Kiggans Visits Southeast Asia to Assess National Security Threats, Meet with U.S. Troops, Strengthen Ties with Partners

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: Last week, Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (VA-02) joined three colleagues from the House Armed Services Committee for a Congressional Delegation trip to Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. During the bipartisan trip, Congresswoman Kiggans, along with Reps. Rob Wittman (VA-01), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), and Carlos Gimenez (FL-28), conducted oversight of U.S. Department of Defense activities in the region, met with U.S. troops, addressed the pressing national security challenge of China, and strengthened diplomatic ties with our allied partners in Southeast Asia.

As a former exchange student to Japan and alumni of the Japan-Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program (1993-1994), Congresswoman Kiggans recognizes the immense value of our Asian partner nations and prioritizes our joint force posture cooperation in the region. Having lived at Naval Air Station Atsugi as a military spouse for three years while her husband was forward deployed in Japan, Congresswoman Kiggans has a deep understanding and great appreciation for the critical role our military forces play in Asia and the sacrifices made by our military members and their families deployed there.

“As the United States seeks to maintain peace and stability in Southeast Asia, we know that strength is the best deterrence for unwanted aggression,” said Congresswoman Kiggans upon returning from the trip. “Now more than ever, we need our friends to partner with us to deter authoritarian expansionism from China and protect regional prosperity. America stands with our allies who value democracy, the rule of law, and free economic development, and will continue to pursue avenues to strengthen these relationships.”

“The reality is that China is the most challenging national security threat America has faced in 30 years,” continued Congresswoman Kiggans. “The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated its desire to increase its influence and aggression far beyond the South China Sea. We need to acknowledge that and take immediate action to deter this threat; otherwise, I fear the next 30 years could be devastating for our men and women in uniform. As a former Naval aviator, I’m committed to providing our military – especially our maritime forces – and our allies with the resources and support they need to effectively counter this growing threat.”

During the trip, Congresswoman Kiggans and her colleagues visited the Japanese Ministry of Defense, where they met with Japan Self-Defense Forces Chair of Staff (Joint Staff) Yoshihide Yoshida and other Cabinet officials. They also traveled to Naval Station Yokosuka, where they met with Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, Commander, Seventh Fleet and his staff to receive a theatre update. From there the group traveled to Okinawa, Japan, where they met with U.S. Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force for an update on the work of the Third Marine Littoral Regiment and Force Design 2030. The Members also spent time with a Navy P-8 crew deployed to Kadena Air Base from Naval Air Station Jacksonville and learned about their tip-of the spear missions patrolling the South China Sea.

In June, Congresswoman Kiggans gave the keynote speech at the 13th Annual South China Sea Conference hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. You can watch or read her remarks here.

From Japan, the delegation traveled to the Philippines where they met with Irineo Espino, the Department of National Defense Senior Undersecretary, then to Taipei, Taiwan, where they met with President Tsai Ing-wen and Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng. All meetings stressed the importance of promoting security in Southeast Asia by uniting with like-minded countries to act as a strong deterrent to increased aggression and provocative actions from China. Japan has recently increased its defense budget to 2% of its GDP, which conforms to NATO standards and will eventually push Japan’s annual defense budget to be the world’s third biggest after the United States and China. Taiwan spends approximately 2.5% GDP on defense and has recently lengthened its compulsory military service from four months to one year.

Representatives from Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan all reiterated the significance of having the United States as a partner and expressed gratitude for the opportunities to purchase American military equipment and train with American military forces as the threat from China grows.

Photos from the trip and corresponding descriptions can be found below.

Congresswoman Kiggans, Congressmen Norcross, Wittman, and Gimenez, and Japanese Chief of Staff, Joint Staff General Yoshida discuss Japan’s extended defense budget, aimed at addressing national security challenges in the region.

Congresswoman Kiggans and Congressmen Wittman, Norcross, and Gimenez meet with Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.

Congresswoman Kiggans, Congressman Gimenez, Congressman Wittman, and Philippine Department of National Defense Undersecretary Irineo Espino discuss regional security priorities.

Congresswoman Kiggans, Congressman Wittman, Undersecretary Espino, Congressman Gimenez, and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Variava.

Congresswoman Kiggans and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

(From left to right) American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Political Chief Richard Jao, Congressmen Cloud, Gimenez, and Wittman, Congresswoman Kiggans, President Tsai, AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk, National Security Council Secretary General Wellington Koo, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, Office of the President Director General of the Third Bureau Kao-Wei Chu, and MOFA Department of North American Affairs Director General Liang-Yu Wang.

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