The US military has entered a period of historic change after more than a decade of war following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We ended the war in Iraq; we are implementing an effective transition and drawdown in Afghanistan; and we have seriously weakened al-Qaeda’s leadership in the fight against terrorism.
As a result of these efforts and the reality of budget constraints, the US has developed a new defense strategy for the 21st century, one that emphasizes agility, technology and force projection. We have begun to focus on the challenges and opportunities of the future, and it is clear that many of them lie in Asia.
After all, the global center of gravity is steadily shifting toward the Asia-Pacific region, tying the US’ future prosperity and security ever more closely to this fast-growing region. At the same time, increasing military spending, challenges to maritime security, non-traditional threats ranging from piracy to terrorism and the destruction wrought by natural disasters are making the region’s security environment more complex. For these reasons, the US Department of Defense is implementing a “rebalance” of the US’ strategic focus and posture to the Asia-Pacific region.
The vast majority of US’ rebalance comes in non-military areas like trade and development. This is part of a broad effort directed by US President Barack Obama to deepen our diplomatic, development, economic, security and cultural engagement across the region. For the US Department of Defense, the rebalance is about helping to ensure that the US and all countries in the region continue to benefit from a secure and prosperous Asia-Pacific region — as we have for nearly 70 years.
This effort rests on four pillars. The first is the US’ longstanding commitment to a set of principles that helped to advance peace and security in the region in the 20th century. As a Pacific power, the US has an abiding national interest in a just international order that emphasizes states’ rights and responsibilities and their fidelity to the rule of law; open access for all to the global commons of sea, air, space and cyberspace; unimpeded economic development and commerce; and resolving conflict without the use of force. These principles can and should underpin strong economic, diplomatic and military relationships throughout the region today.
The second pillar is a special priority of mine: Modernizing and strengthening the US’ alliances and partnerships in the region, and developing new ones. That mission has led me to travel to Asia four times since becoming US Secretary of Defense in July 2011. It has led us to devote more resources and effort to building our partners’ capabilities and improving interoperability between the US military and forces in the region. We are also working to identify opportunities to deepen our cooperation in information security, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other high-tech frontiers — from cyberspace to outer space.
For example, we are developing a new bilateral plan for the US-Japanese alliance’s future roles, missions and capabilities, and reached an agreement to position an additional missile-defense radar to protect against the North Korean threat. On my recent visit to Australia, we signed an agreement to relocate a space surveillance radar to Western Australia. And, in South Korea, our Strategic Alliance 2015 agreement charts a course for the future across a range of fronts, including cooperation in space and cyberspace, intelligence and information sharing, and command arrangements.