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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2021

Rules-Based International Order Must Be Protected with Allies, Partners, Indo-Pacom Commander Says

By Terri Moon Cronk DOD NEWS

WASHINGTON -- The 80-year-old rules-based international order has done everything it's designed to do for all nations by enabling security, stability and prosperity for all around the globe, Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said.

Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the commander said the Indo-Pacific region represents global security and prosperity, but international norms are under direct attack.

It is an "absolute necessity," he noted, "for all nations to defend the rules-based international order for their benefit and for the benefit of all."

Aquilino emphasized the relative military and economic situations existing today are much different from 20 years ago.

"We adapted to a post-Cold War environment," the commander said. "And we presented with a focus on terrorism. In the past two decades, I would make the argument the military and economic centers of gravity have shifted to the Indo-Pacific."

The region hosts four of the most populous nations, three of the largest democracies, three of the largest economies, he said. It's responsible for 60% of the world's gross domestic product. Two-thirds of the present, global economic growth is driven from the Indo-Pacific.

Spotlight: Focus on Indo-Pacific

On a military level, he added, seven of the world's 10 largest armies, five of the world’s declared nuclear nations and the most-sophisticated navies all reside in the Indo-Pacific. The sea lanes support the world's nine largest ports, and every day, half of the global container cargo and 70% of the shipboard energy supply flows through those maritime spaces, Aquilino said.

"[That] didn't happen by itself — the rules-based international order facilitated this dramatic growth and its development," he said. "The important work of the regional nations in the Indo-Pacific fostered an environment for all to prosper. Adherence to those international norms and our other values — to include mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, human rights, resolving disputes peacefully, and freedom of navigation — all have created greater stability."

The importance of the Indo-Pacific is not an anomaly, because the world has benefited from rules-based international order, the commander said, but added that the order is under attack by revisionist, autocratic powers that seek to disrupt and displace the order in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of all others, Aquilino said.

Coercion and intimidation are the tools they use to achieve their objectives, he said, adding, "This assault on the rules-based international order should be concerning to all of us."

On a positive note, Aquilino said, the vast majority of countries throughout the region and the globe continue to strive for a free and open Indo-Pacific. "This is defining the security landscape of the 21st century, and how we deal with this will matter," he said, adding that working together with like-minded nations, allies and partners is critical..

And in working with other nations, such collaboration proves what can be achieved when allies and partners work together, Aquilino said. "Individually, we are strong, but together, we are stronger. So as we go forward into the future, we need to continually confront … challenges."

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