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U.S. Committed to Pacific Rebalance, Carter Says at Harvard

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 – Even given fiscal constraints, the U.S. military still can carry out the strategic rebalance to the Pacific, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the Harvard Institute of Politics tonight.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Deputy Defense Ashton B. Carter delivers remarks on strategic and budgetary choices for U.S. defense at the Harvard Institute of Politics in Cambridge Mass., April 23, 2013. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

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

The Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed 60 years of peace in large part due to the American security umbrella, Carter said, and the American military will continue its strategic shift to the area.

North Korea is an important exception to the general atmosphere in the region, the deputy secretary said. “First Japan rose and prospered, and then South Korea rose and prospered, and then Southeast Asia rose and prospered,” he added. “Today, India and China – in their different ways – rise and prosper. That’s a good thing. It was all assisted by the United States, but none of it was a sure thing, given the shape that Asia was in at the end of World War II.”

The principles included a commitment to free and open commerce, a just international order that emphasized rights and responsibilities of nations, open access, and the principle of resolving conflicts without force.

“We believe that our strong security presence in the Asia-Pacific has provided a critical foundation and in one sense our rebalance says we are going to continue to provide this balance into the future,” Carter said. U.S. partners in the region welcome American leadership and robust engagement, and the values that underlie them, he added, so the rebalance will be welcomed and reciprocated. He stressed that the strategy is not aimed at any one country or group of countries.

The rebalance is possible because the U.S. effort in Iraq has ended and the American presence in Afghanistan is winding down, Carter said. There will be a higher percentage of American naval power in the Pacific than the Atlantic -- a reversal of current strategy – and the Air Force will increase its posture and presence in the region, he told the Harvard audience.

Allies will see more of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps in the coming years than they have in the last decade. “Why is that? Because they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now they are coming home to the Asia-Pacific,” Carter said.

Working with allies and friends is a huge part of the shift, the deputy secretary said. The United States is working with the Japanese, South Korean, Philippine and Australian governments to enhance contacts and cooperation. Australia is hosting a rotational Marine Corps presence in Darwin. Japanese and American officials are working on a basing plan for American forces in the country, including the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa, Carter said.

The United States and South Korea are working together to defend South Korea from North Korean aggression, and American service members are continuing to work to strengthen the Philippine military.

Rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region is happening on a global scale, and it is happening within the region, Carter said. Northeast Asia always has been the center of gravity for American forces, he added, but now, more forces will be in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean area. “This is a recognition of the importance of Southeast Asia and South Asia to the region as a whole,” he explained.

Friends and allies recognize this, Carter said, and the first or four U.S. littoral combat ships arrived a few days ago in Singapore. The United States is working closely with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and will conduct exercises with the nations of that group. And after decades of no contact, there is now limited contact with the Burmese.

India is a key nation in the region and the world, Carter said. “Our security interests with India converge on maritime security and broader regional issues including India’s Look East policy,” he added. “We’re also looking to broaden our industrial base policy with India, moving beyond a vendor/purchaser relationship to co-develop and co-produce with the Indians.”

The list goes on, Carter said.

The United States military is investing in the personnel capital that will be needed to ensure the new strategy works, the deputy secretary said, and American service members are going through the language and culture training needed to understand the nuances of these countries.


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