McCain, Senator Reed, and distinguished members, it’s my honor to appear once
again before this committee. I am pleased to be here with Assistant Secretary
Shear to discuss the Asia Pacific Maritime Security Strategy.
United States is a maritime nation and the importance of Asia-Pacific region to
our Nation’s security and prosperity cannot be overstated. Almost 30 percent of
the world’s maritime trade – $5.3 trillion – transits the South China Sea
annually. This includes $1.2 trillion in ship-borne trade bound for the United
States. The Asia-Pacific region is critical for our nation’s economic future.
decades, this region has remained free from major conflicts, allowing the
United States and other Pacific nations, including China, to enjoy the benefits
of its vast maritime spaces. However, the security environment is changing,
potentially placing this stability at risk. Rapid economic and military
modernization and a growing demand for resources have increased the potential
for conflict. Peacetime freedom of navigation is under pressure.
handled properly, territorial and maritime disputes in the East and South China
Seas could disrupt stability throughout the region. Claimants to disputed areas
routinely use maritime law enforcement and coast guard vessels to enforce their
claims while nominally keeping these issues out of the military sphere. While
no country appears to desire military conflict, tactical miscalculations can
lead to strategic consequences.
United States does not take sides on issues of sovereignty with respect to
these territorial disputes, but we do insist that all maritime claims be
derived from naturally-formed land features in accordance with customary
international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. The United
States also emphasizes the importance of peacefully resolving maritime and
territorial disagreements in accordance with international law, and we oppose
the use of intimidation, coercion, or aggression. The U.S. believes every
nation, large or small, should have the opportunity to develop and prosper, in
line with international laws and standards. If one country selectively ignores
these rules for its own benefit, others will undoubtedly follow, eroding the
international legal system and destabilizing regional security and the
prosperity of all Pacific states. Part of PACOM’s role in the Asia-Pacific
Maritime Strategy will be ensuring all nations have continued access to the
maritime spaces vital to the global economy.
recognition and protection of freedom of navigation is vital to the world’s
economy and our way of life. To safeguard the freedom of the seas, USPACOM
routinely exercises with allies and partners, executes Freedom of Navigation
operations, and maintains a robust presence throughout the region. These
activities help build partner capacity to contribute to the region’s security,
enhance relationships, improve understanding of shared challenges, and message
the U.S.’s resolve.
Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy outlines our plan to safeguard freedom
of the seas, deter conflict, and promote adherence to international law and
standards. It reaffirms our commitment to the principles found in UNCLOS. In
accordance with this strategy and in pursuit of these goals, Pacific Command’s
forces will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, while
continuing to strengthen the relationships and rule of law that enabled the
peaceful rise of every nation in the region.
fundamental factor in the feasibility of this new strategy has been the
Rebalance to the Pacific. The Rebalance, initiated almost four years ago by
President Obama, set the conditions for the implementation of this strategy.
The Rebalance strengthened treaty alliances and partnerships, increased partner
capacity and cooperation, improved interoperability, and increased security
capabilities in the region. DoD’s new maritime strategy capitalizes on the
momentum of the Rebalance and continues with its initiatives. In executing the
new maritime strategy, PACOM will continue to:
the most advanced and capable platforms as they are deployed or assigned to the
forward presence of military forces to engage allies and partners and deter
internationally accepted rules and norms including the concepts of freedom of
navigation and innocent passage.
and exercise with allies and partners to increase interoperability and build
risk reduction mechanisms such as the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and
the U.S.-China Confidence Building Measures to help prevent accidents and
deepening alliances and partnerships through strategic efforts in places like
Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines, while building new and
deeper military relationships in places like Singapore, India, Vietnam, and with other like- minded friends and partners.
Thank you for your
continued support to USPACOM and our men and women in uniform, and their
families, who live and work in the vast Asia-Pacific region. I look forward to
answering your questions.