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Asian-Pacific Americans Play Major Role in Nation's Defense, Admiral Says

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2006 – The vast Asian-Pacific region is enormously important to America's national security and the geo-political and economic importance of the region continues to grow, a top Pacific Command official said here this week.

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Navy Rear Adm. William VanMeter Alford Jr., chief of staff of the U.S. Pacific Command, speaks during the Defense Department's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon and military awards ceremony May 10. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Navy Rear Adm. William VanMeter Alford Jr., chief of staff of the U.S. Pacific Command, spoke during the Defense Department's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon and military awards ceremony May 10. He said the region is extremely important to national security and represents 60 percent of the world's population, including the two countries with the world's largest population -- China, with 1.3 billion people, and India.

"The democratic country with the largest population in the world isn't the U.S., it's India, with more than 1.1 billion people," Alford noted. "As you can see, America's interests in this region are vast and significant.

"We see Asian-Pacific Americans in our military leading the way to bridge cultural and communication barriers between the various countries in this region," the admiral said. "We see great Americans doing everything they can for our country as we prosecute the global war on terrorism. And, we see statesmen, scholars and future leaders developing before our eyes. Asian-Pacific Americans contribute immeasurably to the success of the U.S. Pacific Command and this region."

Alford said the American melting pot benefits from the contributions of all its sons and daughters, and the nation honors the contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans and share in their sacrifices.

He said people with Asian-Pacific ancestry know that countries of their heritage span more than 50 percent of the Earth's surface, and the region represents millions of square miles of ocean, billions of people, hundreds of religions and cultures, and more than 40 countries.

Noting that the Pacific region has vast diversity among the countries, cultures, languages and religions, Alford said, "Twenty-five percent of the world's trade and 50 percent of the world's oil production passes through this region. Today, 35 percent of U.S. trade is with countries in this region."

By contrast, Alford said, U.S. trade with the European Union in only 19 percent, 20 percent with Canada, and 18 percent with Latin America. "Asian-Pacific nations account for about 34 percent of the gross world product, while the U.S. accounts for 21 percent," he noted.

He noted that Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, is within the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility. "Indonesia is a country striving to cement democratic rule, a country made up of more than a thousand islands, a country which when compared to the U.S. mainland would span all the way between the east and west coasts."

Alford went on to point out that Japanese Americans served exceptional well in World War II. "We recognize not only the 442nd Regimental Combat Team or the 100th Infantry, & but also the lesser known Nisei soldiers who were America's secret weapon. The soldiers of the military intelligence service were credited with saving countless American lives by their ability to intercept and interpret imperial Japanese army messages.

"Today, we receive daily media accounts from Iraq and Afghanistan crediting America's sons and daughters from Hawaii, Guam, America Samoa, the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, East Asia, California and Alaska among others who fight in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," the admiral noted.

"These heroes are spreading the spirit of 'Aloha' and kindness to the Iraqi and Afghan people as they rebuild their countries and welcome a chance to be free," Alford said.

He said this year's theme for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, "Dreams and Challenges for the Asian-Pacific American," is appropriate "as we look toward our country's future and work to help other countries around the world overcome their challenges to achieve their dreams."

Noting that the nation's diversity makes it stronger, Alford said, "Our shared ideas, hopes and dreams bond us as a people. We must remember that the struggle for freedom is ever present and ongoing."

Contact Author

Rear Adm. William VanMeter Alford Jr., USN

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