I would like to start with a quote from Australian poet Kenneth Slessor’s poem “Beach Burial:”
“Whether as enemies they fought, Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together, Enlisted on the other front.”
Slessor’s tribute to the soldiers of the Second World War is particularly poignant as we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific.
Seventy years ago, the United States, Australia, and Japan closed one chapter of our shared history and began anew. Where there had been war, there would now be peace. Where there had been destruction, there would be rebuilding. Where there had been privation, there would now be prosperity.
President Truman, in his announcement of victory in the Pacific championed “victory, peace, and a chance to build again.”
Could the men who fought as enemies at Guadalcanal – my father among them – have envisioned a future in which the United States, Australia, and Japan come together for joint military exercises? Yet, this is exactly what we have been doing, including most recently at Talisman Sabre.
Could they have envisioned the cooperative efforts that span the Pacific – in response to natural disasters, and other threats to the region?
Our three countries, in coordination with others, most recently responded to Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, and share in the search for MH370.
Could they have envisioned the billions of dollars and yen in trade and investment that flows between our three countries? And even better – we are now the leading partners in a vast agreement that would set the standards for international trade in the 21st century.
When Americans talk about alliances and partnerships across “the Pond,” it is no longer Europe that is being discussed. As President Obama said in his speech in Brisbane last year, quoting Australian writer David Malouf: “In that shrinking of distance that is characteristic of our contemporary world, even the Pacific, largest of oceans, has become a lake.”
We are more interconnected than ever, and our strength is our growing interdependence.
As a Pacific power, the United States has a proven track record in the Asia-Pacific region. American leadership – in concert with our allies and partners – has provided the peace and security necessary for the region’s extraordinary economic growth over the last half a century.
We have built relationships and mutual understanding via our security, cultural, scientific, and educational exchanges. The stronger our relationships, the more entwined our societies and economies, the lower the chances are that tensions develop in to conflicts.
Later this year, our annual AUSMIN discussions will take place in the United States. The focus will be on common challenges: security, trade, cyberspace, education, climate change, disaster relief, and the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
Another invaluable forum is the Trilateral Security Dialogue, where the United States, Australia, and Japan are increasingly coming together to discuss key issues of the day: ISIS, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and tensions in the East and South China Seas.
We all welcome the emergence of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous China that plays a responsible role in world affairs. The United States maintains a robust dialogue with China on areas of shared interest, as evidenced by the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, and the state visit this month by President Xi to the United States.
Our cooperation with China spans a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues – for example, climate change, international trade, counterterrorism, and nonproliferation. We are engaging constructively while dealing honestly with our differences.
The United States and many others across the region have expressed concern to China over the pace and scope of its land reclamation efforts. The construction of facilities for military purposes only raises tensions and the destabilizing risk of militarization by other claimant states.
While the United States is not a claimant in any of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, we do have a vital stake in freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce, and in the peaceful resolution of disputes. These are some of the key ingredients for the success that the region has witnessed over the last half century, and it is in all of our shared interest to make sure the rights of all nations are respected.
The United States continues to call for a reduction in tensions to create space for diplomatic solutions that support and uphold the existing rules-based order.
At the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting, Secretary Kerry urged all claimants to make a joint commitment to halt further land reclamation and construction of new facilities or militarization on disputed features. Such steps would lower tensions and create diplomatic space for a meaningful Code of Conduct to emerge by the time East Asia Summit leaders meet in November.
I do not want to steal General Brooks’ thunder by describing the depth and breadth of our security cooperation in this region. Suffice it to say, the rebalance has led to increased resources for the U.S. Pacific Command.
By 2020, the United States will have our greatest number and most sophisticated naval assets deployed in the Asia Pacific. The Marine training rotations in Darwin are a proven success for our Force Posture Initiatives and reflect America’s enduring commitment to Australia and to the region. And, this year’s Talisman Sabre was a tangible reflection of our commitment to joint capability and interoperability.
We will examine ways to continue to work closely with Australia and Japan as well as our other allies and partners throughout the region to ensure the peace and prosperity that is vital to our shared interests.
The investment by Australia, Japan, and the United States on common platforms such as the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-18 Growler, the P-8 Poseidon, and other advanced capabilities will allow us and our partners to continue to operate together in demanding environments if such needs should arise.
The military component of the rebalance has frequently been overemphasized and characterized as the driver of U.S. policy. But the fact is that U.S. security engagement in Asia would not be possible if it was not embedded in a much broader national agenda including diplomacy, trade, development, values, and multilateral institutions. Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was notably quoted as saying “TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.”
The TransPacific Partnership is a tangible means of demonstrating America’s firm and enduring commitment to the security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific. When finalized, the TPP will be one of the most significant trade agreements in history.
The President, Secretary Kerry, and I remain confident TPP can be concluded soon.
The TPP is about raising standards. This agreement initiates a race to the top. Under this pact, every participant will have to comply with core international labor and environmental standards; every participant will have to ensure that state-owned companies are competing fairly with ones that are privately owned; and every participant will have to fight trade-related bribery and corruption, not just through the region but well beyond.
A strong regional trade pact will stand as a disincentive to conflict. Increased trade and economic interconnectedness will create added incentives for countries to resolve disagreements that arise – as they naturally do – peacefully, through regional institutions.
We – the United States, Australia, and Japan – and our Asia-Pacific partners represent 40% of global GDP and one-third of global trade. The United States is the top source of foreign investment in both Japan and Australia. The United States is also the top foreign investment destination for Australia and Japan.
One of the ultimate signs of trust between friends is to entrust them with money. As Prime Minister Abbott said in New York last year, “we trust each other to treat each other’s hard earned cash with respect.”
In conclusion, as many of you know, I am the second generation of my family to serve our flag in the Pacific. My uncle Jack, my namesake, was a Marine fighter pilot who lost his life in the Philippines during World War II. My father Morrell, his older brother, fought at Guadalcanal and across the Pacific with the 1st Marine Division. Until my dad’s death at 87, the mere mention of Jack’s name brought tears to my dad’s eyes.
He mourned for his brother, as countless other American, Australian, and Japanese families mourned for those they lost. But, neither my father – nor our three countries – let grief turn to bitterness.
Instead, the tensions of battle gave way to deep and enduring alliances for the future – based upon a joint commitment to democracy, liberty, justice, and trust in the rule of law. These timeless values healed old wounds, like the Balm of Gilead. The resurgence and economic growth of Japan, and of the entire Asia Pacific region, represents the best of the human spirit.
Our ability to embrace the future propels our countries and this region forward with stronger cooperation, improved innovation, and deeper and broader trade and investment. And our steady leadership will continue to ensure a stable, transparent, and rules-based order for the 21st century.
Together, Australia, Japan, and the United States will make this vision a reality.
Thank you for your leadership in continuing this important dialogue between our three countries, and I look forward to this year’s dialogue.