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Remarks by Secretary Carter in a Media Availability aboard USS John C. Stennis in the South China Sea

April 15, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Hello, everyone. 

Now, I would say thanks for being here, but it's pretty fun to be here and pretty nice to be here.  And I -- appreciate it.  I'm going to be real short, because you've got my remarks this morning.  I'll make additional remarks later.

It's very simple.  Yet another stop at a wonderful and important visit to this overall region.  I get to give a message to the troops of how much we appreciate what they're doing out here to keep peace and stability in this region, to the Philippines, about how strong our alliance is, our longstanding alliance, and to the entire region that the United States intends to continue to play a role out here that it has for seven decades -- keeping peace and stability, which has allowed the Asian miracle of prosperity and political and economic development, each according to their own wishes to happen.

So, with that, let me take your questions.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, may I ask one quick question?

SEC. CARTER:  Lita.

STAFF:  Lita and then -- (inaudible).

Q:  Mr. Secretary, the Chinese did not react well to obviously, the discussion of U.S. aid to the Philippines.  They take this as a threat.

What's your -- isn't your message by being here an additional message to them about U.S. power in the area?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, it's a message to the region that the United States intends to continue to play a role in keeping peace and stability in this region.

We want to reduce tensions, but we also want everybody in the region to be able to rise and develop in their own way, including the Philippines, by the way, which happens also to be a longstanding and very staunch treaty ally of the United States.

Q:  But doesn't this increase tension by -- (inaudible) -- your presence here?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, that's not only incorrect, it's backwards.  We have been here for decade upon decade.

The only reason that question even comes up is because of what has gone on over the last year, and that's a question of Chinese behavior.  So, what's new is not an American carrier in this region.  What's new is the context of tension which exists, which we want to reduce.

STAFF:  Carla?

Q:  Mr. Secretary, what would you say about the Cold War mentality comments that the Chinese defense ministry said about -- (inaudible) -- connection, but joint controls?

And also, what would be the harm of allowing China to continue claiming the reefs?  Are there trade routes -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  The Cold War is a long time in the past.  And you know, we're living in the present and in the future.

And in the present, we have peace and stability here.  That is what we stand for, that is what we have stood for, that is what the U.S.-Philippine alliance is part of.  It's just a piece of a larger network of security that the United States is part of.  And that is the key to keeping peace and stability here.

And for the future, that is what we want for everyone, including China.

Q:  And what would be the harm of reclaiming -- of not stopping any reclaimed lands, and just letting them continue to reclaim the reefs?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, there are legitimate, in our eyes, disputes over territorial claims here.  But they're disputes.

In international affairs, disputes should be resolved peacefully, and not by changing the status quo unilaterally.  And we're against that by any of the claimants.

And a number of the claimants have done that, and we've opposed that.  By far and away over the last year, the most has been done by China.

STAFF:  Last one, Laurent?

Q:  Lots of people are fearing a new claim on the Scarborough Shoal that is -- that the Philippines want.

What is -- what is -- what are you saying to that?  It's going to happen --

SEC. CARTER:  Well, with respect to that one, it's the same as what I just said about all of them.

We think that these disputes, which go back years, and years and years in this region should be resolved peacefully.  That's the system that the United States has stood for, for all of these years.

And that applies throughout the region and it applies to all claimants.

STAFF:  All right.  Thanks everyone, he has got to go to the troop talk now.

SEC. CARTER:  All right.  Thanks guys.



STAFF:  I even forgot to ask this, you having -- (inaudible) -- in North Korea?

Q:  North Korea?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, I will.  The North Korean missile launch of yesterday, which we assess at this time to have been unsuccessful, was nonetheless another provocation by North Korea in a region that doesn't need that kind of behavior, and certainly on the Korean Peninsula, where we have yet another very strong ally there.

So, we and most of the international community.  I mean, in fact, it's reflected in the Security Council sanctions of the U.N. sanctions.  The entire international community has condemned this kind of thing.

STAFF:  Thanks, everyone.