Putin-Kim Visit in North Korea Affirms the Immediate Need for NDAA Vote in the U.S. Senate

Senator Wicker again highlights growing alignment between “Axis of Aggressors”

June 20, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke today on the U.S. Senate floor about Russian president Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s meeting in Pyongyang this week.


In his remarks, Senator Wicker underscored that North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China’s partnerships are already undermining American interests, which highlights the need for the National Defense Authorization Act to be brought to the U.S. Senate floor immediately.


Senator Wicker’s remarks also raised the increased cooperation between the new “axis of aggressors.”


Senator Wicker also emphasized how the defense investment proposals in his recently released “21st Century Peace Through Strength” plan could help meet the moment.


The remarks also follow a similar op-ed from Senator Wicker in Fox News about the rising nuclear threat from North Korea and proposals to improve deterrence against Kim Jong Un.


Read Senator Wicker’s remarks as delivered below or watch them here.


For the first time in 24 years, this week, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin visited the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. This rare trip was a sign of a new reality, and it amounts to bad news for the United States and for our alliance and the forces of freedom around the world. An axis of aggressors continues to emerge and this visit by Putin to Kim Jong Un is just the latest sign.


Our adversaries, Russia, North Korea, China, the Ayatollah’s Iran have been banding together to create a world that is less free, less peaceful, and less prosperous for the American people. Every member of the Senate knows this, and we have an opportunity to respond. And there is a glimmer of good news, Mr. President.


Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, overwhelmingly voted to move the National Defense Authorization bill forward. We wrote the bill specifically to address this rising danger.


Our near unanimous support for passage of the NDAA is a sign that we agree on at least one thing: the United States is not ready to stand up to this axis of aggressors. This new group, who are banding together and assisting each other as they never have before, and we don’t have time to waste.


The Armed Services Committee has put that conviction into practice. Senators from both sides of the aisle added an additional $25 billion to the legislation – to the topline of this legislation. Twenty-five billion dollars which would invest in the munitions and systems we need to confront this axis and to prevent war – to preserve the peace and prevent war.


Vladimir Putin’s visit to Kim Jong Un was more than just a ceremony. The two autocrats signed a defense pact between North Korea and Russia, agreeing to help each other militarily. This new pact is troubling, but it should come as no surprise.


It is only the latest step in their growing partnership. For two years, North Korea has been supplying Russia with millions of artillery shells and hundreds of ballistic missiles for Putin’s illegal war against Ukraine.


In exchange, Moscow has helped Pyongyang evade the sanctions that previously held back the North Korean economy. The Russian-North Korean partnership is just one aspect of the growing axis of aggressors.


China has supported Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine. China has sent weapons components and geospatial intelligence to Vladimir Putin. In return, Moscow has sold oil to China.


Iran has supplied – Iran – in another section of the world, has supplied hundreds of ballistic missiles and thousands of deadly drones for Putin’s terror campaign against Ukrainian citizens. Russia has returned the favor by sending Tehran advanced air defense missiles and jets.


All four of these countries, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and communist China have supported Hamas’ hateful and illegal attack on Israel, and they have supported the Houthis’ reckless campaign against international commerce.


Time and again, my colleagues and I have been calling attention to this evil alliance. We in the United States should expect more meetings like the one that took place in Pyongyang this week.


A year ago, China hosted the first state visit of Iranian officials – first time ever that communist China has hosted a state visit of Iranian officials. Just last month, Vladimir Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This is not an accident. These instances are not unrelated Mr. President.


At these meetings, handshakes will turn into hardware. You can be sure of that. Our adversaries will continue sending the tools of war to each other, further destabilizing the free world.


And as the world is changing, so must the United States. We must return to what we know works best, to what has been proven to work best. We must increase our military capability, and we must do it now, which is why I am so thankful to my colleagues on a bipartisan basis for what they have done in the National Defense Authorization Act in committee.


In May of this year, I released a detailed plan to make sure that we return to a necessary level of support for our military. We entitled it the “21st Century Peace Through Strength” document, and it contains proposals for every theater and every domain of warfare.


A number of elements in the report are particularly relevant to the budding North Korea-Russia relationship and to China’s nuclear breakout.


In my plan, I recommend serious conversations with our allies and partners, conversations about how to meet the threats we share. With our allies South Korea, Japan, and Australia, we should discuss nuclear burden-sharing agreements. It’s time for them to step forward and join us in nuclear burden-sharing. Just as former Japanese Prime Minister, the late Shinzo Abe, suggested in 2022. We should also explore re-deploying American nuclear weapons back where they have been in the past, to that region, to keep North Korea and China in check.


The Senate Armed Services Committee has taken a first step to fix our nuclear shortfalls in the Pacific. And Mr. President, this is as result of a panel of experts that this congress authorized, that this president signed legislation for, and which has met over the past several years, and which reported to us on not a bipartisan basis but a unanimous bipartisan basis.


Our action in the NDAA reflects that unanimous recommendation of experts. In that regard, we authorized the continued development of the sea-launched nuclear cruise missile. This will help us rise to the challenge posted by our adversaries’ tactical nuclear weapons. The committee has also focused its defense budget increase on exactly the kinds of the weapons and infrastructure that will be most helpful as we seek to deter our adversaries, to deter our adversaries from making a fatal mistake, so that we can continue the peace.


Those steps are tailored to the Pacific, but the goals match the overall theme of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Just as we did under the administration of Ronald Reagan, we can achieve peace through strength. But we must achieve it through strength. That’s the way Reagan did it, and he did it with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House for many of those years.


We can contain the rising axis of aggressors. But we can only do so if we make a once-in-a-generation investment in our armed forces. This is not a luxury. This is not a frill for our military that is to be desired by some of them. This is an absolute necessity.


Listen to the witnesses that have come before us in open sessions of our committee, and almost to a man and a woman they have said this is the most dangerous defense situation that we have had in if not decades, in generations. These are the people that we look to for information and leadership and this is the non-classified testimony. Those of us who see all of the information see further need for this necessity, not this frill.


So, as I said earlier, Mr. President, my Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues agree. We’ve recognized the danger, and we’ve taken the first step to meet the moment.  Last week, we did agree to the defense topline increase of $25 billion and frankly, experts who have done this before tell you that we really needed twice as much. But this is what we could get passed out of the committee.


The topline increase is a down payment on the defense investment that is necessary to keep Americans safe. It would help reverse the downsizing of our Navy, help reverse the downsizing of our Air Force and would bring the next-generation weapons to the field faster. It includes $5.5 billion to accelerate production of key munitions and counter-drone gear.


The increase would invest over $1 billion in space capabilities crucial for 21st century warfare, and Mr. President you know this, and every member of the Senate know this: the next war, if we cannot avoid it, will be fought in space and will be fought with lasers in addition to the oceans and in addition to on the ground. We are in need of providing ourselves with the resources to meet that kind of new warfare that we’ve never seen in the history of mankind.


It would invest $6 billion in military construction and maintenance for our barracks, training ranges, and military infrastructure, and a pay raise for those Americans, those brave young Americans, those brave young men and women who are willing to step forward and say I am going to take an oath to serve my country during dangerous times.


So, Mr. President, Putin’s visit to North Korea is just another sign that we have no time to waste. The axis has already started solidifying as I’ve pointed out. Senate leadership needs to bring the NDAA to the floor for a vote, soon. Delays only diminish American strength and embolden our adversaries. Again, I commend my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee, and I call on our leadership to bring this essential legislation forward now so that we can let the appropriators know what we actually need.


Thank you very much, Mr. President, and I yield the floor.