The United States is a Pacific nation. This region — more than any other — is shaping the course of this century, said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

The secretary was in Singapore today for the Shangri-La Dialogue to discuss regional and global security issues.  

“The United States is deeply committed to the Indo-Pacific. We are all in. And we’re not going anywhere,” he said. 

“The United States and this region are more secure and more prosperous when we work together.” 

Over the past three years, likeminded countries across this region have deepened their ties — and delivered real-world results for the people of the Indo-Pacific, Austin said. 

A new model of convergence in this region is not a single alliance or coalition. Instead, it is a set of overlapping and complementary initiatives and institutions, propelled by both a shared vision and a shared sense of mutual obligation, the secretary said. 

“This new convergence is about coming together, not splitting apart. It isn’t about imposing one country’s will. It’s about summoning our sense of common purpose. It isn’t about bullying or coercion. It’s about the free choices of sovereign states. And it’s about nations of goodwill uniting around the interests that we share and the values that we cherish,” he said. 

These interests and values, Austin said, include respect for sovereignty and international law, free flow of commerce and ideas, freedom of the seas and skies, openness, transparency, accountability, equal dignity for every person, and the peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue — not coercion or conflict. “And certainly not through so-called punishment. 

“Let me be clear. The United States can be secure only if Asia is secure. That’s why the United States has long maintained our presence in this region. And that’s why we continue to make the investments necessary to meet our commitments to our allies and partners,” Austin said. 

Austin cited some of the achievements of Indo-Pacific nations working together:

  • Co-developing with Japan a glide phase interceptor to counter hypersonic threats.
  • With India, making historic progress on co-producing fighter jet engines and armored vehicles. 
  • Working closely with the Philippines to field maritime defensive capabilities and expand maritime domain awareness across the region.  
  • Making major investments in our submarine industrial base to help strengthen our AUKUS partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom. 
  • Working together to fortify the shared capacity of the defense industrial bases of our allies and partners. That’s why so many countries — including the United States — are endorsing a Statement of Principles today to strengthen the resilience of the region’s defense industrial bases.  
  • With Japan and South Korea, creating a multi-year trilateral exercise plan. Its highlight is a newly named exercise that will allow our countries to train together in unprecedented ways. 
  • With the Philippines, Australia, France and more than a dozen observer countries, just concluded the biggest Balikitan exercise yet. 
  • Making huge strides in two other major multinational exercises: Super Garuda Shield in Indonesia and Cobra Gold in Thailand. They’re both getting larger and more complex.  
  • With Japan, forward-stationing the most advanced formation in the U.S. Marine Corps.  
  • With the Philippines, expanding U.S. rotational access to four new sites in the Philippines through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.  
  • With Papua New Guinea, finalized a historic Defense Cooperation Agreement last year. 
  • With Tokyo and Seoul, sharing early-warning data on North Korean missiles — in real time.  
  • Advancing our partnership with Australia and Japan on an integrated air- and missile-defense architecture. 

“These agreements are historic. And they’re just the starting point,” Austin said. 

Austin also touched on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which shocked the world, including the Indo-Pacific region. Russia’s war of aggression “has provided us all with a preview of a world that none of us would want. It’s a glimpse of a world where tyrants trample sovereign borders, a world where peaceful states live in fear of their neighbors, and a world where chaos and conquest replace rules and rights,” he said. 

But Russia’s lawless invasion also reminds us that free countries can rally together to help the victims of aggression. “Governments and people around the world have rushed to help Ukraine defend itself — including countries across the Indo-Pacific. And the United States will continue to stand strong for a free and secure Ukraine — and for an open world of rules, rights and responsibilities,” he said.

Leave a comment

Powering peace, equipping nations