International Institute for Strategic Studies (Shangri-la-Asia Security)

Article excerpt

Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, Saturday, June 05, 2010

Thank you, John, for that kind introduction. And, of course, as always, my thanks to everyone with the International Institute for Strategic Studies for making this conference possible. Your hard work makes a valuable contribution to the international dialogue and facilitates understanding among the countries represented here.

I would also be remiss if I did not extend my gratitude to our Singaporean hosts and of course the Shangri-La Hotel for preparing for this event. As you mentioned, John, this is the fourth consecutive year I have had the opportunity to address this forum as the United States secretary of defense. Each time I have spoken here, I have emphasized that the United States is a Pacific nation and is, and will remain, a power in the Pacific. I do so for a reason: with sovereign territory and longstanding economic and cultural ties to this region, America's security interests and economic well-being are integrally tied to Asia's. As President Obama has noted, "Asia and the United States are not separated by [the Pacific] ocean; we are bound by it."

When I last stood before you, I did so only a few months after a new administration had taken office. President Obama's policies toward this region were still evolving, but I noted that he had a very personal connection to this part of the world, and that, regardless of new initiatives, or different areas of emphasis under his administration, the underlying themes of continuity and engagement in Asia would hold true. The United States has responsibilities to friends and allies, and will not waver in its longstanding commitments here. Indeed, we will continue to deepen and expand our alliances and partnerships.

In the next few minutes, I would like to provide an overview of how the United States sees its responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific region within the context of broader U.S. defense priorities and events over the past year. As a starting point, it is important to remember that the success this region has enjoyed over the past several decades--its unprecedented economic growth and political development--was not a foregone conclusion. Rather, it was enabled by clear choices about the enduring principles that we all believe are essential to peace, prosperity, and stability. These include our commitment to:

Free and open commerce;

A just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law;

Open access by all to the global commons of sea, air, space, and now, cyberspace; and

The principle of resolving conflict without the use of force. Simply put, pursuing our common interests has increased our common security. Today, the Asia-Pacific region is contending with new and evolving challenges--from rising powers and failing states, to the proliferation of nuclear and ballistic missiles, extremist violence, and new technologies that have the ability to disrupt the foundations of trade and commerce on which Asia's economic stability depends.

Confronting these threats is not the task of any one nation acting alone. Rather, our collective response will test our commitment to the principles I just mentioned--principles that are key to the region's continued prosperity. In this, all of us have responsibilities we must fulfill, since all will bear the costs of instability as well as the rewards of international cooperation.

My government's overriding obligation to allies, partners, and the region is to reaffirm America's security commitments in this region. Over the last year, the Obama administration has begun to lay out the architecture of America's future defense posture through a series of strategy reviews. These reviews were shaped by a bracing dose of realism, and in a very sober and clear-eyed way assessed risks, set priorities, made tradeoffs, and identified requirements based on plausible, real-world threats, scenarios, and potential adversaries. …