Hearing of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Opening Statement of Rep. Salmon, Hearing on The U.S.-- Republic of Korea--Japan Trilateral Relationship: Promoting Mutual Interests in Asia


Date: Sept. 27, 2016
Location: Washington, DC

When officials say that the United States is a Pacific power, they're not just making an empty talking point. Our country has deep and enduring interests in the Asia-Pacific--from business and trade deals with the world's fastest-growing economies to serious national security threats from both rogue states and great powers alike. To conduct these important affairs, we've created a hub-and-spoke system of like-minded allies and partners throughout the region, a bloc of friends who can mutually reinforce each other's best interests. The Republic of Korea and Japan are perhaps the United States' most constant and important partners within this system. Economically developed and militarily capable, these two nations share our democratic values and national security interests, which drive strong bilateral relationships. Going forward, I believe these shared positions will ensure that these alliances coalesce into a comprehensive trilateral relationship.

As we all know, earlier this month, North Korea launched multiple missiles toward Japan, and detonated its largest nuclear device to date. Our current sanctions-based approach to deterrence has had little-to-no effect on North Korea's nuclear program, and we need to work closely with our allies to meet this challenge. Following North Korea's most recent provocations Secretary Kerry met with his counterparts, Foreign Minister Kishida (key SHEE dah) of Japan and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (yoon PYUNG say) of Korea. Deputy Secretary Blinken has made great strides in promoting and facilitating a greater trilateral relationship as well. The increasing security threat posed by North Korea's rogue regime underscored yet again this trilateral relationship's importance. As U.S. foreign policy is subjected to the transitional period of elections and a change of administration over the coming months, it is imperative that the value of this trilateral cooperation is not neglected, and that the positive trend of closer cooperation continues.

Korea and Japan have long endured legacy issues that have created domestic friction that hindered their relationship and limits their own bilateral cooperation. But over the last year, the world has witnessed Prime Minister Abe and President Park leading their countries in historic steps towards a closer and more productive relationship. I commend each of them for their courage to take those important strides, resulting in positive influence on the strategic outlook of the region and demonstrating even more promise for the future. The past year has seen improved military diplomacy and intercommunications, including a new hotline between defense ministers, and the first trilateral missile defense exercise with the U.S., and I hope there is more to come.

In late May, President Obama travelled to Hiroshima, where he met with survivors of the atomic explosion and made nuclear policy recommendations for the future. This summer, the Japanese First Lady Akie Abe visited Pearl Harbor, and paid her respects to those who died in the surprise attack that pulled our nation into war with Japan. This type of diplomacy, quietly working to heal old wounds without getting hung up on explicit apologies, is commendable, and can serve as a model to our close allies, The Republic of Korea and Japan

Today's Asia poses innumerable challenges to those who believe in personal liberties, free markets, democratic governance, and peaceful dispute resolution. We face nuclear belligerence, territorial aggression, and serious competition from an ideology that supposes a less free society and economy brings greater success. In each of these realms, our national interests are aligned with those of the Republic of Korea and Japan, not through any coercion or persuasion, but because we fundamentally agree.

By encouraging these two allies to cooperate more closely in the context of our trilateral relationship, we will be able to address mutual challenges in a more united and robust manner. To this end, I hope that we will continue to see closer cooperation between the Republic of Korea and Japan, including meaningful dialogue between national leaders and increasing military exercises. I also strongly encourage our allies to implement the terms of the agreement on comfort women quickly and to the satisfaction of both sides. And finally, I hope that all parties involved work to promote better relations among Japan and Korea's populations at large. We are grateful that Assistant Secretary Russel joins us today, and I look forward to hearing his expertise firsthand and his suggestions on strengthening this critical trilateral relationship.