By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (formerly a Republican Senator from Nebraska) told Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama that the cyber threat is probably the most dangerous threat facing this country and that many of the cyber attacks are coming from within China. Sec. Hagel’s comments were in response to a question from Sen. Shelby about cyber security. Hagels comments were made before the Senate Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee to consider the President’s Department of Defense 2014 budget request. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey was also present.
Secretary Hagel said, “I have said many times that I think the cyber threat is probably the most dangerous threat overall that this country faces (and there are a lot of threats) but it crosses every line and you don’t know where it is coming from. As you noted, it takes down industrial based secrets and it can paralyze economies.”
Secretary Hagel said that cyber attacks have the potential to change the whole equation. Sec. Hagel told Shelby, “The President spent considerable time with Chinese President Xi on this issue.” Hagel said that he himself made a point of emphasizing cyber attacks in a speech that he made last week in Singapore. “I specifically noted that we are aware that many of these attacks are emanating from china. and so, I don’t think we can minimize this threat.”
On North Korea, Shelby said, “A lot of us are very concerned, and I know you are, about the developments in Korea. It comes — it runs hot, and it cools off a little bit. But we have a very unstable regime, I believe, there and so forth. What role could China play if they chose to do so with North Korea? You know, they have, at times, they — they’ve let them go at times. And how important is the — the developments in Korea are to our national security?”
Senator Hagel said that the President had spent a couple of days in California with new Chinese President Xi Jinping and “Obviously, North Korea was a significant part of that agenda.”
Hagel said that he was in Singapore about a week ago for the Shangri-La dialogue and met with senior representatives from the Chinese Ministry of Defense there. “General Dempsey has met with his counterpart. And so, we have a number of tracks that we’re working with the Chinese on.” “Specifically, to address your — your point about North Korea. There’s — very little question that the — the Chinese have more influence with North Korean than — than any country. And, without veering off into the Secretary of State’s province, I would say that the — the Chinese have been helpful in dealing with the North Koreans. We have different issues, different, agendas, different interests that are parallel and intersect. North Korea is one. How dangerous is North Korea? In a sense that they are unpredictable. They have capacities and we know that. We have allies there starting on the border with our allies in South Korea. We know the kind of artillery that they have lined up against Seoul.” Hagel said that, “There will be on going meetings and I think those venues are helpful and important, but North Korea remains a dangerous and unpredictable country and we need to be prepared for that.”
General Dempsey said that the United States has 29,000 service men and women and 4,000 families living in South Korea to defend the homeland and preserve the armistice.
Senator Richard Shelby was elected to the Senate in 1986. He previously had served in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as that Alabama legislature.