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Joint Press Conference with Secretary Carter, Adm. Harris and Adm. Richardson at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore

By Department of Defense Press Operations | June 5, 2016

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here.

I'm here also with our chief of naval operations, Admiral Richardson. Our PACOM commander, (inaudible).

Sorry, I'll start all over again.

Welcome, and thank you for being here. I have with me some of the senior leadership of the department that implements the U.S. policy and the security domain in this region that I described this morning, Admiral John Richardson, our chief of naval operations on the far right, Admiral Harry Harris, our PACOM commander, and Dave Shear who's out our assistant secretary of defense for Asia, three terrific experiences senior leaders. Each of them is a doing a terrific job of operationalizing the rebalance of (inaudible). So we're pleased to be with you.

Before I begin, however, I need to say a few words about some sad news from home. As you all know that nine soldiers died in the training accident at Fort Hood, and based on those initial reports it was a troop carrier that overturned in a stream. It's obviously a tragedy for the families lost from the First Calvary Division, the whole Fort Hood community, (inaudible).

We send our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those soldiers and to those who were injured, as they recover.

An investigation is underway. As always, we'll get to the bottom of this incident and others that occurred this week. 

But for now, our thoughts and prayers for the families and friends (inaudible).

Very briefly, last week I spoke at the Naval Academy, and I talked about how we have long contributed to this region's diplomatic, economic and security affairs, and in my speech today I talked about how the United States and many others in the Asia-Pacific are working together to build a principled security network to ensure that everyone and every nation can continue to rise and prosper, so our Rebalance -- which I described to our Naval Academy graduates -- is a critical ingredient to our overall policy. Our overall policy which I described today is one of supporting principle networks, including through the Rebalance.

That network, by expanding the reach of all, by responsibly sharing the security group, represents the next wave of Asia-Pacific security. Our Rebalance ensures that the U.S. will remain the primary provider of regional security and a leading contributor to the region's principled security network. It'll be (inaudible) priority. Our partners in the region are calling for it.

For that reason, I'm going to host an ASEAN defense ministers dialogue in September to build on the great progress we've made.

With that, since I spoke at length this morning, I won't say any more. We'll take your questions.

 

Q: Paul Sonne, Wall Street Journal

Following up on the meeting with the Korean Defense Minister, I wanted to ask a question about THAAD. So China has said that it's firmly opposed to THAAD deployment in South Korea. They said that the deployment would endanger China's strategic interests, compromise global security, and quote, mark an attempt to sabotage China's legitimate rights and interests using the nuclear issue as a pretense. How do you plan to follow through on plans to deploy THAAD in South Korea in light of China's comments? And is there anything Beijing could do that would make the U.S. stand down on its plan, sort of, in exchange?

 

SEC. CARTER: Well, THAAD and all of our missile defense activities there are directed at North Korea's missile threat. That is the reason for our missile defense deployments. It's not about China. It's about the North Korean missile threat, which is a clear threat to South Korea, to our forces there, and to our allies in Japan. That's why we will all work together in missile defense, including the missile defense exercise that I announced -- trilateral exercise that I announced this morning. THAAD is an alliance decision that will be like other force structure decisions in the (inaudible) that it will be made by two governments, the government of the Republic of Korea and the government of the United States.

 

STAFF: David?

 

Q: Yes, David Brunstrom from Reuters.

I wanted to follow up on your comments about the Brisca Brishon this morning. You mentioned that action can be taken in the event of China (inaudible). I was wondering what sort of action you meant. I mean, could that involve military action.

And also, could I ask you: is there any evidence that the admirals have noticed of any new change that could (inaudible)?

 

SEC. CARTER: Well, with respect to the second part I don't have anything to add. I don't have anything to add today on activities there.

To your question about the reaction of the United States and others in the region to anything that were to occur, as I said this morning, that any actions there would be provocative and destabilizing. They wouldn't affect America's determination to, and resolve to fly, sail or operate wherever international law allows. There will be reactions, and I -- and they will be by all countries in the region, and over time, and will unfold over time as their concern grows over this kind of activity. Increasingly, nations in the region are cooperating on maritime security among themselves and coming to the United States for additional assistance and support, and that is having the effect of China isolating itself from the region, and this would accelerate that process.

So there'll be a number of things that would occur in the wake of continued action of a provocative nature by any of the claimants, but of course China has done the most in the last year or two in the South China Sea, and that's why these things should be avoided, why they should be dealt with peacefully and according to international law, and that's why the United States supports, countries in the region support the process -- including the UNCLOS tribunal -- to try to resolve these issues as they should be in a lawful, peaceful way.

 

Q: Thank you. My name is (inaudible).

On today's secretary speech you mentioned -- you emphasized the (inaudible) network to ensure Asian stability in the region. Could you explain what the principals are, and how to develop that kind of security network, and (inaudible) what measures the Unites States will take to enforce China to follow that kind of principle?

 

SEC. CARTER: Well, the principles are the ones I described this morning -- freedom from coercion, the ability for each country to make its own choices, for disputes to be solved peacefully, for countries to work together cooperatively, and not against one another in the military sphere, to solve many of these problems that we all share in common to include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response to human -- humanitarian tragedies, counter piracy, counter terrorism. There are lots of things that we need to do and can better do together, and it's that kind of positive working together rather than working against one another that is the American approach out here, and that is the basic principle -- peacefulness, lawfulness, freedom of the common. And they're things the United States has stood for, for many decades out here, but countries, peoples in the region find attractive, because they are human principles of decent conduct and cooperative activity.

The -- each country is going to have to make its own choices out here. We hope that every country, including China, chooses to be part of the network and not to exclude themselves from that system. But that's a choice each country has to make on it's own.

 

STAFF: We have time just for a few more. Tom?

 

Q: Tom Watkins, AFP.

I was wondering if we could hear from one or both of the admirals. Have you seen any changes in Chinese behavior in the South China Sea in recent months, and can you describe interactions you saw?

 

ADMIRAL HARRY HARRIS: Sure. We've seen positive behavior the last several months with China. Every now and then you'll have a -- you'll see an incident in the air that we may judge to be unsafe. Those are really -- over the course of time -- rare. So we have our military (inaudible) session. We just finished that session a couple of weeks ago in Hawaii. And that was a very productive session. And that's an opportunity for us and China to work through these incidents that we experienced on the high seas and in the air, to work though them in a positive way. 

I'm encouraged by the activities and (inaudible). And of course China's coming to RIMPAC, and that's going to be a really good exercise I believe, and they're bringing five ships to RIMPAC (inaudible) this year, and we're going to sail with them en route to RIMPAC, and we'll be able to operate together and exercise ahead of time. So I think that's a positive.

 

STAFF: (inaudible).

 

STAFF: Just to add on what Admiral Harris said, I see it the same way that by and large we have a set of rules by which we agreed to behave together, to mutual agreement, (inaudible), and in a part of the world that's getting busier and busier at sea more and more authority counters are completely consistent with that code. They are routine, safe, professional, but as Admiral Harris said, every now and then we've got an outlier; we need to address those when they happen.

 

STAFF: Tara?

 

Q: Tara Copp, Stars and Stripes.

Admiral Harris and Secretary Carter, there seems to be a two-pronged approach going on here, cooperation, more exercises in China, but also the warning of not pursuing further militarization of the islands.

My question is: does that complicate whether or not to conduct additional freedom of navigation operations? Would that increase the risk of maybe exacerbating or worsening what you said are improved relations?

 

SEC. CARTER: I'll start.

There is one security model that we are (inaudible), which is a principles network. And that is what the United States has stood for for a long time, and we hope everybody takes part in it. And we can't guarantee that, and as I said today, some of China's behavior is having the effect of self exclusion on their part, but there's one approach from the -- on the part of the part of the United States, and has been for quite some time here.

With respect to our freedom of navigation operations have been going on for decades and around the world. Admiral Richardson can characterize how they go on around the world every day. That's not going to change.

 
ADM. HARRIS: I'll go along with what the Secretary just said. We want to cooperate with China in all domains as much as possible, so we have to have a view, and I have a view of cooperation where we can, but we have to confront them if we must, and I would rather that we didn't have to, but we have to operate from a position of strength against all outcomes, and that's why you have the Pacific Command, among other things, out there. 

But the bottom line is, look, we want to cooperate where we can, but we just have to be ready as a military to confront if we must.

 

ADMIRAL JOHN RICHARDSON: Maybe if I could just add a little bit on the freedom of navigation (inaudible) highlight what the Secretary said. And just as he said, I mean, this is a worldwide program. Just this last year we did over two dozen of them, many, many countries, and it falls in on exactly this principles approach to business, so we're challenging excessive maritime claims around the world, and advocating for that rules-based order, particularly in the global commons.

 

STAFF: Thanks, everyone.

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