It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight.
The Asia-Pacific is a region that represents both enormous opportunities and great challenges.
Together with our allies and partners, we have ensured security and stability here since World War II. We have worked with our partners to establish the rules of the road for trade and investment, which have spurred an unprecedented era of regional economic growth.
As a Pacific nation, it would be a mistake for us not to seek more contact, stronger alliances, and better engagement that will help us build for the future.
The United States’ goal here is to be a force for peace and prosperity.
For example, last month Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel came to Sydney for our annual AUSMIN consultations. Over the course of what were very productive discussions, it was clear that we share a similar outlook on how to meet the challenges we face in the region and around the world.
Together, we envision an Asia-Pacific where freedom of trade and navigation is assured, where conflicts are managed peacefully, and where the Korean Peninsula is free from nuclear weapons. Part of our discussions involved how we can better cooperate on ballistic missile defense and strategic planning. And we talked about how we can develop effective – and affordable – technologies to help us protect the increasingly vulnerable realms of space and cyberspace.
The highlight of the meeting was the signing of the Force Posture Agreement. This agreement will guide the implementation of the Force Posture Initiatives – including the Marine training rotations in Darwin – that President Obama and former Prime Minister Gillard announced in 2011. Through those initiatives, we will be better able to cooperate in the event of disaster, whether made by Man or Mother Nature.
These annual discussions are especially important because the way we think about security is changing as our world changes. Our regular high-level consultations ensure that ours is a flexible, modern alliance that is prepared to handle whatever comes our way.
Today, security cooperation can mean ensuring that people have food, shelter, and water after a natural disaster.
It means that we must know how work together to address outbreaks and prevent the spread of disease. In our increasingly connected world, it means protecting our satellites and the integrity of cyberspace. And it means we need to think about how best to address the relatively new threat posed by foreign fighters travelling to both Syria and Iraq.
We’re looking forward to working with Australia – and the broader international community – when President Obama chairs a summit meeting of the UN Security Council later this month.
We also discussed our cooperation with another close friend and ally – Japan.
During his visit to Japan in April, President Obama reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan alliance is one of our most important security partnerships. He reiterated that our bilateral relationship is based on mutual trust, a common vision for a rules-based international order, and a shared commitment to upholding democratic values and promoting open markets.
From trilateral military exercises to discussions of space security, counterterrorism, and disaster relief, there is already a lot that we do together.
But I believe that we could do much more.
And, as Australia and Japan strengthen their bilateral partnership, now is a good time to expand our trilateral cooperation.
In that respect, Prime Minister Abe’s announcement that Japan will increase its contributions to peace and security by exercising its UN Charter right to self-defense is a very welcome development. It puts Japan in a position to increase cooperation with us both regionally and globally.
None of what has happened here in the region in the past 40 years would be possible without our partnerships with Australia and Japan. It is vital that we strive to build consensus and capabilities in the Asia-Pacific.
One way we are doing this is by holding more training exercises across the region with countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea. We are also investing heavily in the development of regional institutions. Multilateral frameworks and organizations improve the ability of countries in the region to use diplomatic means to settle differences. We believe that the outcome of disputes should be determined by rules and norms rather than the size and power of the countries involved. In addition, we seek a trade and investment environment here in the region that has clear and consistent rules.
Together with Australia, Japan, and nine other partners, we are in the homestretch in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. It is the key economic component of our rebalance to the region. A transparent system provides businesses with a level playing field on which to compete – and thrive in a trading area that produces 40% of the world’s GDP.
We are strengthening our ties with allies, and expanding our cooperation with emerging powers including India, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
President Obama’s numerous visits to the region have been central to these efforts. We expect that he will return to the region in November to attend key summit meetings, including APEC in Beijing, the East Asia Summit in Burma, and the G20 meeting in Brisbane.
Now, let me take a minute here to address concerns I often hear from Australians about the rebalance and U.S.-China relations. The rebalance is intended to maintain a rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific by strengthening the regional architecture, energizing open markets, and committing to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
We do not want to limit the aspirations of any country in the region.
A peaceful and prosperous China that plays a constructive role in regional and global affairs is good for everyone, including the United States. Cooperation between the United States and China is vital and growing.
We work together on some of the greatest challenges of today, including North Korea, Iran, piracy, and climate change. We also make investments together around the world, including in the Australia Pacific LNG Project. I visited this facility with Ambassador Ma in May. It really highlighted for me the vast potential of our cooperation.
China was a participant in Rim of the Pacific – the world’s largest naval exercise – for the first time this year. And, we will join Australia and China for Exercise Kowari – a land training exercise to be held in the Northern Territories later this year.
We may have our differences, but we work together on many issues where we share common interests and concerns. We can – and do – speak frankly when we disagree. Of course, that is true of all of our bilateral relationships.
I can assure you that, when the need arises, no one speaks more frankly than an Australian.
If the tragedies at Fukushima and in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan demonstrate anything, it is that knowing how to work together effectively can save lives.
Working together will become increasingly important over time.
As our climate changes, we expect that super storms, fires, droughts, and famines will become more frequent and severe as will competition over resources. As a result, so will the associated problems.
Cooperation requires clear lines of communication, effective leadership, and efficient responses. These things can make the difference between a tense situation that is resolved in a conference room and one that is resolved on the battlefield.
Let me give you an example.
For many Americans, the sight – and sound – of Canada geese migrating in a giant V-shaped formation is inextricably linked to the changing seasons. I’m guessing many of my fellow Americans have an image in their heads right now.
There has been a lot of time and money put into studying why geese fly this way. It turns out that flying any other way wastes energy, limits effective communication, and decreases the chance for successfully arriving at their destination.
We could learn a lot from those geese.
We are now at a point where we have a real opportunity to work even more closely on regional challenges. The cooperation between the United States, Australia, and Japan is critical to this effort. Our countries share a deep commitment to the rule of law, to democracy, to human rights, and to peace and prosperity in the region. Japanese and Australian support will mean the difference between success and failure in the Asia-Pacific.
As leading democratic countries, we have a duty to work together to help others rise — and to ensure that this region’s miraculous economic transformation over the past half-century will continue in the coming century.
We could ask for no better partners, friends, and allies with whom we share this common cause and vision.