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Pacific Command Chief: North Korea, China And ISIS Are Biggest Regional Challenges
Updated October 19, 2017 7:44 AM
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Adm. Harry B Harris Jr., U.S. Pacific Command commander, addresses service members May 15, 2017, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Juan Torres/ U.S. Air Force)

(WASHINGTON) - The head of the U.S. military's Pacific Command on Tuesday laid out what he sees as the greatest challenges facing the U.S. in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region -- North Korea's weapons program, China shaking the international order and the spread of ISIS.

Loree Lewis of Talk Media News reports, during an address before the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in Singapore, Adm. Harry Harris said the U.S. has military options for North Korea if diplomatic and economic efforts don't succeed in pushing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to forever abandon nuclear weapons.

"Every nation which considers itself to be a responsible contributor to international security must work diplomatically and economically to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, and not to his knees," Harris said.

Harris argued China's influence will determine whether the dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons is resolved peacefully or takes brunt military force, and he said China appears to recognize this.

He said second among the regional challenges is China's apathy for international norms and its "desire to pick and choose when it comes to international law." He offered the country's territorial expansion in the disputed South and East China Seas as an example.

"Some might find it a bit odd that ... I'm asking for China's assistance on North Korea on the one hand, and then calling China a challenge on the other," Harris said. disagree to impact our ability to make progress where we do agree... The foundation of that cooperation should begin and end with international law."

Third among the challenges offered by Harris is the spread of the ideology of ISIS and fighters displaced to the Indo-Pacific as its physical caliphate approaches complete collapse in Iraq and Syria. He noted that there have been ISIS-inspired terror attacks in Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Philippines over the past year.

Harris said the rapid rise of Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines under the ISIS flag over the past year and the siege of Marawi that began in May marked "the first time ISIS-inspired forces have banded up together to fight on this kind of scale in this region."

He said the ongoing conflict is "a wake-up call and a rallying cry for every nation." On Tuesday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi liberated from the ISIS-affiliated militants.

Harris advocated for greater collaboration with the U.S. to counter illicit narcotic trafficking, and to improve maritime security and disaster relief readiness.

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