The dual threats of terrorism and North Korea are the most important factors in determining the future structure of U.S. forces in the Pacific, a top U.S. lawmaker said last Thursday.

Rep. James A. Leach, chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, also warned that “regional extremist networks in Southeast Asia are larger, more capable and more active than was previously believed.”

Leach made the comments at a subcommittee hearing in Washington.

Pacific Command chief Adm. Thomas Fargo; Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Christopher LaFleur, a State Department special envoy for northeast Asia security, also testified.

Leach said “imminent” changes in the way U.S. forces are deployed on the Korean peninsula are meant to “enhance security, improve our combined defense and promote regional stability.”

“There is unanimity in Washington that America’s commitment to South Korea has to be steadfast and our alliance held very much unquestioned as the unpredictable unification process with the North proceeds,” he said.

But the Iowa Republican also urged the Bush administration not to agree to help other governments fight terrorism on their soil — as it has in the Philippines — without telling Congress first.

“While Congress is firmly supportive of U.S. assistance to Manila, I would hope the executive branch understands that negotiations involving the commitment of U.S. troops to potential areas of conflict are a subject the administration would be wise to consult Congress about in advance,” Leach said.

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