(Voice of America): Members of the Military Committee of the House of Representatives Talk about the Four Asian Countries and North Korean Nuclear Crisis
Recently, Representative Austin Scott (GA-08), a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the only Georgia Congressman on the Committee, sat down with Peggy Chang of Voice of America to discuss his participation in a recent four-nation foreign relations visit to East Asia, the importance of U.S.-China relations, and the increasing threats of a nuclear armed North Korea.
“Just a few short weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear from our allies and U.S. military leaders in the region on the ever-increasing threats of the Kim Jong-un regime and the partnerships and resources we’re using to tackle those threats head-on,” said Rep. Scott.
On July 4, North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, flying farther than any other missile previously launched by the country, and landing in Japanese territory. In response, U.S. and South Korean forces conducted a joint exercise, moving fleet and personnel into South Korean territorial water along the Sea of Japan. Today, Rep. Scott released the following statement:
“The events earlier this week further demonstrate North Korea’s continued destabilization and the ever-growing threat its leaders pose to the United States, our allies, and the world as a whole, and the critical importance of continued defense and security cooperation in the region.”
Below is a transcript from the interview*:
REPORTER: Recently you were a part of a Congressional Delegation led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman [Mac] Thornberry to four Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore where you participated in the Shangri-La Dialogue. What was the overall purpose of the trip?
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT: The purpose of this trip was to reassure the world of our commitment to the East Asia region and to reassure the world of our commitment to work on an international basis to try to solve the problem with regard to Kim Jong-un and North Korea. Kim Jong-un is not just a problem to the United States, but he’s a problem for everybody in the world. About 50% of the world’s population lives in pretty close proximity to North Korea, so a lot of the dialogue regarding North Korea was, ‘How do we create the partnerships that it takes to resolve that situation, without shots being fired?’
REPORTER: About North Korea, this week (June 21) we mourned the death of the American student, held by North Korea for a year, Mr. Otto Warmbier. Also following that, President Trump said that while he appreciated China’s effort on North Korea, it has not worked. In your view, how should the U.S. deal with the North Korean regime going forward?
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT: Well first of all, with regard to the young man who recently passed away, that should serve as a reminder to the world just how brutal the North Korean regime is under Kim Jong-un. They not only treat foreigners that way, they treat their own people that way. They have no respect for human life, and so the question now is, ‘How do we address the situation in North Korea with the least amount of damage to people around the world?’
I believe it’s going to require coordination not only between the United States and China, but also the cooperation of Russia. As I said, over 50% of the world's population lives within pretty close proximity to North Korea. Seoul, South Korea is obviously very close—within artillery range of North Korea—and is one of the most densely populous cities in the world. So we’re going to continue to work with the other countries that will work with us to try to solve these problems.
I wish that China were more aggressive than they have been. When we were at the Shangri- La Dialogue, I had the opportunity to speak with a Chinese General there about that. I’m not sure that China has the influence over North Korea that the rest of the world believes China has. I think they recognize Kim Jong-un as a threat. I think they recognize that if something happens with regard to North Korea, it will have a negative impact on China, as well as every other country not only in that region, but also the world. I do think that there is a desire from them to help, but I’m not sure that they know exactly how to do it at this stage with somebody of his demeanor and attitude.
REPORTER: Another issue in the Asia-Pacific region is China's actions in the South China Sea, which was one of the main topics of discussion during the Shangri-La Dialogue. Coming away from those discussions with other Asian leaders, how do you feel about this issue?
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT: The thing that was the most reassuring to me was the response of the other leadership in Asia and their desire to resist China, with regard to the expansion. None of the other countries believe that China is operating with good faith. This is obviously a challenge to long-established international law and order. I think what you will see is a renewed resolve, from not only the U.S., but also the other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to stop this. Not only to stop it, but to reverse it. China is obviously a global power, and responsibility comes with being a global power. Part of that responsibility is that you are willing to abide by the long established laws of sea. That’s all we ask of China: that they abide by the laws of sea.
REPORTER: During your visit, you also visited Vietnam and were joined by Senator John McCain to visit the hallow Hỏa Lò Prison, so-called the Hanoi Hilton. That was where Senator McCain was held and other U.S. soldiers were held as POWs during the Vietnam War. Can you share with us your thoughts after the visit?
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT: It is hard to describe. My grandfather was a POW in World War II, so I have a particular affection for those men and women who have been through that experience. But to be there with Senator McCain in the prison, it’s just something that you really can’t have words to describe the emotions of listening to him tell the story in the location where it actually happened. It’s one of those things where you just have to be there. It will be an experience that I remember for the rest of my life.
REPORTER: The U.S. and China are two big superpowers in the Asian Pacific. Going forward, how do you think the U.S. should deal with the relationship with China in the area of security? What do you see as challenges and opportunities?
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT: So there are certainly areas where we have a common interest, even though we do not necessarily share the same values. In the areas where we have common interests, I think you will see the leadership of our countries work together. In areas where we don’t have common interests, I think you will see the U.S. continue to establish partnerships and reaffirm those partnerships, and you will see more coordinated military exercises with our partner nations in that part of the world. Just as a show of our resolve as the United States for maintaining those international laws of the sea and our partnership with other countries in East Asia.
REPORTER: What is your hope for U.S.-China relations going forward?
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT: I would hope that the leadership of the countries could find where we have those common interests, and that we will work to solve the problems. Obviously, a situation like North Korea requires the U.S. and China—and quite honestly Russia as well— to work together to solve that situation.
The best solution is always a negotiation and when negotiations don’t work, then obviously hard power has to be used. The only way soft power works is if we have the support of China, and of the other countries, including Russia, in resolving the issue. Our hope is to always use soft power, but I can assure you that the United States is willing to use hard power if necessary to protect its citizens and its friends and allies.
*Edited for clarity