I'd like to start by saying our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Kaneohe, as they work this morning with the Coast Guard, H.P.D., and other first responders, to search the waters off North Oahu for two missing CH-53 helicopters with 12 Marines aboard.
Incidents like this are deeply felt, not only by the entire joint force here in Hawaii, but also the community -- the Hawaii ohana which embraces all of us in uniform. My heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Marine Corps team and families of all those involved in the mishap.
As these incidents demonstrate, we work in a dangerous business. But as MARFORPAC Deputy Commander General Mahoney will tell you, it’s vital that we train in all climates so that we can respond to all contingencies in peace and war.
And it also reminds those of us in uniform how important it is to be supported by organizations like the Military Affairs Council.
I'd like to thank David Carey, Kam Kaimuloa and the members of the MAC for providing this opportunity for those leaders in uniform, government, and business to meet and discuss topics that are important to all of us.
I’d also like to thank the MAC for what you do, day in and day out, tirelessly communicating how the military in Hawaii directly supports our national security strategy, to include the President’s ongoing Rebalance initiative.
Due to the outstanding communications conducted by Governor Ige, Mayor Caldwell, Senators Schatz and Hirono, Representatives Gabbard and Takai, and all of our local state officials ... decision makers in Washington and throughout the region are well aware that Hawaii remains the "Gateway to America's Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific."
Case in point: the recent announcement by the Army to base a squadron of Apache helicopters here later this year. And consider the world class training ranges in Hawaii -- Oahu's Jungle Training Center, Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility and Hawaii's Pohakuloa training facility. Finally, consider the world class strategic think tanks here: the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies; the East-West Center; and the C.S.I.S. Pacific Forum.
Over the past 70 years, the Indo-Asia-Pacific has been one of the world’s great success stories. Completely transformed since the end of World War II, the region hosts the world’s three largest economies, the four largest populations, a rapidly growing middle class, and the world’s nine busiest ports.
Last year, U.S. trade with the Indo-Asia-Pacific region was over $3 trillion and U.S. exports to the region account for over 3 million American jobs. There's no doubt -- our nation’s economic future is firmly tied to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
At the same time, the security and stability which the region has enjoyed since the end of World War II can’t be taken for granted. Last week’s provocative nuclear detonation by North Korea in violation of international law reminds us that Pyongyang remains a very dangerous threat.
North Korea is the only country in the world that has tested a nuclear device in the 21st century – not once, but with last week’s test, four times. It’s also the only country in the world that routinely threatens other nations with nuclear attack.
This test is the latest in a series of aggressive actions we’ve witnessed in recent months, including ballistic missile launches and violations along the D.M.Z. As I’ve noted in the past, North Korea’s strategic provocations and its refusal to engage in authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization compel the U.S. to act in our defense and the defense of our allies.
Our commitment to the security and safety of our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan and elsewhere is unshakable, and North Korea should not underestimate our resolve. We stand together with the international community, including China, which has roundly criticized North Korea's nuclear test.
Security challenges such as North Korea threaten to destabilize the region and reverse the trends of transparency and prosperity we've all enjoyed. America is rebalancing to the Indo-Asia-Pacific to meet these challenges and reinforce the international rules-based order that has benefited the region for over 70 years -- and Hawaii plays a critical role.
Hawaii is the only place in the world where all of the component commanders – those service military Flags and General Officers assigned to a Combatant Commander – are geographically co-located together.
Take U.S. Southern Command, for example, where I once served as the Director of Operations. Its components are in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. That makes the commute from Hickam to Camp Smith look pretty good! Because all of PACOM’s components are here in Hawaii, I'm able to meet with them face-to-face every week and our staffs are able to work closely as a joint force.
This gives us an extraordinary advantage, and it wouldn’t be possible without the continued dedication and support from Hawaii’s community, civic, and industry leadership.
In addition to our forces in Hawaii, the presence and capabilities we are bringing forward into the theater are commensurate with the challenges we face.
Just consider what we are doing in the region from the joint force perspective. By 2020, 60 percent of your Navy and Air Force will be committed to the Pacific. And while quantity has a quality all its own, many of those forces will be completely modernized. Consider the new platforms and equipment we already see coming.
Our most advanced attack aircraft – the F-22 Raptor, AH-64 Apache helicopter, and we’ll be the first to receive the F-35 Lightning II.
Additionally, the P-8 Poseidon, our newest anti-submarine warfare aircraft, is replacing the greatest, but aging, aircraft our Navy has ever known, the P-3 Orion. Okay, perhaps I overstate this … but only slightly!
We have the newest MH-60 Romeos replacing legacy Navy helicopters at Kaneohe Bay, providing a significant improvement to our capabilities in anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.
And perhaps the coolest looking ship ever built – the Zumwalt Class destroyer – will be stationed somewhere in the Pacific.
But it’s not just platforms. United States Army Pacific, in recognition of the Pacific’s importance, is now a 4-star command and the Army increased its personnel dedicated to the Pacific from 70,000 to 106,000 soldiers.
They say that Australia is home to 9 of the 10 most dangerous creatures on the planet -- and now that we have over 1,200 Devil Dogs in Darwin, Australia has all 10!
On every level, we must all work together to strengthen civil and military relationships with each other and with other nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
The reason why I speak about the Indo-Asia-Pacific so often is because India and other countries that border the Indian Ocean – including our staunch ally Australia – are critical to our theater strategy. The fact that Japan is part of India’s exercise MALABAR is a great example of how the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific Ocean are interconnected.
We must continue to work with these like-minded nations to safeguard freedom of navigation, to deter conflict, and to ensure international law and standards are upheld.
The growth in prosperity throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific is one history’s great success stories, and this has been made possible, in large part, by the security architectures in the region... supported by 7 decades of American military forward presence and underpinned by America's 5 bilateral security alliances with Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.
In fact, just this week, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between our two countries. The E.D.C.A. is a mutually beneficial accord that will deepen already strong security ties between the Philippines and the United States.
The agreement will facilitate the enhanced rotational presence of the U.S. military in the region, and support the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This will enable the United States and the Philippines to continue supporting the international rules-based order that has served the region so well.
This rules-based order is being threatened by rogue nations like North Korea. Additionally, China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, its disturbing rhetoric about restricting freedom of navigation, and the ambiguity surrounding its military strategy are causing great concern throughout the theater.
But the Rebalance is reassuring our allies and partners, and the Rebalance is enabling us to grow new partnerships with nations like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and many more. And these partners are working with the U.S. and with each other to reject coercive attempts to undermine the security architecture in the region.
Let me close by saying that our nation has always been blessed to have strong men and women with exceptional courage, who are willing to defend America whenever our freedom is in jeopardy.
And we’re also blessed to have informed and supportive citizens -- people like you -- who are aware of the challenges, the opportunities, and the dangers we face here in this region and around the world. You play an important part in shaping our nation’s future, as you develop new centers of influence, so that Hawaii, and our joint military forces, can remain strong.
Thank you for everything you do in support of our men and women in uniform and helping to ensure we remain ready to fight tonight and win. May God bless our veterans, this great city and state, and may God bless our nation. Thank you.