U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today served as Ranking Member at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nominations hearing for ambassadorships to Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Norway. During his opening remarks, Romney stressed the importance of America’s involvement in the world in defending the causes of freedom and democracy. In his exchange with the Honorable Caroline Kennedy, nominee to serve as Ambassador to Australia, he discussed the importance of developing a comprehensive strategy to confront China’s growing aggression in the world.
A full transcript of his opening remarks and exchange with the nominees can be found below the video.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to those of you who are willing to serve our country, yet again, in our service overseas. This is a critical time in the world’s history. I met with leaders from an international body yesterday and they said, in some respects, this is unprecedented. We have war. At the same time, we have famine. At the same time, we have a pandemic. All three hitting the world at the same time. And you will each represent our interests in parts of the world that are critical to promoting America’s interests around the world. There are some who think we should simply forget the world and just return home and only think about what’s happening here. I happen to believe that if we’re truly interested in America’s interests first, that means that we need to be extensively involved in the world, making sure that the cause of freedom persists such that we can enjoy the economic vitality and peace that has been associated with, in large measure, with the last 70 years.
And I want to thank each of you for your willingness, and that of your families, to be willing to serve, yet again. You have been nominated to serve in countries that are obviously very important allies of the United States and those partnerships are going to become more important in the years ahead.
The Honorable Ambassador Caroline Kennedy will be going to Australia. And as she knows, Australia is our steadfast partner and among our most important allies historically and today. Our partnership will remain critical in maintaining a free and open Indo Pacific. I hope that, Ambassador Kennedy, that you’re going to be able to work with our friends in Australia to identify new opportunities for bilateral and multilateral cooperation and to strengthen the already strong Quad relationship, which we have.
The Honorable Philip S. Goldberg, South Korea, as you know, is our most important ally in dealing with the ongoing threat of North Korea. And we need to work together to deter North Korea’s aggression, to push the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, to stop its belligerent actions, and to cease its illegal activity. Of course our partnership goes beyond this single common threat. I hope you’ll also approach your time as Ambassador to recommit to our partnership and to find new ways to advance the interests which we have among freedom-loving countries and nations that follow the rule of law—to encourage China to begin to abide by those common rules.
Ms. MaryKay Loss Carlson, if confirmed, you will be stepping into a vital role and will be tasked with, perhaps rebuilding, and strengthening our relationship with the Philippines. As the Chairman just indicated, our relationship with the Philippines has been strained with the current president expressing current points of view which are antithetical to those that many of us hold. We’re happy to see that the Visiting Forces Agreement was restored last year. We clearly have a good relationship with those who have the long-term interests of the region in their sights. I hope that you’ll be able to work with our friends in the Philippines to find a much better path forward with regards to our common interest of human rights.
Mr. Marc B. Nathanson, I don’t have to tell you that NATO is pleased to have Norway as an important ally. Its geopolitical significance will only become more important as Russia and China attempt to change the rules of the road, particularly as it relates to their presence in the Artic. I hope you’ll use your time as Ambassador to strengthen our cooperation with Norway, especially on those Artic issues. And additionally, I hope that you will be able to work with our Norwegian allies to develop common or complimentary responses when faced with threats from Russia and China.
So to all of you, I appreciate your willingness to serve. It’s a real commitment and I hope the American people recognize that on the part of you, and your families, to go serve our country in a foreign place with so much happening in the world represents a sacrifice on your part and is one that I personally, and I think all members of our committee, deeply appreciate.
Senator Romney: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Carlson, I think a number of us have been surprised and a little disoriented by the comments made by the current president of the Philippines. The apparent distance he has with the cause of freedom and his closeness to China. Obviously our nation has worked with the people of the Philippines to provide for the safety and security of that nation and his redirection has been hard to understand. Can you give me a sense, from your perspective, as to what it is that may have led him to make the departure from our historic relationship that he has and to what extent you believe that’s being welcomed by the people of the Philippines?
Ms. Carlson: Thank you for that question. I think it’s important to look at the U.S.-Philippines relationship in its entirety. We are friends, partners, and allies with a 75 year history of diplomacy. We’re celebrating “Thriving at 75” just this year. So with regard to any particular individual, I think the important thing is to look ahead. We have a strong foundation of shared values with the people of the Philippines. We train with their military very closely, hundreds of training exercises every year, including the Balikatan premiere exercise, which means shoulder-to-shoulder, which is just finishing up today in the Philippines. Where our colleagues across all sectors of society work together, including freedom of expression and countering Chinese aggression. So I think as we look forward to the next 75 years, there is a lot of room for optimism based on the strong foundations of democracy that exist in the Philippines
Romney: Thank you. And Ambassador Kennedy, I think we’ve been very impressed with the backbone that has been shown by the people of Australia. They banned Huawei products, they have probed the origins of COVID, they participated in the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics as a result of what was being perpetrated against the Uyghur people. In this setting, they’re obviously a very small, in terms of population and economy, neighbor of China. We share interests in getting China to behave in a more normal and rules-based way. What is your perception of how Australia might be able to lead an effort to really develop a comprehensive strategy to confront China?
Ambassador Kennedy: I think Australia and the United States working together is, especially in the Quad with our India friends and with Japan, is a very powerful alliance and combination. And I think that the Australian people have now come together in understanding the challenges posed by China. So I think that we have an opportunity through our partnerships and alliances, working multilaterally throughout the region, to really create a comprehensive strategy that will strengthen deterrence and increase our own security, as well as allowing for the continued prosperity of the region. I think the rules-based order that America has stood behind has, working with Australia, has really allowed millions to prosper and provides a great opportunity for Americans. I think that, together with Australia, we will continue to deliver on that.
Romney: I would note that China has a very comprehensive and, to date, pretty successful strategy to expand their influence in the world, to develop the strongest military in the world, to become the strongest economy in the world, and I’m concerned that we as a nation, and even members the Quad, have not settled on what our strategy is to the deal with China. Do you agree that China is behaving in a malevolent and predatory way that represents a real threat to our interest here and around the world?
Kennedy: I think the strongest thing that we have is our values. The sense I saw when I was in Japan was how the whole world really still looks to America as a place they want to come to, the place that inspires them. So I feel confident that we do have in our values, in our economic strength, in our security partnerships, our alliances, and our multilateral work that we do have a winning strategy and I know that Australia and the United States together, work side-by-side to implement that every day. So I’m confident in the United States and in our ability to maintain a free and open and secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.