A Regional Security Architecture Where Everyone Rises
A Regional Security
Architecture Where Everyone Rises
Secretary of Defense Speech : IISS
Shangri-La Dialogue: “A Regional Security Architecture Where Everyone Rises”. As
Delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Singapore, May 30, 2015. (DoD
Well, thank you, John, thanks for that kind introduction.
Thank you for sponsoring this remarkable forum. Over its history, IISS has
hosted invaluable conversations like Shangri-La Dialogue and produced important
scholarship. And through all of that, you’ve made our world more secure. On
behalf of the United States, thank you.
One reason I’ve enjoyed coming to this Dialogue since
attending it for the first time, as John noted, in 2002 is the opportunity to
visit with so many good friends…the United States has in this region. On my way
to Southeast Asia, I attended a change-of-command ceremony the U.S. Pacific
Command…in Hawaii and there I met with the Philippines’ National Defense
Secretary Gazmin. And when I arrived in Singapore, I had the opportunity to
visit with Prime Minister Lee, who gave a characteristically wise and incisive
keynote last night, and with Minister Ng to talk about regional challenges and a
deepening defense relationship.
Of course, I see so many friends and partners here today, and
I’ll meet with many of you after these sessions. From Singapore, I will travel
to Vietnam with visits in Haiphong and then Hanoi, where Vietnamese Defense
Minister General Thanh and I will sign a Joint Vision Statement commit to do so.
And then I will fly on to India to tour the Eastern Naval Command at Visag and
meet with my counterpart in New Delhi to sign the new U.S.-India Defense
Framework that will guide military cooperation between us for the next decade.
Each of these stops, just like my visits to Japan and the
Republic of Korea last month, is a reminder of the regional demand for
persistent American engagement and the importance of the regional security
architecture that has helped so many Asia-Pacific nations to rise and prosper.
And that’s the theme of my remarks today: the United States
wants a shared regional architecture that is strong enough, capable enough, and
connected enough to ensure that all Asia-Pacific peoples and nations have the
opportunity to rise – and continue to rise – in the future. The United States
wants a future in which an Indonesian fisherman, an energy executive from
Malaysia, an entrepreneur from Singapore, a small business owner in California,
and a Chinese businesswoman – just to name a few – have the security and
opportunity to rise and prosper. And the United States wants to protect the
rights of all countries, whether large or small, to win…to rise, to prosper and
to determine their own destiny.
To realize that future, the Asia-Pacific’s security
architecture must be inclusive, it must be open, and it must be transparent. It
must respect rights, and not just might. It cannot shy away from the hard
issues…it must provide a forum to openly discuss the challenges we face, so that
we can tackle them collectively. It must be action-oriented to help us manage
today’s challenges and prevent tomorrow’s crises. And it must reward cooperation,
That’s an audacious idea, but we meet today in a country that
demonstrates what determination, consistency, and persistence can do, though we
do so with heavy hearts. Lee Kuan Yew once said that, quote, “Anybody who thinks
he is a statesman needs to see a psychiatrist,” but the world lost a great
friend and indeed one of its premier statesmen with his passing earlier this
year. Lee Kuan Yew’s spirit of statesmanship endures, perhaps nowhere more than
in this room.
Here men and women of goodwill come together to think
critically about the region’s future. We owe it to Lee Kuan Yew – who described
his leadership style as, quote, “I set out to do something. I keep on chasing it
until it succeeds”– and we owe it to all those we represent – citizens,
organizations, governments, and businesses – to work together until we succeed…until
every nation can rise...and everybody wins. That’s the future we all need to
We’ve succeeded before. Over the past 70 years, the
Asia-Pacific has grown and prospered in so many ways…Miracle after miracle has
occurred: first Japan, then Taiwan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, including
Singapore, rose and prospered, and now, China and India are rising and
And the region is not done yet. Today, over 60 percent of the
world’s population lives in the Asia-Pacific. It’s the fulcrum of the global
economy, one of the fastest growing regions of the world. That sustained growth
– supported by increased regional and international trade – has lifted millions
out of poverty and into the middle class. And even though there’s still room for
improvement, democracy and freedom have spread throughout the region.
Meanwhile, the United States is doing well too. Following the
worst recession since the Great Depression, the U.S. economy has made great
gains – in both jobs and GDP. Progress will continue because of America’s
dynamic and innovative businesses, strong commitment to the rule of law,
world-class universities, and the domestic energy revolution now underway. And
the U.S. military, long the finest fighting force the world has ever known, has
improved its readiness while maintaining its unmatched operational edge and
America’s so-called rebalance has always been about
sustaining the progress occurring all around the Asia-Pacific and helping the
region continue to fulfill its promise. As Secretary of Defense, I am personally
committed to its next phase, in which DoD will deepen long-standing alliances
and partnerships, diversify America’s force posture, and make new investments in
key capabilities and platforms. The Department is investing in the technologies
that are most relevant to this complex security environment, such as new
unmanned systems for the air and sea, a new long-range bomber, and new
technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for space
and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones.
As the United States develops new systems, DoD will continue
to bring the best platforms and people forward to the Asia-Pacific, such as the
latest Virginia-class submarines, the Navy's P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft,
the newest stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt, and brand-new carrier-based E-2D
Hawkeye early-warning-and-control aircraft.
But the rebalance’s next phase is more than just about
security. The United States is increasing economic and diplomatic engagement.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, or TPP, just passed an important
milestone in the U.S. Congress, and when it’s completed, it will unlock
tremendous economic opportunities, not only for the United States, but for
countries across the Pacific Rim. It will create a diverse network of trade and
investment relations driven by TPP’s high standards, reducing reliance on any
one network. Diplomatically, Secretary Kerry and other members of the Cabinet
are making frequent visits to the region and hosting many of their counterparts
this year. President Obama will meet a number of Asian leaders at the White
House before travelling here again in November.
The entire Obama Administration and many others in Washington
– both Republican and Democrat – are devoted to the rebalance. The rebalance
enjoys strong, bipartisan support in Congress, as you can see from the large and
distinguished Congressional delegation joining me here today. Senator McCain,
Senator Reed, Senator Hirono, Senator Ernst, Senator Gardner, Senator Sullivan
have been and will continue to be leaders on this important national effort.
That’s because, for decade upon decade, regardless of what
else was going on at home or in other parts of the world – during Democratic and
Republican presidencies, in time of surplus and deficit, war and peace – the
United States has stood with its allies and partners here and helped maintain
peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. And the United States always will.
It’s important to remember that America’s rebalance– and our
overall and long-standing strategy to promote an Asia-Pacific regional security
architecture where everyone rises – has never aimed to hold any nation back or
push any country down. The United States wants every nation to have an
opportunity to rise, and prosper, and win…because it’s good for the region and
good for all our countries.
Indeed, as countries across the Asia-Pacific rise – as
nations develop, as military spending increases, and as economies thrive – we
expect to see changes in how countries define and pursue their interests and
In addition to those changes, we’ve seen the region’s complex
security environment become more fraught. North Korea continues to provoke.
Decades-long disputes over rocks and shoals are compounded by quarrels over
fishing rights, energy resources, and freedom of access to international waters
and airspace. As the challenge of climate change looms larger, natural disasters
not only threaten lives, but also upset trade and economic growth. And at the
same time, terrorism, foreign fighters, cyberattacks, and trafficking in both
people and narcotics plague this region like any other.
These challenges risk upsetting the positive trajectory we’ve
all been on…and the rise of so many in the Asia-Pacific. That can make it hard
to remember our common interests, but the progress we’ve made, and must
continue, demands that we do so.
Unlike elsewhere in the world, the peace in Asia-Pacific has
never been maintained by a region-wide alliance like NATO in Europe. And that
made sense for the Asia-Pacific, with its unique history, geography, and
politics. Instead, regional peace, stability, and security here have required
all of our nations coming together behind shared interests.
We must continue to come together. Today and in the years
ahead, security must be the shared responsibility of all us, of all our nations.
With the strengthening of the East Asia Summit, we have the foundation for a
stronger architecture. It’s incumbent upon all of us to make it better…by
reaffirming our long-standing rules and norms, strengthening our institutions,
modernizing alliances, enhancing capabilities, and improving connectivity. As
President Obama said in Brisbane last year, an effective security order for Asia
must be based – not on spheres of influence, or coercion, or intimidation where
big nations bully the small – but on alliances of mutual security, international
law and international norms, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
First, we must all reaffirm the guiding principles and the
rules that have served this region so well. Disputes should be resolved
peacefully…through diplomacy, not aggression or intimidation. All countries
should have the right to freedom of navigation and overflight so global commerce
can continue unimpeded. And all nations should be able to make their own
security and economic choices free from coercion.
These are the rights of all nations. They are not
abstractions, and nor are they subject to the whims of any one country. They are
not privileges to be granted or withdrawn by any country. These rules make sense:
they’ve worked, and they can continue to help all our nations to rise – as long
as we reinforce them instead of putting them at risk.
Second, we must strengthen regional institutions. The nations
of ASEAN have laid the foundation for the architecture in Southeast Asia that we
enjoy today, and ASEAN will continue to be central to it.
That’s why the United States and the Department of Defense
are making an affirmative investment of time, resources, and engagement in
ASEAN. That’s why America has committed to sending a new U.S. Defense Advisor to
augment the U.S. Mission to ASEAN in order to improve coordination and
information sharing for humanitarian and disaster response and for maritime
security. That’s also why I plan to travel to Malaysia in November for this
year’s ADMM-Plus meeting,
As ASEAN works to build its community in the years ahead, the
United States encourages member countries to continue to seek out new and
innovative ways to work together and pool resources to maintain regional
Third, America’s alliances and partnerships have been the
bedrock of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific for decades.
And the United States is working with allies like Australia,
Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines to be sure all our
alliances continue to serve this vital function. Modernization means changing
these alliances to address the evolving threat environment as the United States
has done with South Korea and growing those alliances into platforms for
regional and global cooperation, as we’ve done with Australia and Japan.
Under Prime Minister Abe, Japan is increasing its engagement
in Southeast Asia. Through the recently updated Guidelines for U.S.-Japan
Defense Cooperation, the United States and Japan will be able to do more as an
alliance in the region and beyond. Forward-stationing America’s most advanced
capabilities in Japan – such as the Global Hawk long-range surveillance drone,
AEGIS ballistic-missile-defense destroyers, and the recently announced CV…CV-22
Osprey – will further enable rapid and allied responses to regional
Meanwhile the U.S.-Korea alliance not only assures deterrence
and stability on the Korean Peninsula; it increasingly works for the region as
well. And…and in Australia, U.S. and Australian forces now train side-by-side
not only with each other as they have for many years, but also with friends and
partners across Southeast Asia.
Beyond alliances, the United States is also deepening its
partnerships with friends across the region, including India, and Vietnam, where,
as I said, I will travel next week. The United States is looking for new ways to
complement India’s Act East policy and find meaningful areas of cooperation in
the Asia-Pacific. And the 2015 U.S.-India Defense Framework I will sign next
week will open up this relationship on everything from maritime security to
aircraft carrier and jet engine technology cooperation.
We’re leveraging America’s alliances and partnerships to
pursue…new forms of cooperation and that is why America’s trilateral networks
are blossoming. With Japan and Australia, the United States is strengthening
maritime security in Southeast Asia, expanding trilateral exercises, and
exploring defense technology cooperation. With Japan and Korea, the United
States is building on a first-of-its-kind information-sharing arrangement that
will help them collectively deter and respond to crises. And with Japan and
India, the United States is sharing lessons learned on disaster responses and
building greater maritime security cooperation.
Fourth, in addition to strengthening relationships, we must
enhance the capacities of the regional security architecture, particularly on
American men and women in uniform are working together with
countries in the region to build that capacity – especially on maritime security.
For example, the U.S.S. Fort Worth, one of the Navy’s nimble
littoral combat ships, just returned from a regional tour, where it was welcomed
everywhere from South Korea to Southeast Asia. And Singapore’s willingness to
host LCS ships like Fort Worth helps all of us respond more quickly and
effectively to regional crises. For example, when Air Asia Flight 8501
disappeared this past winter, the Fort Worth was able to be on the scene within
24 hours to help with search and recovery.
We’re doing even more together. In Vietnam, where I will
travel next, the United States is providing equipment and infrastructure support
to the Vietnamese coast guard. Just this month in Malaysia, the U.S.S. Carl
Vinson carrier strike group participated in air combat training with Malaysian
air and surface units. In the Philippines, the United States is helping to build
a National Coast Watch System to improve Manila’s maritime domain awareness. And
in Indonesia, America recently began conducting sea surveillance exercises
together, which included, for the first time flight portions over the South
And that’s just a start. Today, I am pleased to announce that
DoD will be launching a new Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative. And
thanks to the leadership of the Senators here today…and others, Congress has
taken steps to authorize up to $425 million dollars for these maritime
And fifth, to ensure that our institutions, alliances,
partnerships, and capability…cap…excuse me, capacity building efforts meet their
potential, we must be better connected. We can accomplish this by working
together, communicating better, and developing habits of cooperation.
Every year the United States helps plan and host hundreds of
exercises and engagements in the region. From Foal Eagle to Balikatan, from
Malabar to Garuda Shield, RIMPAC, Talisman Sabre to Cobra Gold, with every
engagement we get smarter and more effective together, while decreasing the risk
of misinterpretation and miscalculation.
We can also limit that risk by improving communication
further. For example, the United States and China have agreed to two historic
confidence-building agreements this past fall, and the United States hopes to do
more. We’re working to complete another measure this year that aims to prevent
dangerous air-to-air encounters. Building better habits of U.S.-China
military-to-military cooperation not only benefits both countries but benefits
the whole region as well.
Beyond exercises and military-to-military cooperation, we
also build habits of cooperation when we work together to confront real world
challenges, such as responding to natural disasters and other humanitarian
These efforts are critically important in a disaster-prone
region. Just a few weeks ago, the United States worked together with partners to
respond to Nepal’s tragic earthquake, with U.S. Marines, based in Okinawa,
helping alongside India, Japan, China, Thailand, and others. And we don’t just
work together. We sacrifice together. Tragically, six U.S. Marines and two
Nepalese soldiers perished when their helicopter went missing in the mountains
during relief operations. Their loss will not be forgotten. Together we can
honor their memory by continuing the work they began.
America has been here, after typhoons, earthquakes, and plane
crashes… and America will keep being here…committed to the long-standing
practice of playing a part, a pivotal part, in assuring safety and stability in
a region, the region.
We face today another humanitarian crisis. As we speak, an
urgent refugee situation is unfolding in the Bay of Bengal that requires both a
comprehensive solution and quick action to save lives. I want to commend
Malaysia’s leadership, as well as Indonesia, Thailand, and others, who are
working along with the United States and others, to locate the migrants and
prepare search and rescue operations.
These humanitarian efforts, and the habits of cooperation
they help form, demonstrate what we can do when we work together. Working
together, as we have in Nepal, in the fight against piracy, and in preventing
illegal trafficking and fishing in the Gulf of Thailand – just to name a few
examples – allows us do more and better around the region. And that’s how we
reach the future a stronger security architecture affords…a future where
everyone continues to rise and everyone continues to win.
To realize that future, we must tackle urgent issues like the
security and stability of the South China Sea.
Yesterday, I took an aerial transit of the Strait of Malacca.
And when viewed from the air, it is even clearer how critical this region’s
waterways are to international trade and energy resources. We’ve all benefitted
from free and open access to the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. We
all have a fundamental stake in the security of the South China Sea. And that’s
why we all have deep concerns about any party that attempts to undermine the
states [sic] quo and generate instability there, whether by force, coercion, or
simply by creating irreversible facts on the ground, in the air, or in the water.
Now, it’s true that almost all the nations that claim parts
of the South China Sea have developed outposts over the years…of differing scope
and degree. In the Spratly Islands, Vietnam has 48 out…posts; the Philippines,
eight; Malaysia, five; and Taiwan, one.
Yet, one country has gone much further and much faster than
any other. And that’s China.
China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres, more than all other
claimants combined…and more than in the entire history of the region. And China
did so in only the last 18 months. It is unclear how much farther China will go.
That is why this stretch of water has become the source of tension in the region
and front-page news around the world.
The United States is deeply concerned about the pace and
scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea, the prospect of further
militarization, as well as the potential for these activities…to increase the
risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states. As a Pacific nation, a
trading nation, and a member of the international community, the United States
has every right to be involved and concerned. But these are not just American
concerns. Nations across the region and the world, many of you here in the room
today, have also voiced the same concerns and raised questions about China’s
intentions in constructing these massive outposts.
So let me make clear the position of the United States:
First, we want a peaceful resolution of all disputes. To that
end, there should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all
claimants. We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features. We
all know there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes. Right
now, at this critical juncture, is the time for renewed diplomacy, focused on a
finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and the interests of all. As
it is central to the regional security architecture, ASEAN must be a part of
this effort: the United States encourages ASEAN and China to conclude a Code of
Conduct this year. And America will support the right of claimants to pursue
international legal arbitration and other peaceful means to resolve these
disputes, just as we will oppose coercive tactics.
Second, the United States will continue to protect freedom of
navigation and overflight – principles that have ensured security and prosperity
in this region for decades. There should be no mistake: the United States will
fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as U.S. forces do all
over the world. America, alongside its allies and partners in the regional
architecture, will not be deterred from exercising these rights – the rights of
all nations. After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does
not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air
or maritime transit.
Finally, with its actions in the South China Sea, China is
out of step with both the international rules and norms that underscore the
Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus that favors
diplomacy and opposes coercion. These actions are spurring nations to respond
together in new ways: in settings as varied as the East Asia Summit to the G-7,
countries are speaking up for the importance of stability in the South China Sea.
Indonesia and the Philippines are putting aside maritime disputes and resolving
their claims peacefully. And in venues like ADMM-Plus and East Asia Maritime
Forum [sic: Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum], nations are seeking new protocols
and procedures to build maritime cooperation.
The United States will always stand with its allies and
partners. It’s important for the region to understand that America is gonna
remain engaged…continue to stand up for international law and universal
principles…and help provide security and stability in the Asia-Pacific for
decades to come.
The South China Sea is just one issue we will face as the
Asia-Pacific continues to rise and prosper. There will surely be others. We
cannot predict what challenges the future holds, but we do know how we can work
to ensure the peace and prosperity…the region, and the opportunity to rise for
all nations and all people…for that to happen, we must do so together. What the
region needs instead, is an architecture where everyone rises and everybody wins.
That’s what is happening across the region right now. We come
together on a daily basis to settle disputes, respond to crises, and prevent
conflict. For example, in the Bay of Bengal, India and Bangladesh have proven
that diplomacy can work in resolving maritime differences. In Southeast Asia,
nations like Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia are developing new training
facilities that will build regional capacity in peacekeeping, disaster relief,
and counter-terrorism. And in the Indian Ocean, many nations, including China,
are rooting out the scourge of piracy.
But we all know we have more work to do. And by taking steps
now to ensure the regional architecture that has reinforced norms, stronger
institutions and alliances, more capabilities, and deeper connectivity, we can
ensure our successors at the Shangri-La Dialogue in twenty years will be talking
about the challenges and opportunities presented by the rise of yet other
Asia-Pacific nations. But I hope they’ll also be discussing, perhaps, the latest
U.S.-China-India multilateral maritime exercise…a Japan-ROK joint disaster
response in the South China Sea…and ASEAN-wide security network…new
understanding for cyberspace that ensures security and the free flow of
If those are the conversations at Shangri-La 2035, we will
have succeeded. We will still face challenges and crises…but we will face them
together, with a regional security architecture where everyone rises and
everybody wins. And that will be a worthy legacy.