WASHINGTON, April 8, 2016 — The Asia-Pacific is the "single most consequential region" for America's future, and the United States is actively working to further strengthen its ties in the region, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.
The United States, which is focusing on its rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, has long played an "essential and pivotal role" in that region, Carter said.
Carter spoke in New York City at the Council on Foreign Relations, on the eve of a two-week trip to the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East that includes stops in India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
"We are working today, both individually and with our allies and partners, to ensure the Asia-Pacific remains a region where everyone -- everyone -- can rise and prosper," he said.
U.S. Support to the Region
Carter highlighted how the United States has supported peace, security and development in the region in an inclusive, principled way. Because of that, the U.S. has developed strong alliances and partnerships throughout the region, the secretary said.
"These relationships -- nurtured over decades, tested in crisis, and built on shared interests, values, and sacrifice -- form the bedrock of our role in the Asia-Pacific, and accordingly, its stability and prosperity," he said.
The results, according to Carter, have been "extraordinary," with millions lifted out of poverty and into the middle class since the end of World War II.
Democracy and freedom have spread across the region, the secretary said. He highlighted economic successes in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, China and India.
However, dramatic change can also produce some "negatives," he said, noting that China's actions in the South China Sea are raising regional tensions.
"That’s why many of those countries are reaching out anew to the United States to uphold the rules and the principles that have allowed the region to thrive," Carter said.
Strengthening Ties to the Region
Carter called for the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, calling it "one of the most important strategic parts" of the rebalance to the region. The TPP will unlock economic opportunities for the U.S. and many of its partners, he said.
Strengthening alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region will be the focus of his visit to India and the Philippines, he said.
"Our alliances and partnerships are and will remain one of our most important strategic assets," he said. "Our allies around the world, including those in the Asia-Pacific, have stood with us -- and fought with us -- time and again, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]."
The United States remains committed to the Asia-Pacific region, Carter said, with history showing the U.S. has fought with its friends and allies to defend shared principles and values, in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Talking about the first stop of his trip, Carter said he will meet in India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar to discuss a number of initiatives, including progress in aircraft carrier, jet fighter, and jet engine collaboration.
Carter said he will talk about "exciting new projects" as well. There is so much potential with India, he said, that the United States is "seizing every opportunity we can."
Carter then travels on to the Philippines, where his itinerary includes delivering remarks at Balikatan 2016, a joint exercise between U.S. and Philippine forces involving a combined 7,000 personnel.
"Our long-running defense alliance has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the region for more than 65 years," Carter said of the U.S.-Philippine partnership. "As President Obama has made clear -- our commitment to the Philippines is ironclad."
Salute to U.S. Service Members
Carter said none of the progress would have ever been possible without the men and women who serve in the United States military all around the globe, including the around 365,000 who are deployed in the Asia-Pacific region.
"As I stand here, there are hundreds of thousands of men and women serving and defending our country, right now, in every time zone, in every domain -- in the air, ashore, and afloat," he said.
"They are the ones who are operationalizing the rebalance. They are making the network work," he said.