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PACOM Commander Harris: North Korea Greatest Day-to-Day Threat

Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet in Honolulu, Hawaii on March 13, 2015. US Navy Photo

Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet in Honolulu, Hawaii on March 13, 2015. US Navy Photo

“The greatest threat I face on a day-to-day basis is North Korea,” the commander of Pacific Command said Friday to the Washington annual conference of Military Reporters and editors.

“At some point in the future, as [Kim Jong Un] develops his capabilities he will present a threat to Hawaii and the United States,” Adm. Harry Harris said. He added the command will be ready to act.

As other regional commanders and the Joint Chiefs have said, Russia is the largest global challenge. In the Pacific, Harris pointed to its long coastline with large naval installations including ballistic missile submarine bases as airfield. “PACOM forces watch the Russians closely.”

Harris said the rebalancing to the Indo-Pacific “isn’t about China; it’s about us.” The rebalancing involves more than the military where now about 56 percent of naval forces are assigned as being the most visible activity, but also includes political rebalancing and economic rebalancing. The region has the three largest economies as well as the five smallest and five nations possessing nuclear weapons.

On the military side, Harris said, “The United States will fly and sail anywhere international law allows.” He described Beijing’s fortifying coral reefs and building air strips on them as, “Chinese sand castles in the sky.”

In answer to a question, Harris said “I am very aware of Chinese ballistic missile submarines” and improvements being made in those vessels.

Harris also cited examples of cooperation with the Chinese in counter-piracy operations and the search for the missing Malaysian airline. He also mentioned the recent incidents at sea agreement with the Chinese that came out or recent discussions in Washington.

Kim Jong Un in the conning tower of what appears to be a Project 633 diesel submarine. KCNA Photo

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in the conning tower of what appears to be a Project 633 diesel submarine. KCNA Photo

“We’re seeing Chinese coast guard behavior improving… [but] at the same time they are building a ship [for its coast guard] bigger than our Arleigh Burke destroyer,” he said.

The United States “has a burgeoning relationship with India,” he said. “Our destinies [as democracies] are linked.” Both the United States and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi see the closer ties between the two nations as a strategic opportunity.

Harris said this is “a very exciting time for the Japanese-U.S. alliance” as Tokyo redefines its role in global affairs. He also saw this as a time with more United States, Japan and Republic of Korea exercises.

“Australia and the United States share a world view” and are training together more often.

“The foundation of our security is economic.” He said the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement, “will help reduce regional instability.”

  • Listing the same threat that has been around for generations.

  • dan

    Our Virginia’s and LA’s can clearly handle them.

  • FedUpWithWelfareStates

    Yes, I would have to agree that the greatest day-to-day threat is still coming from the Fat Man. However, emphasis should be placed towards potential developing threats on down the road, since N. Korea will happen when it happens. Besides the conventional naval & air response in the defense of Taiwan, I see no further need for the continued U.S. assistance in building up “Conventional” capabilities of other PACOM AOR countries. These countries will either have to allocate the budgets for their own defense or plan on suffering the consequences of any regional threats that may befall them. The offer of assistance which should be proactively pursued though, is that of Unconventional Warfare or Guerrilla Warfare (GW), in the form of training assistance, command development, & GW employment. This type of warfare falls directly in-line with what the majority of countries in the PACOM AOR have experienced throughout their history & should be focused on as the most likely TTP that they will encounter in the event of any major outbreak of conflict in the PACOM AOR…

    • Curtis Conway

      “……. I see no further need for the continued U.S. assistance in building up “Conventional” capabilities of other PACOM AOR countries. These countries will either have to allocate the budgets for their own defense or plan on suffering the consequences of any regional threats that may befall them…..”

      One of the reasons these countries are having to contend with this Chinese threat real or perceived, is because so many green backs went into the Chinese economy and functions as an enabling factor. Can’t just walk away and wash your hands of the matter, not that we would anyway. The commanders in the COCOM AORs are well aware of who is threatening, and taking advantage of, who.

      Increased trade cooperation can help this problem, but who is running interference, and what is the results of that interference? This is the argument for Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs) and Light Carrier Battle Groups (CVLBGs). with the proliferation of Tactical Ballistic Missiles, every US Navy Surface Combatant should be able to defend themselves of this threat at a minimum.

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  • Mmm Bee

    A “Fat Man” would well be dropped on little Fat Boy’s head, for security’s sake, no ?