"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And let me thank our distinguished witnesses for their many years of dedicated service. On behalf of our entire Committee, let me join the Chairman in extending our deep and abiding gratitude to the men and women in uniform who you lead every day. They make us all immensely proud.
"Much of our focus of late has been on the historic events in the Middle East and North Africa -- and with good reason. But that has not in any way diminished our concentration on the Asia-Pacific region, where a less tumultuous but no less transformational process of change continues to unfold. This massive region is increasingly at the center of U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic policy. And the growing role of the Asia-Pacific region in the global distribution of power will affect the future of the United States as perhaps no other trend in the world.
"Amid these historic changes, our bilateral alliances remain the cornerstone of regional security and U.S. policy. Our relations with the Republic of Korea have never been better, and we aim to encourage Korea's increasing emergence as not just a regional power, but a responsible global leader. We are working closely with the new government in Australia on a host of critical security issues. And it is our indivisible bond with Japan that has driven the United States, especially our armed forces, to lead the world's effort to help our ally in its time of greatest need. Our prayers are with the Japanese government and people, especially all who have lost loved ones, and we are very concerned by yesterday's decision by the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission to reclassify the country's nuclear crisis as a "Level 7' emergency, on par with the Chernobyl disaster. We would welcome the witnesses' assessment of what this means for the safety and security of people in the exposed areas and beyond, including U.S. service members participating in the relief effort.
"In addition to our close cooperation and exercises with our Philippine and Thai allies, the United States is also transforming its military-to-military relations with a number of emerging partners, including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India. Our strategic partnership with India, in particular, holds immense potential for shaping a geopolitical balance within and beyond the region that favors political and economic freedom. In short, the United States is well positioned in the Asia-Pacific region, both in terms of our expanding partnerships as well as our enduring capabilities, to promote our national interests in the dynamic 21st century.
"That is not to say that we and our friends and allies in the PACOM area of responsibility do not face significant challenges. We certainly do, especially from the continued uncertainty surrounding China's military modernization and the lack of transparency regarding the ends to which China intends to devote the many sophisticated capabilities it is building. Of particular concern in this context is China's development of anti-access/area denial weapons, anti-satellite capabilities, a stealth combat aircraft, a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles, offensive cyber weapons, and now an aircraft carrier. Indeed, just last week, the Chinese state news agency revealed that this carrier was nearing completion and would sail this year.
"Our concern over China's military capabilities has only grown over the past year, in light of sustained actions that heighten tensions in the region -- from expansive claims of Chinese sovereignty in international waters, to provocative confrontations at sea with neighboring countries, to threats made against Southeast Asian countries. The past year also saw a worrying freeze in our bilateral military-to-military engagement with the People's Liberation Army. The recent visit by the Secretary of Defense to China suggests that our military dialogue is resuming, but we would welcome our witnesses' assessment of China's recent assertiveness. We would also welcome their thoughts on whether the continued absence of a decision on the sale of F-16s to Taiwan serves U.S. and allied interests in East Asia.
"A more immediate concern is the threat posed by the North Korean regime and the prospect of instability, or even conflict, on the Korean peninsula. The all-too-familiar North Korean pattern of behavior -- increased aggression followed by attempted extortion for international assistance and diplomatic concessions -- is being exacerbated at present by the regime's internal transition. So, over the past year, the North Korean regime has sunk a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. It has shelled South Korean territory, killing Korean Marines and civilians, while wounding many others. And it recently revealed a sophisticated and previously unknown uranium enrichment facility. Thus far, the United States and our Korean allies have responded to these increasing and outrageous acts of aggression through a series of unprecedented military exercises, which also featured -- I am happy to say -- the presence of Japanese Self-Defense Forces as observers. But in the event of another attack by the North Korean regime, I would be eager to hear from the witnesses whether South Korea can, and should, respond with similar restraint.
"These and other challenges will require further thinking about the U.S. military posture in the Asia-Pacific region. We currently have an agreement with the government of Japan to relocate 8,000 U.S. Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, as well as to close other U.S. bases on Okinawa and to relocate those forces to Camp Schwab on the north side of Okinawa. These agreements will require the investment by both countries of at least $30 billion at last estimate to build new bases for U.S. forces on the two islands. With the recent tragic events in Japan, combined with tougher budget pressure here in the United States, I have to wonder whether either country has the resources at this point to devote to this move. I welcome new ideas for diversifying and expanding the presence of U.S. forces in the region, and I look forward to hearing our witnesses' thinking about what regional presence of U.S. forces would best serve our and our allies' interests."