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Remarks by Secretary Panetta at ASEAN Meeting, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
November 16, 2012

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA:  Well, good afternoon to everyone.

            It has been a real pleasure for me to have the opportunity to be here in Cambodia for my first visit as secretary of defense.

            I want to thank the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN.  We had the opportunity to sit down together at lunch, and then in a more formal session, to exchange our views.

            And I want to express in particular my thanks to Cambodia's minister of national defense, who has been such a gracious host.

            This is my final stop on my trip to Southeast Asia.  This trip has taken me to Australia, and then to Thailand, and now to Cambodia.  And the message that I have conveyed on this visit, and my other visits, is that the United States's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is real, it is sustainable, and it will be ongoing for a long period of time into the future.

            The United States military has been working with friends and partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region for over 70 years.  Americans have fought and died in this region, and our goal has always been to try to promote peace and prosperity throughout this region.  And we have tried to foster conditions that would lead to economic growth, more effective governance, and an effort to help lift millions from property and create a better future for generations to come.

            And we are deepening our military engagement with our allies and partners in this region, in order to ensure that we are able to promote security and prosperity for many years to come.

            But our increased military engagement in the region is but one part of the effort by the United States to rebalance.  This effort includes not just military, but diplomatic, economic and cultural engagement across the region.  And I know that President Obama looks forward to discussing each of these elements of our rebalance when he arrives here for the East Asia Summit later this week.

            Today, we reaffirm the importance of ASEAN unity for building regional stability, and also the United States's support for ASEAN-led defense cooperation in a number of critical areas to the region, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, nonproliferation and counterterrorism.

            I also want to underscore, and I stressed this in meetings that I participated in, the support of the United States for the protection of human rights, of civilian oversight of the military, of respect for the rule of law, and for the right of full and fair participation in the political process here in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia.

            And as I said last year in Indonesia, and I stress again, we are committed to further strengthening the U.S.-ASEAN relationship.  And as a reflection of that commitment, the United States will increase the size and number of exercises that we participate in in the Pacific with our Southeast Asia partners.  And we are devoting new funding to this goal.

            In addition, we're pleased to see progress toward action-oriented cooperation in the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus.  And the United States looks forward to participating in three ADMM-Plus exercises in 2013, including a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise that will be hosted by Brunei, a counterterrorism exercise that we are cosponsoring with Indonesia, and a maritime security exercise co-chaired by Malaysia and Australia.

            I expressed to my counterparts that I am impressed by the continuing development of ASEAN-led efforts to enhance security.  As I stated at the last meeting, we in the Pacific are part of one family of nations, and we may not agree on all issues, but we are committed to work together to ensure the security of that family.

            Let me conclude by saying that this is in many ways a new era in the U.S. relationship in this region.  It is based on the principles of the rule of law.  It is based on our presence to try to help develop the capabilities of nations.  It is based on partnership.  And it is based on the common goal of advancing peace and prosperity and opportunity for all people in all nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

            Thank you.

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