on the Asia-Pacific Affairs Subcommitte, making it by far the largest subcommittee, with 22 members, in the House International Relations Committee. This is a testament to the compelling nature of the issues emanating from the region, and I would like share my thoughts on some of the more pressing security concerns.
With two-thirds of the world's population in Asia and the Pacific, and the region accounting for over half of the world's gross domestic product, the United States has more than a substantial stake and interest in the stability of the Asia-Pacific region. For the past half-century, the United States has played a major role in preserving peace and stability in Asia and the Pacific, providing the foundation upon which the region's growth, prosperity and $500 billion a year trade with the U.S. has been built. Even with the recent financial setbacks in Asia, it is inevitable that the Asia-Pacific region shall replace the North Atlantic as the center of world trade.
The economic implications of this shift, as well as our key security interests, demand that the United States remain a dominant military power in the Asia-Pacific region.
To that effect, I and many of my colleagues in Congress strongly endorse the Department of Defense's (DoD) recent 1998 report entitled, "The United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region."
Defense Secretary Bill Cohen's commitment to maintain the forward deployment of 100,000 U.S. military personnel in the Asia-Pacific is absolutely crucial, along with continued enhancement of our mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines. DoD's pursuit of comprehensive engagement with the People's Republic of China and expanded cooperation with Russia are vital missions, as is the broadening of U.S. security ties with the ASEAN countries. It is also essential that the U.S. support multilateral security relationships in the Asia-Pacific to complement our bilateral defense alliances. All of these elements are instrumental in combatting theproliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Asia-Pacific region.
The DoD Security Strategy report again underscores America's intent to remain firmly engaged in the Asia-Pacific, dispelling regional fears that with the end of the Cold War the U.S. would significantly reduce its presence as a stabilizing force. Most countries in the region welcome the United States as a benign great power, an honest broker, with unmatched technological, commercial and military prowess. However, China, as reflected in its 1998 Defence White Paper, may view the U.S. bilateral military alliances as destabilizing relics from the Cold War. Regardless, it is clear that without the support of our allies and friends in the region, the United States cannot play the same role militarily in providing stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific. In many ways, America is there only because the nations of the Asia-Pacific region desire that and make it possible for the U.S. to carry out its security vision in the 21st century.
With the conclusion of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union, for which we spent $5 trillion to win, I believe, as others have advocated, that elements within the United States have sought to find another enemy to tackle. For a while in the early 1990s, it seemed that Japan was in the cross hairs. Riding an economic boom while the U.S. suffered from deep recession, Japan's increasing surpluses made it public enemy number one, according to many polls in America. The economic conflict resulted in Japan-bashing, encouraging hysteria, bigotry and outright violence against those perceived to be Japanese.
In recent years, with the collapse of Japan's bubble economy and resurgence of America's economic strength, the focus has shifted. Unfortunately, America's residual distrust when dealing with Asian nations has not dissipated since Pearl Harbor. Today, it seems China is in the cross hairs. Some in this country seek to demonize the People's Republic of China (PRC), portraying China as America's enemy for various reasons. This is both unfortunate and unfair.
I have long been a supporter of the United States maintaining broad and comprehensive ties with the People's Republic of China to spur progress in that nation. This policy of China engagement has been upheld in a bipartisan fashion by five previous administrations and I support the Clinton Administration's present efforts for continued engagement with China. Defense Secretary Cohen's initiatives for greater contacts, exchanges and visits between the military establishments of the U.S. and China are part of this process of engagement and are to be highly commended. To reciprocate, I urge that the Chinese government show greater transparency in their military operations to Secretary Cohen when he visits China next month for the second time.
Since the PRC opened her doors to the West in the 1970s with President Nixon's overture, we have seen tremendous strides forward on several fronts. Business, social and political ties with the West have blossomed, allowing a torrent of information, technology and Western values to stream into China.
This has resulted in a profound improvement of life for the Chinese people, giving them new-found freedoms in employment, travel and housing, with expanded access to information including the internet, and democratic participation in village elections. Over the past two decades, political and individual freedoms, along with an increased standard of living, have significantly changed for the better for the average Chinese.
While in our eyes much remains to be done in the area of human rights, we should not forget that China provides for the welfare of 1.3 billion people -- five times more than the population of the United States. In a nation of such huge size, which adds 12 million new mouths each year, I can understand why some say that providing food, shelter and stability may be preservation of the most basic yet important of human rights, particularly at this stage of China's fragile economic development.
Against this backdrop of real progress in China, however, I am troubled by the Chinese government's recent crackdown on Democracy Party activists, sentencing democracy advocates to prison terms of more than 10 years. This occurred because China's economy has slowed reflecting Asia's financial crisis, creating high unemployment, labor unrest and volatility throughout the country. Regrettably, the government feared the democracy activists could spark mass protests and widespread instability. The crackdown has been a discouraging development and I fully support Secretary of State Albright in her efforts to address these human rights concerns.
In the security realm, while there are contentious issues with the PRC, especially over Taiwan's defense, it is important not to exaggerate the threat that China poses to the United States and her Asian neighbors. I concur fully with outgoing CINCPAC Commander Admiral Joseph Prueher, who advocates in a recent Defense News interview that Beijing's critics in Washington exaggerate and mistakenly focus on China's missile capabilities rather than the leadership's long-term intentions. Admiral Prueher holds that China's effort to deploy missiles is to compensate for its relative inferiority in conventional air, land and sea power.
Defense studies show it will take decades before China can challenge the U.S. militarily, assuming China were even interested in pursuing this. Presumably, China has learned from the experience of the former Soviet Union, which came to its demise from excessive military spending. China's total defense spending between $28 to $36 billion per year is miniscule when compared to the $270 billion that the United States spends annually on its military. With its modest defense budget, China can only seek to slowly modernize a bloated military force that is equipped primarily with 1950s and 1960s era weaponry. While China has made some high profile acquisitions, such as SA-10 surface to air missiles, SU-27 fighters and Kilo submarines from Russia, its overall capability to project power is still very limited, except for the ability to intimidate neighbors with missile diplomacy. In the final analysis, China's military is capable of fighting a defensive war on its mainland or in coastal regions but not to mount a serious offensive far from its shores.
With regards to China's nuclear forces, it possesses about 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles, with 8 more ICBMs planned, and one ballistic missile submarine with 12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. China has no long-range strategic bombers. Overall, China possesses 149 strategic nuclear warheads, which pales in comparision to the 7,150 warheads in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
China's nuclear force is small and primitive when compared to the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Clearly, China's small nuclear deterrent is meant for defensive purposes and not as a serious offensive threat to the United States.
With the overwhelming superiority of the United States in nuclear weapons technology and conventional forces, we should be sensitive to exaggerating the security threat that the People's Republic of China poses to America. Although the U.S. should remain vigilant in monitoring China's military development, continually labelling the PRC as a threat is counterproductive and runs the danger of turning China, indeed, into our enemy.
With that said, I would like to briefly give my thoughts on some of the pressing security issues in the region.
The possibility of extending a U.S. theater missile defense (TMD) to Taiwan has erupted in vehement protests from the Chinese leadership, from President Jiang Zemin on down. Members of the U.S. Congress have called for a Pentagon study to look at including Taiwan in a TMD. All of this was precipitated by China's use of missile diplomacy in 1996 with Taiwan's first presidential elections and the subsequent buildup of ballistic missiles in China's southern regions facing Taiwan. Now it is estimated that China has 150 to 200 M-9 and M-11 missiles targeting Taiwan, with an expected increase to 650 missiles to pre-empt any TMD that might be deployed.
I find this unfortunate and ironic, as China has legitimate sovereignty interests to protect with Taiwan, yet is providing the very justification for U.S. defensive intervention under the Taiwan Relations Act. If China truly desires to stop Taiwan from receiving Aegis cruisers and inclusion in a U.S. Navy Theater Wide TMD, then it should take immediate steps to defuse the situation by scaling back its present deployment of ballistic missiles facing Taiwan. China should further show its good faith by taking steps to resume the Cross-Strait dialogue with Taiwan, permitting PRC negotiator Wang to travel to Taipei for peaceful resolution of Taiwan's status.
Another regional flashpoint involving China is the situation with the Spratley Islands. In recent months, China has been accused by the Philippines of resuming military development of Mischief Reef, which is claimed by the Philippines since the reef lies within its 200 mile EEZ. Reports indicate that the Chinese military facility can be used for landing helicopters, mounting anti-aircraft guns, radar and communication equipment. Three Chinese naval vessels have been observed at Mischief Reef, and the facility may have berthing capabilities. China, on the other hand, claims the facility is purely commercial and built for their fishing fleet.
Conflict over Mischief Reef and the Spratleys should be avoided since it has the potential to escalate and impact on the area's vital sea-lanes through which a quarter of the world's shipping trade passes every year. Additionally, a conflict between China and the Philippines inevitably brings into question the obligations of the United States to intervene under our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. If the U.S. fails to act, it raises the larger issue regarding the credibility of American defense commitments in Asia when a treaty partner requests military assistance. In citing to the Mischief Reef dispute with China, the Philippine Senate has already questioned why should they approve the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S. if the mutual defense treaty itself cannot be relied upon.
To prevent the situation from getting out of hand, I would urge China to reach a binding agreement with the Philippines when they meet later this month for bilateral discussions regarding Mischief Reef. China has proposed before that the Spratley Islands be developed jointly by all six claimants. This is the perfect opportunity for China to demonstrate they are sincere by permitting the Philippines to jointly use the "commercial" facilities and developments on Mischief Reef.
With regards to North Korea, many agree that there is no greater threat to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region than the actions posed by the Kim Jong Il regime. North Korea's launch of a three-stage Taepo-Dong 1 missile over Japan last August shocked the region, potentially threatening U.S. forces and any country within the missile's 1,250 mile range. The intelligence community warns that North Korea may also test the Taepo-Dong 2, an intercontinental ballistic missile with an expected range up to 10,000 kilometers, that would enable it to hit Alaska, Hawaii and much of the continental United States.
These missile developments, plus the lack of progress in gaining access to North Korea's suspect underground facility, threaten Congress' funding for the Agreed Framework and KEDO. If the Agreed Framework falls apart, it is feared that North Korea may resume its nuclear weapons program and within two years could possess up to five nuclear-tipped missiles. The greatest danger with North Korea is that it has the potential to play nuclear terrorist, holding hostage the nations of the Asia-Pacific including the United States, without regard to the suicidal ramifications. The U.S. nuclear deterrent is sterile when faced with madness.
Because of the dangers increasingly posed by North Korea and other rogue states such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya, I strongly support efforts leading to the establishment of a theater missile defense for the U.S. and its allies, as well as a limited national missile defense system for the United States. Both chambers of Congress in bi-partisan fashion recognize the urgent need for a national missile defense, with the "Cochran-Inouye Missile Defense Bill" (S.257) to be debated on the Senate floor this week and the "Weldon-Spratt Missile Defense Bill" (H.R.4) awaiting floor consideration in the House. I commend the Clinton Administration for its leadership in addressing this serious security problem by increasing DoD funding to $10.5 billion for missile defense programs over FY1999-FY2006.
With this enhanced funding, increased focus and continued perseverence, I am optimistic that our nation will develop the missile defense technology necessary to hit the proverbial "speeding bullet with a bullet."
The safety of our military personnel and allies in the Asia-Pacific region and the security of the people of the United States of America mandate that missile defense systems be deployed in a timely fashion. In times of past crises, America has always risen to the challenge and I have no doubt that we will do so again.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my thoughts on these matters.