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Shanahan: Partners Must Join U.S. in Investing in Indo-Pacific Region

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The United States military is partnering with nations from across a wide swath of the Indo-Pacific region, and those nations must follow with their own investments if the partnerships are to grow, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

At the International Institute for Strategic Studies-sponsored defense summit today, the acting defense secretary said the U.S. has more than 370,000 service members in the Indo-Pacific region, training and working alongside allied and partner forces there.

The U.S. Pacific Command, he said, has four times more assigned forces than any other geographic combatant command.

Armed military personnel in a small boat approach a larger military vessel.
Malabar Exercise
Sailors assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam prepare to board the Indian oiler INS Shak ti in the Philippine Sea during a visit, board, search and seizure exercise as part of the Malabar exercise, June 12, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William McCann
VIRIN: 180612-N-HE318-3122
Military personnel gather around a U.S. sailor on the deck of a military vessel.
USS Princeton
Petty Officer 1st Class Shane Slater leads Indian and Japanese sailors on a tour of the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton in Chennai, India, during the Malabar exercise, July 11, 2017.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger
VIRIN: 170711-N-VR594-0659

''Across the Indo-Pacific, the United States has more than 2,000 aircraft, providing the ability to rapidly project power across the vast distances of this region,'' Shanahan said. ''More than 200 ships and submarines ensure freedom of navigation, search and rescue, and rapid assistance in the event of natural disasters. We are investing in advanced missile defense systems, interoperable with allied systems in Japan, Australia and South Korea.''

The acting defense secretary called on partner nations to do their part to build security in their own countries, and strengthen alliances with neighboring nations.

''The Indo-Pacific is our priority theater,'' he said. ''We are where we belong. We are investing in this region. We are investing in you, and with you, and we need you to invest further in yourselves. We need you to invest in ways that take more control of your sovereignty and your ability to exercise sovereign choices.''

A missile launches off the deck of a military vessel.
Fantail Launch
The guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville fires a Harpoon/Stand-Off Land Attack Missile from its fantail in support of the Valiant Shield exercise in the Philippine Sea, Sept. 23, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sarah Myers
VIRIN: 180923-N-ZL062-0069

Every nation, Shanahan said, has a responsibility to contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The United States will uphold its commitments to the region, he said, but allies and partners must contribute their fair share to the combined efforts to secure freedom and prosperity there.

''We need you to invest sufficiently in your own defense,'' he said. ''It strengthens deterrence. Build third-party capacity — it helps the network scale. Uphold rules-based international order — it keeps the playing field level. Provide access to address contingencies — it makes us more responsive. Strengthen interoperability and think carefully about the implications of defense sales; you are buying a long-term relationship, not just a platform.''

Shanahan said the U.S. has a long history of engagement and partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, and that relationships there are growing.

Military personnel conduct medical operations.
Cobra Gold 2019
U.S. sailors work with Thai military medical professionals during the Cobra Gold exercise in Ban Chen Krem, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Lt. Matthew Kelly
VIRIN: 190219-M-QK615-002
A military ship cruises the ocean.
USS Chancellorsville
The guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville participates in the Valiant Shield exercise in the Philippine Sea, Sept. 17, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Codie L. Soule
VIRIN: 180917-N-KP021-0081

''Our defense relationships have expanded along with this region’s prosperity,'' he said. ''And as our own economic interests have increased, this region’s prosperity has increased by the stabilizing influence of our defense relationships. So the synergy between prosperity and security is well understood.''

For that security, and prosperity to continue, the acting defense secretary said that investments in partnerships and security will need to continue.

''As you invest in yourself, know that we are strengthening even further our unrivaled networks of alliances and partnerships,'' Shanahan said. ''We know this region’s size and complexity requires the greatest degree of cooperation.''

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