From National Security to the Economy and Fentanyl Trafficking — East Asia is Key

Last week, my colleague Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and I participated in an official Congressional delegation to East Asia — meeting with officials in Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. We used this trip to reaffirm the strength of our relationship with our long-standing allies, Japan and South Korea, as well as to discuss the future of our relationship with a modernizing China and a vibrant and democratic Taiwan. Fostering these relationships is critical because of the important impact these countries have on the people of New Hampshire and on all Americans.

One of my biggest priorities on this trip was to discuss fentanyl trafficking with Chinese officials. About 80 percent of all New Hampshire drug overdoses involve fentanyl — and much of that fentanyl originated in China. We sat down with the Vice Chairman of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin, to talk about the importance of strengthening efforts to combat fentanyl trafficking.

Our meeting with the Vice Chairman of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin.

China recently made all fentanyl analogues (drugs that are extremely similar to fentanyl but have slight chemical differences) controlled substances. I am grateful that the Chinese have taken this important step to help stop the flow of fentanyl to America; however, I made clear in our meeting that it will only make a real difference if the Chinese government devotes sufficient attention and resources to enforcement.

In separate meetings, we also underscored to Chinese officials that there is true bipartisan concern in the U.S. about Chinese trade practices, theft of intellectual property, and cybersecurity. New Hampshire businesses do huge amounts of trade with China, and we need to ensure that businesses in New Hampshire and across America have a fair playing field.

Our relationship with China will be the most critical, long-term relationship for the United States in this century. We need to increase our cooperation for things like combating fentanyl trafficking, but we also need to stand up to China where it can do better, whether it’s on human rights, intellectual property theft, or aggression in the South China Sea.

In Seoul, South Korea we emphasized America’s commitment to U.S.-South Korean joint defense efforts and to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. Our alliance with South Korea is critical to achieving peace and stability in this region. During our meetings with South Korean officials and business leaders, they emphasized the important role that the United States has played in South Korea’s economic prosperity — and I am committed to building on the country’s continued success.

We met with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo to discuss geopolitical threats in the region.

We also had the honor of meeting some brave young people who defected from North Korea and went on to learn English with the help of the U.S. government. The young woman in the photo below is named Jessie and she hopes to one day pursue a Women’s Studies degree in America.

I was honored to meet Jessie, a North Korean defector.

In Japan we met with government officials and economic leaders to reinforce America’s commitment to our economic and military partnerships with this important ally.

Japan is an important trading partner and is also key in helping to address challenges in the region — from confronting North Korea’s nuclear program to pushing back on some of China’s aggressive actions. The strength of our relationship with Japan stems from our shared national security and economic interests, as well as our shared democratic values — and I am committed to supporting this important ally.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the exceptional United States military and diplomatic personnel we met on the ground who are doing vital work to advance our interests every single day. I am incredibly grateful for their hard work and dedication to our country.