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On USS Carl Vinson, Carter Highlights Asia-Pacific Rebalance

Sept. 29, 2016 — The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is a critical national commitment that focuses on regional prosperity and sharpening the U.S. military edge, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today in San Diego.

Asia-Pacific remains the "single most consequential region for America's future," the defense chief said, speaking on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, which President Barack Obama announced five years ago, includes diplomatic, economic and military components, he explained. All of the components, he said, are to ensure the Asia-Pacific region "remains a place where every nation can rise and prosper," even at a time of dramatic political, economic and security change in the region.

Carter highlighted security challenges in the region, including North Korea's "nuclear saber-rattling" that threatens allies and heightens tensions. Other challenges, he said, include maritime concerns that could hurt the region's prosperous future, as well as terrorism and transnational threats.

'Finest Fighting Force'

Carter complimented the 4,500 USS Carl Vinson crew members for their work supporting security interests around the world. The Vinson's mission, he said, is of "fundamental strategic importance." The sailors, he said, are part of the "finest fighting force the world has ever known."

The secretary lauded members in all the military services for their work addressing five major global challenges: Russian aggression and coercion, China behaving aggressively, North Korean missile and nuclear provocations, Iranian aggression and malign influence in the Gulf, and defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Rebalance Focuses on the Future

The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region has three parts, Carter explained. The first phase began five years ago, when DoD enhanced its military force posture in the region; the second phase launched last year, when the U.S. made qualitative improvements to its force posture; and the third phase will cement the progress made in the first and second phases, the secretary said. 

The United States will continue to invest and make high-tech improvements in its military assets to "sharpen our military edge so we remain the most powerful military in the region and the security partner of choice," he added.

Carter highlighted the strong ties the U.S. military has with its many allies in the region. America's regional partnerships are growing in number and strength, he said.

"The rebalance is about the future," he said, noting that the effort entails helping to unlock the tremendous potential in the region.

He highlighted the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying it would bind the United States more closely with 11 other economies and is an opportunity the United States cannot afford to miss. In addition, partnerships and cooperation among Asian-Pacific nations are critical to regional security, he said.

Carter said he is traveling on to Hawaii for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting to discuss ways forward in ensuring security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)