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Asia-Pacific Roundtable Speech

By Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command | June 5, 2013

Thank you for inviting me to this gathering of such a distinguished group of security professionals and scholars.

I would like to begin by thanking both ASEAN and EYE-SIS (ISIS) for sponsoring the Asia-Pacific Roundtable for all these many years. 

It is a forum of excellent reputation and I am honored and privileged to stand in front of you, in fact, I am humbled to stand in front of you.

Your efforts to ensure partner nations have an opportunity to discuss the most pertinent challenges today in a safe environment, safe meaning where open dialogue can occur, are crucial to the ongoing peace and stability of the Asia region…and we thank you.

And so…as we contemplate and strategize about change in Asia…and it is clear that substantive change is occurring…I believe we must consider and analyze the intricate and often complex relationships between the various elements of national power…elements that define how we see ourselves as individual nations, how we pursue our own national interests, and ultimately how we shape and maintain the quality of our regional and global security environment.

These elements of power include Diplomatic, Economic, Legal and of course underlying all of these, and the area I am most concerned about, is security…often referred to as military power.

Now most of you in this audience have much more experience than me in the area of economics…in fact, my wife, Pam, of 35 years actually keeps my checkbook.  Economics is not my strongpoint.  Information flow, legal issues, and of course, diplomacy…you are already much more knowledgeable, but as you might guess…my main focus, and ultimate purpose, is how do I help, how do the U.S. forces in the Pacific help to shape and promote a stable security environment.

I think you might agree that without a stable security environment the other critical elements of national power that I have mentioned become muted in their ability to move us forward, and to continue the peace and prosperity demonstrated in the Asia-Pacific for years.

So as we look to the future…hopefully a future of peace and prosperity for all our peoples…I think we must contemplate the challenges that we must overcome to ensure a successful future.

First we must recognize that this is a vast region, and I didn’t really understand that.  I do think Navy people probably have a better understanding of the size of the globe than any other military service, because we have to sail many oceans.  But if you look at the Pacific Ocean, it’s the largest thing on the face of the earth.  I am told that you can take every land mass in the world and put it together, and it will fit in the Pacific Ocean with room for another continent.  So it’s a vast region, and when you add all that together, with the Indian Ocean, and you look at it from the perspective of the Indo-Asia-Pacific security environment, you start to see the inter-relations of this vast region.

So we have to understand that it is culturally, socially, economically, and geo-politically diverse, and we must, in our strategy, appreciate that diversity and accommodate it in our strategic thinking. 

The nations who associate themselves here, as you know, include two of the three largest economies in the world, seven of the ten smallest, the most populated country in the world, the largest Muslim majority nation, and the smallest republic in the world. 

It is the engine that drives the emerging global economy.  Nine of the ten largest ports in the world are in this region…and the sea lanes are the busiest and the most strategically important in the world…with over half the world’s cargo and 70% of ship-borne energy supplies transiting this region daily.

Now when I was a young officer in our Navy, I was told at that time that 95% of everything that moves in the world, moves in our oceans, in our maritime domain.  Today 95% of everything that moves in the world moves in the maritime domain.  The difference is that the quantity of what moves has quadrupled over the decades.

This is also the most militarized region in the world with seven of the ten largest armies, the world’s largest navies, and five of the world’s declared nuclear powers.

And of course the complexity of this wide, diverse group of complex challenges includes things like:

  • Environmental impact and natural disaster – where changing weather patterns, violent storms, and the inevitable volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis and all of this will continue to challenge in very unpredictable ways.  From 2008 through 2012 USAID assesses that approximately 279,000 people were killed in this region due to natural disasters with over half a million displaced and over 800 billion dollars in lost economic productivity…and that’s just from things that nature does to us – not what we do to ourselves.
  • Transnational non-state threats including pandemics, pirates, the continuing threat of terrorism, criminal organizations, drug and human trafficking…Human trafficking I’m told globally was a 30 Billion Dollar industry last year.  That’s more than Google, Starbucks, and Nike put together…and unfortunately, the proliferation of WMD will continue to challenge us.
  • There will be emerging competition for water; there will be competition for food as global weather patterns change; and there already is competition for energy.
  • Historic and emerging territorial and border disputes will continue…as nations position themselves to secure their claims.
  • Access and freedom of action in the shared domains of sea, air, space and cyber space will be increasingly challenged.
  • It looks like instability on the Korean peninsula will persist, presenting a significant threat to the regional security environment.
  • And how China and India emerge as global economic and regional powers, is yet to be seen…but it will be key to what the security environment looks like.
  • And finally, we have to recognize from the security perspective that no single governance mechanism exists to manage our relationships – to provide a proven framework for conflict resolution…but what does exist is a really complex set of security, economic, diplomatic, and social relationships that have been shaped by our history, that area shaped by our shared interests, and that are increasingly driven by our economic interconnectedness.

So clearly…this is a very complex region of the world with many challenges, but, as we all know, many, many opportunities as well.  As we contemplate a changing Asia, I would ask you to look at several points that I believe are important for us to consider.

First as we assess and manage change in Asia, and in particular the changing security environment, we must acknowledge that there are and will be areas of divergence, which will create friction between nations, and this friction must be managed…without conflict…and that our best hope for continued peace and prosperity lies in working together on the many things we converge on across all the elements of national and regional power.

It is my firm belief that no nation, and I’ve not found one military person anywhere in the world, who desires conflict…especially armed conflict…and that our best hope for a stable security environment will be identifying those areas where our interests overlap and building over time greater understanding, greater trust, and greater transparency between all nations and militaries in the region…

And we have to look for ways to deepen our practical cooperation, and we are doing that in areas such as counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief – the ASEAN ADMM+ disaster exercise will be held pretty soon here and it’s an excellent example of the type of cooperation I am talking about – logistics, and military medicine…just to name a few. 

Second, when friction does lead to disputes they must be settled in a manner that maintains peace and stability, adheres to international law and protects unimpeded access, as well as freedom of navigation and overflight that are so critical to our economic development.

…and miscalculation must be avoided.

We must encourage improved communications between nations to prevent this miscalculation, and we must support the development of binding codes of conduct to assist in peaceful resolution of disputes.  We must think and act strategically, not tactically…particularly when friction and competition between nations arises…and we must instill in our military, our young military officers, and our security officers the necessary tools to prevent miscalculation and harmful escalation.

Our strategic planning must also acknowledge the importance of the shared domains to our future prosperity.  Our shared domains…what are they…they are pretty simple.  They are the maritime domain, the sea; they are the air domain; space; and now cyber.  And we must continue, in all these domains, a commitment to certain key fundamentals that allow us all to have freedom of access to these critical domains.

These principles include free and open commerce, a just international order that emphasizes the rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to rule of law, and open access for everyone.

And finally, any strategic discussion concerning Asia must factor in the enduring U.S. presence and influence in this region…now and for the foreseeable future and beyond, the U.S. will be in the Asia Pacific.  The U.S. is a Pacific nation with a long history of sacrifice and stewardship in this region of the world.

There has been a lot of discussion around what President Obama describes in his 21st Century Security Vision, “Rebalance Towards the Asia Pacific.”

Some have expressed concern that the Rebalance is a continuation of an ongoing containment effort.  It is not.

The Rebalance is an intentional effort based on a strategy of collaboration and cooperation to reinforce economic openness, peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for universal rights and freedoms.  It is also based on the reality that the United States’ future and the future of Asia are inextricably linked together.

The Rebalance is not just a security or defense-centered policy.  The Rebalance encompasses all aspects of our government’s efforts, to include diplomatic, economic and political, as well as security, and reflects a recognition that the United States’ success in the 21st Century will, to a large extent, depend on what happens in this critically important part of the world.

My boss, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, recently provided a very concise and comprehensive overview of the U.S. Rebalance to the Asia Pacific at Shangri-La…but let me quickly summarize the key elements:

  • We will strengthen our alliances – The U.S. has seven treaty allies and five are in this region.  These alliances go back 180 years in Thailand, and these alliances are important, not only from the security perspective of the U.S., but for many other areas of shared values with our allies.  They will remain a cornerstone of our security posture in the Asia-Pacific;
  • We are deepening our relationships with our partners, and we are developing and making those partnerships better in the areas where we have shared interests, which includes a deeper relationship with India;
  • We are building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China.  Our two leaders will meet this week to discuss the future of that relationship, and we are meeting with our counterparts on good military to military relations and building those between the U.S. and China;
  • We are working to empower regional institutions, many that are being discussed in this forum here today;
  • And we are helping build a regional economic and security architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.  The prosperity of not only the people of this region, but of the American people as well.

The Rebalance is a long-term, strategic commitment to ensure U.S. access and peace and prosperity.

As our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Dempsey recently said in China when asked what the Rebalance is about, he said it’s about “Three Mores” – more interest, more engagement, and from the military perspective more quality assets and quality interaction.

So before we move on to your questions and our discussions about a changing Asia and the security environment that supports it, let me again thank you and express my sincerest support for ASEAN and for this forum.

ASEAN has set the stage for regional cooperation by developing a network of viable institutions that will increasingly play a critical role in the regional security architecture.

And we look forward to continued real and tangible solutions to shared challenges and opportunities in a peaceful and prosperous Asia.

Thank you.


— USPACOM (posted June 10, 2013) —

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