MODERATOR: Greetings from the U.S. Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub. I would like to welcome journalists to today’s on-the-record briefing with General Charles A. Flynn, U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General. General Flynn will discuss the U.S. Army’s upcoming annual regional forum, the 2023 LANPAC Symposium and Exposition, taking place May 16th to 18th in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bringing together 25 different countries from across the region, Land Forces Pacific, also known as LANPAC, will showcase the fundamental and essential role of land forces in the Indo-Pacific region and the critical role of our allies and partners.
With that, let’s get started. General Flynn, I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.
GENERAL FLYNN: Okay. Thanks, Katie. Appreciate that. Just two big points. As Katie mentioned, next week we have the U.S. Army Land Forces of the Pacific conference. It’s the 10th anniversary. We’re really proud about the growth of this particular forum over the years, particularly for two years where we had to take a bit of a pause and do it virtually with COVID. So we are anticipating the largest gathering that we’ve had in a decade. We have 14 chiefs of army; we have nearly 30 nations across the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
The theme of this year’s conference is emerging changes to warfare, of which I’m sure there might be some questions about that. And I just would say more broadly that this is an important opportunity to come together as a land-power network, showcasing sort of the multilateral and bilateral relationships and a wide range of discussions from keynote speakers to panels.
As some of you may be aware, my view on this is that the network of land power actually pulls the region together. It’s the security architecture that binds it together, and I think that that’s invaluable, particularly in this period of strategic uncertainty. I think the discussion that we have on the theme of emerging changes in warfare, we’re going to talk about matters that relate to speed of technology, the speed of social change, and some of the speed of weapons capability and organizational changes that are going on that we’re seeing across really the globe, but you’re seeing also play out in Europe.
And then lastly, I’d just say this is really a great forum that we demonstrate our unity, demonstrate our collective commitment to each other for a safe and stable and secure Indo-Pacific. And I would end by saying that many of the countries coming have already expressed their interest in talking about territorial defense, territorial integrity, and protecting their people, their nations, and their national sovereignty from some of the irresponsible behavior that we see going on across the globe.
That’s the first big point.
The second big point I’d make is I just recently returned from a two-week trip, where I was in Japan, then went to Singapore, Philippines, and Thailand, and so I think I have a pretty good fingertip feel of what’s actually happening in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and along the first island chain given the engagements that I had with senior officials, military and political, and the troop visits that I had with the units that were out operating in the region.
So, Katie, with that, I’ll stop and take questions from the folks online.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We will now turn to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing. Our first question was submitted in advance, and it goes to Dong Hyun Kim of TV Chosun in South Korea, who asks: “The U.S. Army War College think tank SSI two years ago recommended DOD restructure – the restructure of INDOPACOM Army design to shift for a hyper-competition against PRC. This includes changes in force postures as well as strategies in the region. How is INDOPACOM Army Command addressing such recommendations?” Over to you, sir.
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah, great, Katie. So let me talk about two organizational changes that are happening in my theater Army headquarters and two that are happening with organizations that are part of the theater Army and employed forward in the region today and have been persistently there.
So the two in my headquarters – first we have a theater fires element, and the next is we have a theater information advantage directorate. These two organizations are nearly 300 people, and what they do is they’re able to do planning, synchronization, and coordination of nonlethal and lethal targeting and nonlethal and lethal effects. So that is a organizational change at the theater Army, theater strategic, high-end operational level that really the U.S. Army put in place about three to five years ago, but that capability is now resonant in this headquarters and having a very important effect.
Two organizational changes that are happening – that happened a couple years ago but they are now forward in the region – is the first is the security force assistance brigade, which is almost persistently in 12 to 15 countries across the region with providing security force advise-and-assist capabilities to our partner armies in the region and partner land forces. And then the other one is the multi-domain task force. As many of you are aware, we have two assigned multi-domain task forces. They Army is seeking to put a third multi-domain task force here in the Pacific. We have not decided when or where it will go, but the first MDTF is on the West Coast at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and assigned to this command. The third one is actually here in Hawaii, and it will be fully operationally capable later this year.
I guess so that’s the organizational adjustments that we’re making, the Army design as you – so to speak. And then on posture, we’re conducting posture improvements by Operation Pathways. Pathways is our operational approach to campaigning in the region. A couple of examples of that are, like, Garuda Shield last year in ’21 – in ’20 – I’m sorry, in ’21. That was an army-to-army exercise. In ’22 there were 14 countries participating in that exercise. This year, right now in fact, we just finished up Balikatan in the Philippines and had 12 nations. Talisman Saber later this year in Australia, will have up to nine, and Yama Sakura later in Japan in December, a command post exercise, will probably have four or five countries.
So I think that this operational approach to campaigning through Operation Pathways is a really good example of us moving from bilateral relationships to multilateral relationships, and it’s just a signature – or signal of our unity and collective commitment to one another across the region. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question will go to the live queue, to Jae Young Choi of the SBS in South Korea. Jae Young, you should be able to unmute yourself now. Are you able to speak?
QUESTION: I have a question. What are your special plan for how the U.S. and South Korea and Japan will share information of North Korean missile? What do you expect to the most significant change from today or once the sharing system is finalized? Do you hear me, sir? General?
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah, thanks, Jae. Yeah, Jae.
QUESTION: Thank you.
GENERAL FLYNN: Thanks for the question. I think – yeah, thank you. Well, first of all, the U.S. Forces Korea Eighth Army and Second Infantry Division in Korea, they are combined divisions, combined field armies, and a combined command from the start. So if anywhere in the Indo-Pacific there’s a mature state of information-sharing, combined command posts, and operating together day to day, it’s in Korea. Those staffs live, work, operate, train, and rehearse every day together because they’re combined staffs, combined headquarters, and they have combined network architectures to be able to share information. So thanks for the question, I appreciate it.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question came in through the questions and answers tab, so I will read it. It’s from Chino Gaston from GMA in the Philippines, who asks: “How is land-based unity and interoperability with the U.S. relevant to the South China Sea disputes, where most countries here are archipelagic” – I’m sorry if I mispronounced that – “and the belligerent danger being China that operates largely in the sea?” Over to you, sir.
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah. Well, thanks for the question, and I think this is an important one to communicate. And I’ll – actually I’m glad it came from a reporter in the Philippines. So the Philippine military, 70 percent of the military is its army, and the army has 12 divisions: 11 infantry divisions and an armored division. And what we’re working with the Philippine army to do – and my good friend Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner is committed to doing this – is reorganizing, modernizing, upgrading, and working on new techniques, procedures, and organizations to conduct territorial defense in the littorals – in the maritime littorals, in the air littorals, and on land and from the land – to defend their national sovereignty, to defend the territorial integrity, to defend the people, to defend their wealth, to defend rights to their resources.
And I think this is an important point to make that this region has large armies, and the armies are on average about 70 percent of their military. And so the land-power tool is going to have to be a tool that the militaries begin to reorganize and begin to look for innovative, creative ways to defend their territorial integrity and protect their national sovereignty.
And so I think that what we add value in the U.S. Army, is – our value-added is to work with the armies in the region to create, innovate, develop, and discover ways to conduct those operations from the land because they simply just do not have large navies and large armies. And many of them are, as you said, in Southeast Asia in archipelago states, but you also have large armies that are on land masses on the Asian continent. And so this is an area where I think the U.S. Army adds great value in helping to work with them to do that.
And the last thing I’ll say on this is our greatest value is in creating opportunities for interoperability, and there’s really three types of interoperability. There’s human interoperability, there’s technical interoperability, and procedural interoperability. And while the procedural and technical matter with weapon systems and the procedures we follow once we’re training, the most important part of the interoperability is the human interoperability. That is the relationships, the leader-to-leader, soldier-to-soldier, unit-to-unit opportunities that we get from being on the ground and teaching, coaching, advising, assisting, and securing and helping to secure one another’s sovereign territory. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question goes to the live queue to Huizhong Wu with the Associated Press, based in Taiwan. Huizhong, you should be able to unmute yourself now.
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, General Flynn. Thanks for taking the time to have this with us. I had a question just about the Pacific. The U.S. military has been quite open about raising the budget for – and with the announcement of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. So I wanted to ask more about engagement in that area, whether we’re stepping up our presence in certain Pacific Island nations, and is there anything you can share along those lines? Thanks.
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah, thanks for the question. I think our engagement, the amount of engagement that we’re doing in the region, as you asked, in Oceania – I mean, I just had the governor from American Samoa yesterday here. But we have the State Department and a number of U.S. Government elements involved in a sort of whole-of-government effort in Oceania, and I think that that has been an invaluable expression of how important that is to us since it is on the doorstep of the United States.
I think the other part that I’d mention here is when I look at the exercises that we’re doing in the region and have been for a number of years, they are all moving from a U.S. Army – at least in my case Army – U.S.-to-one-country event to a multilateral event, a multinational event. And it’s happening on a number of levels. And so I think that, as I mentioned to you, 14 countries in Indonesia last year for Garuda Shield, we just had almost 30 countries for Cobra Gold in Thailand, and so these are examples of that unity and collective commitment.
I think the last thing I’d mention is the Army has a – made a major new investment out here in what’s called the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, JPMRC. We have a Hawaii campus and we have an Alaska campus, and then we have an exportable capability that we brought into Indonesia the last two years; we’re bringing it into Australia this year, and likely next year we’re going to bring it into the Philippines. And this is a regional training center. The regional training center provides a live scenario, it provides a opposing force, and it provides a group of observers that come in and give you feedback on how you’re doing: how proficient are you operating, what are the things that you’re doing – your units are doing well, and what are the things that your units are not doing so well.
So, again, I think those are just some really concrete examples of our – of our presence and the expansion of our engagements in the region. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Tetsuo Shintomi at Kyodo News, based in Washington, D.C., who asks: “I would like to ask on reorganization of the 12th Marine Regiment in Okinawa into a littoral regiment, which was agreed at U.S.-Japan 2+2 meeting this January. Do you have any update about proceeding of that reorganization? Is timeline of the proceeding becoming clear? How do you see its importance in terms of maintaining deterrence to the countries such as PRC? Thanks very much.”
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah. Katie, I really can’t talk about the MLR because those are – that’s a Marine littoral regiment in Okinawa. So I don’t have really a status on where that’s at. I will – what I will talk about is we have the first multi-domain task force at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It’s actually been operating in the region for the better part – almost two and a half years. Currently it has elements in Camp Aquino at – in the Philippines as part of Exercise Salaknib and Balikatan, and it’s operating co-located with the – what’s called the NOLCOM headquarters, or the Northern Command headquarters, in Luzon. That’s the first MDTF.
The headquarters is roughly 500 to 525 – five hundred twenty-five – people, and then it’s got four down-trace battalions in it. It’s got long-range fires, mid-range fires, an air-defense battalion, and a sustainment battalion.
And then the third multi-domain task force is organizing here in Hawaii. Again, same number as in its headquarters. And it will be probably full operational capability by the latter part of this year.
So that’s the status of the multi-domain task force. You’ll have to ask the Marine Corps about the Marine littoral regiments. Over.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Kathrin Hille from the Financial Times, based in Taiwan. She asks: “You mentioned territorial defense. How do you think Taiwan’s armed forces should approach territorial defense? And tell us a bit more about whether and how the U.S. Army is helping train Taiwan ground forces to fulfill territorial defense functions.”
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah. Well, I would just say any army that’s going to be asked to defend something, they’re going to need – the first thing I would say is they’re going to need training. And I think that making sure that forces are trained in the task of defend is essential to our Army, any army. In fact, my – I often say that armies do three things: we seize, hold, and we defend terrain. And so all armies – and as I mentioned earlier, just protecting their territorial integrity is foremost, and they’re – all the armies in the region have to do that.
I mean, if I can, I’ll just jump to the Ukraine and say that that’s a great example of a force that trained and is now defending in a very demanding, harsh, and violent environment. They’re defending their country; they’re defending their people; they’re trying to maintain their territorial integrity. And again, I think this is what armies do. So thanks for the question.
MODERATOR: All right. Our next question, which I think may be our final one we have time for, comes from Jae Young Choi of the SBS in South Korea, who asks: “Even with the deployment of strategic assets such as nuclear submarines and nuclear bombers, there is still a strong opinion that tactical nuclear weapons should be deployed in South Korea. Can South Koreans trust the U.S. to extended deterrence? Why?”
GENERAL FLYNN: Yeah, I guess I can talk about conventional deterrence. I’m not really going to talk too much about strategic deterrence. And I would just reiterate what our senior officials have said repeatedly: the alliance between the U.S. and the Koreans, and – Republic of Korea, is ironclad. So we can be depended upon. Thanks.
MODERATOR: All right. And now, General Flynn, if you have any closing remarks, I’ll turn it back over to you.
GENERAL FLYNN: Katie, I will just reiterate what I said in the beginning. I’m very thankful about the upcoming LANPAC conference that we have here in Hawaii. I’ll say that my recent trip in the region was informative and gave me a better sense of the progress that’s being made in the region.
I think I’ll end by saying that I’d like if you – if the members there on the – in the media net can pay attention to some of the things that we engage in at LANPAC, that would be helpful.
And then one final point is that in September, we do another conference like this in the region. The LANPAC conference is the conference we do here in Hawaii. The one we do in the region is going to be in New Delhi this year, in India, in the mid-September timeframe. So we do one conference here in Hawaii annually, and we do one conference in the region annually. Last year we did it in Bangladesh; this year we’re doing it in India. And we’re really excited about both of these forums giving land forces and army leaders an opportunity to talk about the challenges in the region, which is often thought of as an air and maritime theater, but the reality of it is this is a – this is a joint theater. It’s got joint and combined and multinational challenges, and in order for us to solve these challenges we’re going to have to have joint, combined, and multinational solutions.
So thanks very much for your questions, and thanks very much for the time you took to listen, and Katie, back to you, and thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. That brings us to the end of our time today. Thank you for your questions, and thanks to General Flynn for joining us. We will provide a transcript of this briefing to participating journalists as soon as it is available. We’d also love to hear your feedback, and you can contact us at any time at AsiaPacMedia@state.gov. Thanks again for your participation and we hope you can join us for another briefing soon. Thank you.