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Kerry Statement on Secretary of State Confirmation Hearing

Location: Washington, DC

Kerry Statement on Secretary of State Confirmation Hearing

Incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today released the following opening remarks for the confirmation hearing for Senator Hillary Clinton, President-Elect Barack Obama's designee to be Secretary of State.

Full text as prepared is below:

We're delighted to welcome Senator Clinton, Secretary of State- designate. In Senator Clinton, we have a nominee who is extraordinarily capable and smart, an individual with the global stature and influence to help shape events. She will take office on a first-name basis not just with numerous heads of state, but also with the billions of people in every corner of the globe that the Obama Administration hopes to reach, inspire, and influence. Her presence overseas will send a strong signal that America is back.

This morning we look forward to a good, healthy dialogue and over the coming years we particularly welcome a close and cooperative working relationship.

This is an historic moment for this committee. For the first time in American history, one of our members is about to be sworn in as president, another as vice president. But before any of the newer members of the committee get too excited about future prospects, let Dick Lugar, Chris Dodd and I tell you -and I'm confident that Senator Clinton will agree: Trust us: It ain't automatic.

For me it's a particularly special and personal privilege to be sitting here, having testified before Chairman Fulbright in 1971 and having worked closely with the chairmen since who have set a strong example for this committee's ability to contribute to our security.

And this morning we should remember one chairman in particular. Last week, Dick, Chris, Sheldon and I attended memorial services for Claiborne Pell in Rhode Island. President Clinton, who first met Chairman Pell when he was a college student interning on this committee, spoke movingly at the funeral. Today, I know we all join together in expressing our gratitude for Claiborne Pell's exemplary service. His commitment to bipartisanship and multilateralism remains the guidepost by which this committee will continue its efforts.

I am privileged to also follow in the more recent footsteps of two respected chairmen and good friends. Vice President-elect Biden and I first ran for office in 1972 and grew up together in politics. I know Joe and his family well. I value his friendship, and the country will come to value the wisdom and strength he brings to the Vice Presidency. The Committee is grateful for his leadership.

I also have the good fortune, as Chairman, to have beside me as Ranking Member the senior-most Republican in the Senate, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his groundbreaking nonproliferation work, and a trusted, thoughtful voice in our national dialogue. Senator Lugar, I look forward to working in the same cooperative bipartisan manner that has characterized this Committee for years, and I could not ask for a better partner.

If we do our job correctly, as we begin a new Presidency and a new Congress, we stand on the brink of a new era of American diplomacy with the great potential for significant, if not transformational steps forward across the globe. And I look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to seize that potential.

In the last 7 years, we have spent the treasure of our nation—young American soldiers first and foremost, and billions of dollars—to fight terrorism. And yet grave questions remain as to whether we have chosen our battles correctly, pursued the right strategy and defined the right goals. That we are engaged in fighting a global insurgency is beyond doubt. But our task is to define the method and means of our response more effectively, and no challenge will be greater in the days ahead than to get this right.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are definitively the front line of our global counterterrorism efforts. Having visited several times recently, it is clear that no amount of additional troops will succeed absent the effective instruments of a functioning state. We face a gargantuan task, and to be successful, I believe we must fundamentally redefine our approach. We went into Afghanistan to deny Al Qaeda sanctuary. Our goals must be defined by our original mission, by the regional security context, and by the tribal, decentralized nature of Afghan society. I'm eager to hear Senator Clinton's thoughts on the road ahead in Afghanistan.

Nor should anyone believe that Iraq is a completed task. Despite the Status of Forces Agreement that sets out a schedule for reduction of US forces, Sunni-Shia tensions, the unresolved status of Kirkuk, the distribution of oil revenues, and setbacks to political reconciliation, each threaten to upend our fragile progress—and will require active diplomatic engagement by Secretary of State Clinton and the rest of the Obama Administration with Iraq's government and neighbors.

Iraq, as well as Iran, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, all require a regional approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of each of our challenges. We look forward to working with the Administration and with Secretary Clinton on a significantly expanded and vigorous diplomatic effort.

In the age of catastrophic terrorism, it is also urgent that we restore America's leadership on nonproliferation. Whatever our differences, we must reengage with Russia on nuclear security, specifically the START treaty. It is my hope that we will embrace deep reciprocal cuts in our nuclear arsenals—and I'm eager to hear Senator Clinton's thoughts on the matter. Consistent with our security needs, I believe we should set a goal of no more than 1000 deployed warheads - and that goal should be a beginning. We should also lay the groundwork for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The last eight years have resulted in increased suspicion of our motives abroad—especially in the Muslim world, where we must do more to reduce the prevalent and costly perception of an assault on Islam. It is vital that we redouble our efforts to find common ground, including through interfaith dialogue.

We must integrate all of the disparate elements of our national power into a single unified effort. I agree with Secretary Gates that we need a State Department with more resources and greater capacity to deal with 21st-century challenges in conflict zones and weak and failing states.

I was heartened to hear Senator Clinton signal her desire to radically improve our diplomatic capacity and finally give the State Department the tools it needs to put civilian functions back in civilian hands—and she can count on our support in this endeavor. She can also count on our support in efforts to re-engage with Latin America and recognize how crucial renewed and expanded relationships with Russia and China are to our overall goals.

I believe, Madame Secretary-designate, that China offers us extremely important opportunities for a more productive partnership and we need to approach that relationship with greater respect for and understanding of our common interests.

Before turning to Senator Lugar, let me say one thing about global climate change: Many today do not see it as a national security threat. But it is -- and the consequences of our inaction grow more serious by the day. In Copenhagen this December we have a chance to forge a treaty that will profoundly affect the conditions of life on our planet. The resounding message from the recent Climate Change Conference in Poland was that the global community is looking to our leadership. This Committee will be deeply involved in crafting a solution that the world can agree to and the Senate can ratify. And as we proceed, the lesson of Kyoto must remain clear in our minds: all countries must be part of the solution.

Each of these challenges present major opportunities for a new Administration and for Secretary Clinton. After the polarization of the last eight years, diplomacy must be directed domestically as well. Senator Clinton's record in the Senate shows her to be an alliance-builder in the finest traditions of this body. She has repeatedly sought out the best people, the best ideas, and the common ground upon which solutions could be reached.

While the committee still has some questions with respect to the fundraising activities of the Clinton Foundation, I am pleased that Senator Clinton will have an opportunity today to address them directly. I understand that Senator Lugar will be speaking to this issue in greater detail, and we look forward to hearing your responses.

In 2000, I had the privilege of joining the then-First Lady and her Husband on the first visit by an American President to Vietnam, after the normalization of relations. I have seen Senator Clinton's diplomatic acumen up close. I saw her immense curiosity, her quick and impressive grasp of detail, her authoritative approach—all of which will serve her well in this new undertaking.

Hillary Clinton has shown the intelligence to navigate the complex issues we face, the toughness and tireless work ethic this job will require, the stature to project America's world leadership, and the alliance-building, at home and abroad, that will be vital to our success in the years ahead.

As Senator, Hillary has earned the respect of her colleagues - Democrat and Republican alike—and we are honored to welcome her to our Committee for confirmation as America's next Secretary of State.

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