We write to you as bipartisan members of the United States Senate and as strong supporters of the U.S. bilateral alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea. We believe it is important to reaffirm the critical importance of these partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. These alliances, each independently forged after the difficult trials of war, serve as the linchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and help advance the cause of a more peaceful, prosperous and free world.
While we recognize the complex history between your two great countries, we believe it is a critical time for Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States to work together and deepen our economic, security and cultural relationships. Disunity only provides the opportunity for countries such as China and North Korea to sow discord in our relationships in order to shift the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific away from freedom and towards authoritarianism. Additionally, there are a number of pressing global challenges that are best addressed through a unified approach.
We remain committed to deepening and broadening our diplomatic, economic and security ties with your great nations and look forward to continued cooperation and partnership in the years ahead.
Senators Dan Sullivan and Chris Van Hollen
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Thune (R-SD), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), James Lankford (R-OK), John Kennedy (R-LA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Martha McSally (R-AZ).
From Ketchikan to Kotzebue
August is one of my favorite months, because I get to spend so much time back home engaging with Alaskans and discussing how I can best serve them in Washington, D.C. This year, I visited more than 25 communities, from Ketchikan to Point Hope, Unalaska to the Kenai Peninsula, from Dillingham to Nenana, and many more places in between. Along the way, I had the pleasure of hosting some very important cabinet officials. Alaskans, as always, welcomed them warmly. These officials all left with a better appreciation of our state and our great people.
My trip kicked off in Ketchikan, where I attended the Blueberry Arts Festival and took part in the 10K fun run around town.
My next stop was Juneau, where I sat down with my colleague Senator Lisa Murkowski for a roundtable discussion on Canadian transboundary mines that threaten Alaska’s waterways.
Then, it was off to Anchorage, where I promoted the POWER Act, a law I authored that will help enlist lawyers to provide pro bono services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Before heading to Dillingham, I celebrated Alaska Wild Salmon Day with the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) Board of Directors and shareholders.
In Dillingham, I met with Robin Samuelson, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation chairman and a BBNC board member. We toured the city harbor and even got temporarily stranded on the water!
In the middle of the month, I began an extended tour of Western and Northwest Alaska. Joining me on my rural trip were some very special guests: Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Alaska’s own Tara Sweeney, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Director of Field Operations, Jim James. Our first stop was in Point Hope, where we saw the village’s historic subsurface ice cellars and the iconic cemetery built with massive whale bones.
Our next stop was Noorvik, where we met with elders, leaders and residents in the school gym to learn about the community’s challenges, including coastal erosion, dust control, and the lack of available housing.
Next, it was further inland up the Kobuk River to Kiana. We had a fantastic time serving hot dogs and speaking with people about the village’s priorities, including expanding housing options, tackling the scourge of drug and alcohol misuse, offering cultural opportunities for local youth, and addressing erosion.
The next morning, we arrived in Selawik a town accessed by a system of boardwalks. Like many other communities we visited, Selawik has shown great resilience and ingenuity in the challenges it faces, while also fostering a new generation of leaders to advocate for rural Alaska.
After leaving Selawik, we headed west to Kotzebue to sit down with leaders and discuss how the state and federal government are working together to strengthen this vital hub community and the surrounding rural villages that rely on it.
Our next stop was Deering, a beautiful village nestled on the south shore of Kotzebue Sound, with sweeping views out over the water. It was a big day for everyone – the first day back to school!
From Deering, we headed east to Buckland, where we gathered with the community for discussions over bowls of delicious snow goose stew and amazing fresh blueberry desserts. Buckland has seen good progress on a new water system and more homes fitted with plumbing, a top priority of mine for rural Alaska.
To close out Day Three, we flew south to the village of Unalakleet, on Norton Sound. We stopped by KNSA Radio, had a tour of the town, and concluded with a community meeting at Gonangnan-Paneok Memorial Hall.
Next, we arrived in Stebbins where we met with residents and toured the city. Our rural trip ended with a short drive from Stebbins to St. Michael. Both communities have been reeling from serious public safety challenges that have been in the news. I appreciated the candor of Alaskans here who simply want to see their communities prosper.
After our ten-community swing through rural Alaska, I was off to Palmer, where I met with local Mat-Su job creators at a joint Palmer and Wasilla Chamber Luncheon.
Just a day later, I was back on the move with a road trip from Anchorage up through the Interior. The drive was one of many high points in August. At a few stops along the way, I made sure to educate and correct reporter Chris Cillizza and the editors at CNN – who believed the Alaska Purchase “didn’t work out so well” – about what makes our state so special.
The trip started with a visit to Cantwell to discuss community concerns about encroachment by federal agencies on Alaskans’ rights to access our lands.
Our next stop on the journey was in Healy, where I had a meet-and-greet with their fantastic community, Mayor Clay Walker, and Joe Usibelli, Jr. to learn about the priorities of Alaska’s Railbelt.
Then, we headed further up the Parks Highway to Clear Air Force station, home to three of the most important strategic radar sites in the country. I toured the facilities, met with the brave Alaska Guard and active duty Air Force members who serve there, and discussed the station’s great importance to our nation’s security.
In Nenana, I had a great meeting with public safety officials, tribal leaders, educators, Mayor Verhagen, and others.
The conclusion of the road trip took us to Fairbanks, where I hosted EPA Administrator Wheeler for discussions with Interior leaders and a public hearing to address ongoing air quality issues in the region.
Next, I headed to Kodiak and then on to Unalaska with my friend and colleague from Mississippi, Senator Roger Wicker, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, on which I also sit.
Once back in Southcentral, I visited the Incident Command Centers for the wildfires wreaking havoc in the Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula. I am so proud of the firefighters, first responders, and volunteers who risked their lives to save lives and protect property.
Later in the month, I hosted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for a visit to the innovative Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) at UAA, where we met with students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Secretary DeVos then joined me in Kotzebue, where we met with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District Board to discuss education challenges in the region, before a visit to Kivalina.
Back in Anchorage, I had the great pleasure of honoring Korean War Veterans with the South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Cho Yoon-je. I also joined Alaska’s strong and vibrant Filipino community for a town hall with the Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez. Attendees called for a Filipino consulate in Alaska, and the ambassador was very receptive.
Lastly, a trip back home wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the great Alaska State Fair! Julie and I manned the fair booth and got to see the largest pumpkin ever grown in the state. She and I also recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary! Thank you to all who sent well-wishes.
For those of you I didn’t get a chance to see this summer, please feel free to reach out with your perspectives or concerns, whether on the phone or by emailing me on my contact page. Likewise, if you are having challenges with a federal agency, please know that we are here to help. I have a superb team of constituent relations specialists, each with a heart for service, ready to assist.
Senator Dan Sullivan, Washington, D.C.