The Asia-Pacific will be the economic driver for the world in the years to come, and that is why rebalancing the U.S. military to the region makes such sense, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
“It is the single part of the world that will be most consequential for the future,” Carter told the joint service audience inside a hangar.
Carter said Asia is growing and becoming more prosperous because of the sacrifices American service members made to preserve the peace. “For 70 years now … the single-most important factor that has kept the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region … is the pivotal role of American military power,” he said. “What the rebalance means is we intend to do that going forward.”
Carter told service members that they are the heart of the rebalance and that they are playing a role in history.
Service members asked Carter about China and its growing role in the region. The secretary said it was natural that China would seek to play as large a security role as it does an economic one. But China is not the only country in the region that is playing a larger part in security affairs.
“Japan is increasing its defense role out here, so is India,” he said. “Many, many countries are asking us to work with them because they want to be part of this regional architecture that keeps the peace. And we welcome all of them, to include China.”
The U.S. policy is not one of division or exclusion, the secretary said. “Our policy is one of inclusion,” he said.
Employ Diplomacy to Solve Issues
Carter called on all countries claiming land in the South China Sea to solve their problems diplomatically. “For our part,” he said, “the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law permits [from the] South China Sea to the Arctic.”
There are many challenges in the region, the secretary said. He said the United States will continue to watch China, but American leaders are also concerned about North Korea and Russia. He also mentioned the Islamic State or Iraq and the Levant, saying the United States must defeat that “evil movement.”
Carter also told service members there is progress on the budget front, noting he is pleased with the two-year budget agreement.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)