Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s Full Committee hearing on recent security developments involving China:
“Welcome Mr. Lawless and Major General Breedlove. Thank you for being here today to testify on recent security developments involving China. I look forward to your testimony on this important subject.
“I’ve stressed for some time now the critical significance of developments in China to our national security. While our military resources are heavily focused in Iraq, China’s influence has grown in Asia and beyond. To address this reality, we must proactively and effectively engage with China on multiple fronts. There are positive steps to note in the last year, but progress still to be achieved.
“I am encouraged by the recent agreement between the U.S. and China for a ‘defense hotline’ to handle security emergencies. I am also encouraged by recent efforts by Secretary Gates, PACOM Commander Admiral Keating, and former Commander Bill Fallon to pursue more robust U.S.-China military-to-military contacts. Such contacts increase our understanding of China’s strategic intentions and capabilities and can hopefully help avoid miscalculations between the two sides. I share the views of Secretary Gates and both Admirals on this.
“I am also glad to see Secretary Gates calling on China to increase its security cooperation with the U.S. in areas of common interest ranging from counter-terrorism and nonproliferation to energy security. There are unique opportunities for progress on these issues this year. Preparations are accelerating for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and both sides want to ensure there is necessary security for this event. In addition, China is leading the working group on the denuclearization of North Korea, and could potentially play a constructive role with the Iranian nuclear situation.
“Moreover, China’s approach to Taiwan has recently been constructive. But given Taiwan’s upcoming elections, this will remain a significant challenge, and more can be done to defuse tensions in the Strait.
“This year’s DOD report on China’s military power notes a modest improvement in China’s transparency in regards to defense policy and spending. This is positive, yet China has still not adequately revealed its full defense spending, military modernization efforts or strategic intentions. China’s official defense budget for 2007 is about $45 billion. However, the real budget is between $85 to $125 billion -- continuing a trend of double-digit increases. China also conducted a successful anti-satellite missile test in January, leaving dangerous debris in orbit for years. China continues its missile build-up across from Taiwan, and its power projection capabilities are steadily increasing.
“I continue to believe that China is not necessarily destined to be a threat to the United States. There are trends and ambiguities that concern us, and hearings like today’s should help us understand where China is in terms of investing in advanced military technology and advancing their military doctrine and tactics. There are also Chinese limitations to acknowledge and those should be addressed today as well. We must also recognize that China’s choices may well be shaped by our own actions.
“So Gentlemen, I’m interested to hear your assessment of the most significant recent security developments involving China. However, before we begin testimony, I turn to my friend from California, Duncan Hunter, for any statement he may wish to make."