USA — Asia-Pacific Region Stands at Pivotal Point

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2010 — The Asia-Pacif­ic region stands at a piv­otal point in his­to­ry as it draws on the strength of region­al alliances and part­ner­ships to con­tend with a broad range of threats and chal­lenges, a senior defense offi­cial said yes­ter­day.

In remarks at the East-West Center’s Wash­ing­ton office, Wal­lace “Chip” Greg­son, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for Asia and Pacif­ic secu­ri­ty affairs, cit­ed the dra­mat­ic trans­for­ma­tion in the region since the East-West Center’s main cam­pus was estab­lished in Hawaii 50 years ago at a time of region­al uncer­tain­ty.

“Yet while this dynamism con­tin­ues to fuel tremen­dous progress and growth, there are also tec­ton­ic shifts tak­ing place in the region that cre­ate a con­tin­ued sense of uncer­tain­ty,” he told the U.S.-Asia Pacif­ic Council’s annu­al con­fer­ence.

Asia is home to four of the world’s five largest mil­i­tary pow­ers and some of its most-advanced mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties, Greg­son not­ed. In light of ongo­ing ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­putes and con­test­ed sov­er­eign­ty claims, “the poten­tial impact of a large-scale con­flict would be unprece­dent­ed in scope,” he said.

But Greg­son also cit­ed new, cross-bor­der threats: the chal­lenge of ris­ing pow­ers and fail­ing states, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nuclear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nolo­gies and extrem­ist vio­lence, among them. In addi­tion, he said, new anti-access capa­bil­i­ties threat­en to pre­vent open access to the glob­al com­mons – oceans, forests and atmos­phere – which Asia’s eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty depends upon.

“Because we face a far more com­plex range of threats, the strength of our mutu­al com­mit­ments is more crit­i­cal than ever before,” Greg­son said.

“These threats are not any one nation’s alone, nor does the respon­si­bil­i­ty to counter these threats belong to any one nation alone,” he con­tin­ued. “Just as we all have a shared inter­est in ensur­ing con­tin­ued peace, pros­per­i­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in the region, we must all share in the respon­si­bil­i­ty for main­tain­ing this peace.”

Greg­son empha­sized the need to build on exist­ing alliances and part­ner­ships in the region and to fos­ter more mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion. “If we are to suc­cess­ful­ly meet the chal­lenges ahead, we must bring a renewed sense of pur­pose to the con­cept of region­al coop­er­a­tion,” he said.

The Unit­ed States must instill con­fi­dence among its region­al part­ners that it stands by its secu­ri­ty com­mit­ments and will main­tain deter­rence against the full range of poten­tial threats and aggres­sion, Greg­son said. He not­ed steps the Unit­ed States is tak­ing to strength­en its deter­rent capa­bil­i­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties in North Korea and Chi­na.

Greg­son not­ed the Unit­ed States’ efforts to pro­mote stronger mul­ti­lat­er­al, rather than sim­ply bilat­er­al, rela­tion­ships in the region. This includes help­ing part­ners and allies build their own secu­ri­ty capac­i­ties.

Yet, the Unit­ed States must do a bet­ter job of pro­vid­ing this sup­port in a time­ly, reli­able man­ner, Greg­son told the audi­ence. He empha­sized the need to over­come lim­i­ta­tions in the Unit­ed States’ secu­ri­ty assis­tance sys­tem and to reform export con­trol laws to enable part­ners and allies to play a greater role in their own defense and in region­al affairs. “If we are to build deep and endur­ing part­ner­ships, we must ensure that this assis­tance is reli­able, and that our part­ners know we will not be a fair-weath­er friend,” Greg­son told the audi­ence.

Look­ing toward the future, Greg­son offered assur­ance that the Unit­ed States will pro­vide greater sup­port to its part­ners – but empha­sized that it also will expect more in return. The Unit­ed States, he said, will expect its part­ners in the Asia-Pacif­ic region to increase their capa­bil­i­ty in a trans­par­ent, respon­si­ble, way, and to begin tak­ing the lead in region­al secu­ri­ty dia­logue and ini­tia­tives.

“Final­ly, we also expect that as Amer­i­ca ful­fills our com­mit­ment to build­ing greater part­ner capac­i­ty, our part­ners will in turn take greater lead­ing roles in their own defense, and in region­al and glob­al secu­ri­ty affairs,” he said.

The Unit­ed States and its Asia-Pacif­ic part­ners face an incred­i­bly impor­tant series of choic­es in the years ahead, Greg­son said. He not­ed years of dis­cus­sion about the need to recal­i­brate exist­ing part­ner­ships and devel­op a broad­er set of roles, mis­sions and capa­bil­i­ties to address a wider range of threats. “Our abil­i­ty to imple­ment this com­mit­ment will be the true test of our met­tle in the next sev­er­al years,” he said.

“Our alliances and our part­ner­ships must fos­ter real pat­terns of coop­er­a­tion, built on mutu­al trust, mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty and mutu­al exchange of ideas,” he said. “By cre­at­ing these types of part­ner­ships, we will ensure that these rela­tion­ships have tan­gi­ble mean­ing, depth and val­ue for the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)