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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | Feb. 21, 2013

Asia-Pacific Rebalance: Defending the Shared domains

By Presenters: Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Good Morning …Bonjour… or as we say in Hawaii…ALOHA. Actually I was supposed to be in another area of my responsibility today – I was supposed to be at the South Pole. I was going to go down there and experience that, but I got an email from Charlie that said I’d like for you to speak to this august group. And he said that he would guarantee that it would be beneficial to me, and that the weather would be better than it was at the South Pole…Charlie you lied about that…Thank you for inviting me to join such a distinguished group of security professionals.

I want to thank Ray Henault for his leadership here at CDA and thank you for your continued robust promotion of this kind of dialogue. I think these dialogues are extremely important as we enter this century and we take a look at the security environment we are in. I also want to thank Charlie (Bouchand). We could spend all day talking about Charlie and my experiences here. Charlie is not only a great warrior but also a great friend. So thank you.

The support I’ve gotten from Walt Natynczyk, for your time and now Tom Lawson as I’ve done my tours around the world and seen the great influence that Canadian joint forces have on our ability as a force multiplier across the many, many areas of security. I can’t really say how impressed I’ve been…and if I ever have to go into another conflict, I’m sure that I’ll have a Canadian under each arm, or they’ve got me under their arms.

What I want to talk about today, we could spend a lot of time talking about NATO and Libya and those things, but what I really think I want to talk about is the area that I am now associated with. I’ve been here for about a year, and it really has to do with the other half of the world – the Indo Asia Pacific.

The influence I think these groups need to start thinking about how our security environments are going to be impacted by this vast region.

Now I hesitate to call it a “region” because that tends to over-simplify and really under-represent not only the size, but the complexity, and really the diversity of opportunities that are in this part of the world. But it also under-represents the significant security challenges that we all face today or that we see today and will see in the future.

The Indo-Asia-Pacific area stretches from California to India…Hollywood to Bollywood some have said… It encompasses over half the earth’s surface and about 60% of the world’s population. Today that’s about 7 billion people with about 4 billion in the Indo Asia Pacific and by late in the century, when we get to the point where the world population tops out at about 9-10 billion, about 7 billion of those people are expected to live in the Indo Asia Pacific.

If you took the Pacific alone and looked at a world map today, it’s a Mercator projection, a flat projection of the world its how most people view the world. It really distorts the world really. When you look at it, the largest single thing on this earth is the Pacific Ocean. If you took every land mass in the world and you just jammed them all together, you could put the entire land mass in the Pacific Ocean and still have room for another African and North American continent.

Sometimes we have the tendency to say “Atlantic” or “Pacific” but that gives you an idea of the vastness of the region.

It is incredibly culturally, socially, economically, and geo-politically diverse.

The many nations who associate themselves here include five of the U.S.’s seven allies, the three largest economies in the world, and seven of the ten smallest economies.

The most populated nations in the world are here. It is also home to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd largest democracies; and the world’s smallest republic.

Asia…as we all know… is the engine that drives the global economy…. the economic center of gravity and becoming more so every minute.

Nine of the world’s ten largest ports are in the Indo Asia Pacific. The sea lanes here are the busiest in the world, 70% of all the energy that flows in the world flows through the Indo Asia Pacific.

I think more flows through the South China Sea every day than through the Strait of Hormuz.

Most of the world’s container cargo either ends up there or originates there.

By any meaningful measure, the Indo Asia Pacific is also the most militarized area in the world as well. Seven of the world’s ten largest armies are here, the world’s largest and most sophisticated navies are here, and five of the world’s declared nuclear powers are in the Indo Asia Pacific.

Now all these things, if you string them all together, result in I think a unique strategic complexity that has some challenges. And this complexity is magnified by a fairly diverse group of challenges that I think we’ll see continue to significantly stress the environment….They include things such as:

Let me start with climate change – where increasingly severe weather patterns and rising sea levels are already threatening people in this region and could even threaten the loss of entire nations.

Little known fact, 80% of all the people in the world live within 200 miles of the coast and they are moving more towards the coasts in all these large nations as they seek opportunities that coastal regions provide.

We’re already seeing in Oceania where nations are already considering where they are going to move to, to another nation, because within this century, it is likely their nations will be underwater or at least inundated by storms because of rising sea levels.

This will put increased pressure on sustainable systems that provide things like fresh water and dependable food supplies.

Most large cities in the Indo Asia Pacific today probably have two to three days of food supplies on hand, and if that disrupts cities of 10, 15, 20 million, you’ll see what that does to shape the security environment.

Of course there’s still susceptibility to things like earthquakes and tsunamis – I don’t know if they are getting more frequent, but they don’t seem to be going away.

There’s the transnational threats including pandemics, pirates, terrorists and criminal organizations all those continue to challenge us in the Indo Asia Pacific.

…and drugs and human trafficking, and of course the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

I saw the other day where in slave trade alone, originating from the Indo Asia Pacific, it’s a 30 billion dollar industry each year. That’s more than Google, Nike and Starbuck’s [yearly profits] put together. So that’s slave trade…

Of course instability on the Korean Peninsula we’re seeing will continue to persist and we’ll have to deal with it . It’s no longer just a regional problem for those people in South East Asia or North East Asia. It’s now a global problem. It’s a problem for all of us.

And then the rise of China and India as global economic powers and their emergence as regional military powers is going to continue, it’s going to happen…and how they will integrate into the overall security environment is yet to be seen. For instance, will China be a productive –transparent – net contributor to regional and global security, that’s what we hope and what we are planning for…or will they choose a different path.

How the US sustains and rebalances its role as the primary security guarantor throughout the Indo Asia Pacific is yet to be seen but it will be key.

Historic and emerging border and territorial disputes are no doubt going to continue. If you look back at history of mankind almost all the wars we’ve had have been over territorial disputes of some kind.

So do we think those will go away tomorrow or will be magically resolved? Probably not. So we are going to have to deal with them.

Access and freedom of action in the shared domains of sea, space and cyberspace will be increasingly challenged.

Existing norms in the maritime domain today are being challenged with the emergence of new maritime powers…. who are using these powers and their new naval capabilities to enforce these long-standing dormant claims over disputed lands and waters. And as they seek to ensure that they have access to what might lay in the waters around them or might lay in the ground below them

So the openness of the maritime domain demands that freedom of navigation and restricted interpretations that could fundamentally undermine the global access, which is important to all of our peace and prosperity.

So meanwhile, in the space domain, we could spend all day on this, it’s in urgent need of strong protocols…as today’s freedom of access is increasingly threatened by anti-space weaponry and maybe more significantly by just bad housekeeping habits.

…habits resulting in the increased proliferation of damaging space debris…space junk…junk that will increasingly threaten that important domain that all of us are going to have to need as we improve our economies and the lives of our people.

You know about 50 percent of everything that’s trackable in orbit today was either created by explosions or by collisions inside the orbit. It’s not producing any goodness for mankind, it’s just junking up space and we’re going to have to deal with it.

When we’re talking about the Cyber domain, and of course it’s been widely reported about in the papers recently, but we’ve been talking about this for a long time. I think of cyber security in the context of the Wild West in the United States, and probably Canada in the 19th century – is where any security that you enjoyed is what you brought with you. I think that applies today in cyber.

I don’t have to remind this audience of the levels of unprecedented connectivity for your and our global financial transactions, social networks, commercial enterprises, and not to say the least, our militaries and our military operations…and they are all at risk by largely ungoverned and unprotected CYBER space.

Foundational concepts about the nature of warfare and military competition in cyber space- such as deterrence, response, and escalation- remain ambiguous and not well understood, and need to be talked about before we get a decision that you might not like.

Cyber space is the only shared common that is man-made. So we have the ability to control this…yet as we go forward it is potentially becoming the most threatened shared domain of all…. and many of the threats are emanating from the Indo Asia Pacific region.

One of our most significant challenges to this vast region is that there is no single organization, like NATO. It doesn’t exist in the Asia Pacific to help manage relationships and provide a framework for conflict resolution. It’s just not there, and quite frankly, I think it’s a long ways away because of the diversity of the region.

It can be a tough neighborhood with nationalistic tendencies that can spin up quickly and lead to a weak system of security environments.

What exists instead is a series of loosely interwoven security relationships that have been shaped by history, by a shared interest, and increasingly driven by our economic interconnectedness.

These relationships range from historic bilateral alliances, the U.S. and Canada, to mature and emerging multilateral forums.

All are focused on converging interests and security concerns, but with those same relationships often struggling to be effective when their member states’ interests diverge and it pulls them apart.

And as nations become more internally secure they will inevitably shifting military resources from internal to external security matters…as they seek to preserve their own access to the global, shared domains so that they ensure their prosperity. And then there are those who are increasing their military spending as they prosper and there are others who are decreasing – and all these dynamics are being seen in the Indo Asia Pacific.

The future structure of regional institutions – and whether they will produce a region characterized by conflict, or more or less competition, if there’s a shift in balance of power, or if there’s somehow a realization of the need to get a large collective security organization in place, that’s not clear to me.

But I think recognizing and dealing with the complex security environments in this part of the world and the rest of the world relies on the global system of mutually supported networks of commerce, communication, and governance, as well as the security apparatus to allow us to prosper…I believe is an imperative for all nations to have a dialogue about this and how they intend to influence it.

Now let’s face it…Canada and the United States are both Pacific nations who derive great benefit from open access to all the shared domains…domains that enable our access to our national interests that aren’t just within the confines of our territorial land masses…interest that will be increasingly affected by what happens in the Indo Asia Pacific…and we need to attend them to ensure our access and that our way of life is preserved.

For decades, the U.S. military has worked hard to preserve the stability and access to these shared domains.

This predictable security environment in the Indo Asia Pacific that I think has been underpinned by U.S. security presence allowed a period of pretty phenomenal economic development and allowed these emerging countries to integrate into the global economic community in ways that sometimes I don’t think we realize or take time to talk about.

But the strategic environment that we see approaching from the U.S. Pacific Command perspective is one where we need to ensure we preserve our access to the domains that are important to all of as we go forward in a globally and economically connected world.

So what the U.S. has done on this is after many years now of Middle East focused activities, our President last year, I think quite rightly through a strategic document indicated that we would conduct a rebalance to the Asia Pacific. That doesn’t mean we are going to walk away from the rest of the world. It means that after the last couple decades it’s a recognition of what the security environment is and the importance of the U.S. security interests. As we reshape our military after several decades of very difficult things that you all have been participating in, we have to add this calculation to what that military looks like.

The rebalance is not just about the military, it’s about national policy, it’s about diplomacy, it’s about trade as well as our security. I think the number one audience for the rebalance message by our President was our own people and getting them to recognize where our interests lie and where we have to put our investments in the future.

There has been significant speculation and skepticism about the rebalance. For instance…Is it achievable and can we sustain it? I don’t know – we’ll see. I hope we can, and I think the imperatives are up to us. And some question if it is merely a containment strategy in disguise. It is not. The rebalance is based on a strategy of collaboration, not containment…if it was containment of anyone, we know how to do that, and it would look different than this.

It focuses on three major elements:

Strengthening relationships…

Adjusting our military posture and presence…and…

Employing new concepts and capabilities to ensure we continue to effectively contribute to the Indo Asia Pacific patchwork security environment so that our national interests are protected and that the security environment can withstand the inevitable kind of shocks and waves that occur throughout.

The keystone of our rebalance will be to modernize and strengthen our five Pacific treaty alliances, and this work is in progress in earnest. Now some have opined that these alliances are really relics of World War II – Cold War security structure, and that they are ill-suited for the challenges of tomorrow’s security environment.

From the military commander’s perspective, I can tell you that these alliances bring with them years of mutual trust and respect, significant interoperability and information sharing, a common view of regional security landscapes and challenges, and they provide a very good base from which multilateral relationships are growing today.

…all of which will continue to underpin U.S. security objectives in this region.

We are also developing and expanding our bilateral partnerships with nations throughout the Indo Asia Pacific with whom we have shared security interests…

We will pursue a long-term relationship with India and we are going to support thier leadership role in the Indian Ocean and South Asia…

While modernizing and strengthening our bilateral relationships…we will also strengthen our commitment to multilateral forums such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit.

We are going to pursue a lasting relationship with China, including our mil-to-mil relationship.

Our two countries have a strong stake in regional peace and stability and a keen interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship. We are hoping to look past our differences and to focus our relationship on our converging interests rather than those where we diverge.

We converge in such areas as counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, protecting sea lines of communication, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response…just to name a few…and the list goes on.

We will continue to pursue a military relationship that is healthy, stable, resilient, and enduring, and look for opportunities to increase our cooperation and to encourage mutual understanding, trust and transparency…and at the same time avoiding miscalculation.

Persistent, forward presence of our people and their equipment in the Indo Asia Pacific enables our forces to work daily, side-by-side with our allies and our partners to quickly respond to current and future challenges…

Today there are about 350,000 U.S. military people serving in the Indo Asia Pacific and about 70,000 family members who are stationed overseas on foreign soil…all of whom continue to demonstrate U.S. commitment and resolve to our allies and partners, and I don’t see this changing.

As part of the rebalance, with the support of our allies and partners, we are also working towards a force posture that is more geographically distributed…if you take a look at where we we have been in Asia post World War II is primarily concentrated in North East Asia and we are moving throughout Asia to position our forces in places where it makes more sense to address the security issues I just talked about. In short that means that our forces will remain relevantly deployed for the 21st century…

The force must also be operationally resilient…in order to respond to crises whether it is a tsunami, an earthquake, a large humanitarian crisis or whether it is to a larger contingency, they have to be operationally relevant to be able to deal with that broad spectrum of threats they have trained to.

The third aspect of our posture is that it has to be politically sustainable. If it’s not politically sustainable we can’t stay here since it’s not our home territory.

And finally, we are going to put our most capable forces forward in the Indo Asia Pacific to ensure we effectively operate with our allies and partners across a wide range of operations like I just talked about. We are putting our very best forward in some of the most challenging areas.

Now let me make a few more comments about the Global Commons and shared domains…

These shared domains must be a major element of both Canadian and U.S. security engagement with our allies, partners, and others.

We have to ensure that the predominant number of existing and emerging powers persuade others to actively promote and participate in the openness and stability of the shared domains, whether it’s air, maritime, space or cyber. And the international political and economic order will be strengthened by this perspective.

Ensuring stable access to shared domains will require a concerted, long-term effort encompassing all elements of national power.

Nations such as ours must show a willingness to lead by helping others develop global institutions that advance our shared goals and ensure our shared access.

These actions will not only help secure the shared domains in the coming decades, but will also send clear deterrence and dissuasion messages to those whose intentions are unclear about these domains.

Our two nations not only share a border, but we share a similar common heritage and we share a common way of life.

And as I said before we are without question Pacific nations… and what happens in the Indo Asia Pacific in my opinion must matter to all of us.

So once again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and thanks for the great lunch and warm reception here, not so warm weather, but it’s nice to be here, and I look forward to answering some of your questions.

Thank you.

— USPACOM (posted February 22, 2013) —


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