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Rules-Based International Order Must Be Protected With Allies, Partners, Indo-Pacom Commander Says

Nov. 22, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The 80-year-old rules-based international order has done everything it's designed to do for all nations by enabling security, stability and prosperity for all around the globe, Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said.

Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the commander said the Indo-Pacific region represents global security and prosperity, but international norms are under direct attack. 

A payload is dropped from a C-130J Super Hercules.
Heavy Payload
A heavy-equipment payload is dropped from a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at the Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan, during a capstone exercise taking place in the Indo-Pacific Command's area of responsibility, Feb. 10, 2020. During the exercise, aircraft from the 36th, the 41st and the 61st Airlift Squadrons from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, were able to complete formation flight training and drop pallets consisting of simulated heavy equipment and containerized delivery system bundles.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing
VIRIN: 200210-F-VB704-2072A

It is an "absolute necessity," he noted, "for all nations to defend the rules-based international order for their benefit and for the benefit of all."

Aquilino emphasized the relative military and economic situations existing today are much different from 20 years ago.

"We adapted to a post-Cold War environment," the commander said. "And we presented with a focus on terrorism. In the past two decades, I would make the argument the military and economic centers of gravity have shifted to the Indo-Pacific." 

Navy admiral gives remarks.
Commander's Remarks
Navy Adm. John Aquilino delivers remarks during the change of command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, April 30, 2021, for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, where Navy Adm. Philip Davidson relinquished command to Aquilino. Aquilino, who was previously the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, acknowledged Indopacom’s critical role in providing regional peace and security.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony J. Rivera
VIRIN: 210430-N-XC372-2411

The region hosts four of the most populous nations, three of the largest democracies, three of the largest economies, he said. It's responsible for 60% of the world's gross domestic product. Two-thirds of the present, global economic growth is driven from the Indo-Pacific.

On a military level, he added, seven of the world's 10 largest armies, five of the world’s declared nuclear nations and the most-sophisticated navies all reside in the Indo-Pacific. The sea lanes support the world's nine largest ports, and every day, half of the global container cargo and 70% of the shipboard energy supply flows through those maritime spaces, Aquilino said. 

"[That] didn't happen by itself — the rules-based international order facilitated this dramatic growth and its development," he said. "The important work of the regional nations in the Indo-Pacific fostered an environment for all to prosper. Adherence to those international norms and our other values — to include mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, human rights, resolving disputes peacefully, and freedom of navigation — all have created greater stability."

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens sails at sea.
Mast View
The forward-deployed, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens as seen from the top of the forward mast. Cowpens is part of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, the Navy's only forward-deployed carrier strike group based out of Yokosuka, Japan, and is seen conducting a routine Western Pacific patrol.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Kelly
VIRIN: 120909-N-TX154-157

The importance of the Indo-Pacific is not an anomaly, because the world has benefited from rules-based international order, the commander said, but added that the order is under attack by revisionist, autocratic powers that seek to disrupt and displace the order in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of all others, Aquilino said.

Coercion and intimidation are the tools they use to achieve their objectives, he said, adding, "This assault on the rules-based international order should be concerning to all of us."

Navy admiral joins change of command ceremony.
Piped Aboard
Navy Adm. John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, is piped aboard during the Indo-Pacom change of command ceremony. During the ceremony, Aquilino relieved Navy Adm. Philip Davidson as commander. Indo-Pacom is committed to enhancing stability in the Indo-Pacific region by promoting security cooperation, encouraging peaceful development, responding to contingencies, deterring aggression, and, when necessary, fighting to win.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Laird
VIRIN: 210429-N-AT895-6022C

On a positive note, Aquilino said, the vast majority of countries throughout the region and the globe continue to strive for a free and open Indo-Pacific. "This is defining the security landscape of the 21st century, and how we deal with this will matter," he said, adding that working together with like-minded nations, allies and partners is critical.. 

And in working with other nations, such collaboration proves what can be achieved when allies and partners work together, Aquilino said. "Individually, we are strong, but together, we are stronger. So as we go forward into the future, we need to continually confront … challenges."