Remarks at "Looking East - Trend Lines in the Asia Pacific"

Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Hertie School of Governance
Berlin, Germany
March 22, 2016

Good evening everyone, and thank you very much Marina for the kind introduction. I appreciate all of you turning out this evening.

It’s a privilege for me to speak at the Hertie School. I think in just the short span of a little over 11 years you’ve already made an impressive mark on the study of international affairs.

And speaking as someone who spends 20-plus hours on an airplane going to Asia all the time, the short hop from Washington to Berlin makes it a lot easier. So I’m happy to be here. It’s a pleasure.

So tonight I will speak about some of the trends that I’ve observed in the region over the last seven years as I’ve worked under the Obama administration, talk a little bit about how we’re working to deal with and to benefit from those trends. But first, I think as the starting point I want to say a few words about what the Atlantic means to the Pacific.

Coordination between the U.S. and our European partners is crucial to the Asia-Pacific region and I think it’s crucial to the world.

Contrary to what many people, particularly in Europe, worried about at the outset of the pivot or the rebalance of U.S. foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific, it’s clear now that the rebalance is definitely not a turn away from Europe. Our focus on Asia is both well-coordinated and tightly linked to shared Atlantic policy goals.

And speaking personally, I’ve made it a point to come to Europe for consultations with various counterparts here -- in the first six months that I’ve been on the job and I’ve come regularly ever since. I’ve spoken to groups like this and to others in London, in Paris, Brussels, elsewhere about the TransAtlantic nature, the TransAtlantic component of our rebalance. European counterparts and I meet on a regular basis to advance our work together and to compare notes.

I’d argue, frankly, that the TransAtlantic focus on Asia has brought the U.S. and Europe, the U.S. and the EU even closer together in a number of respects. The U.S. and Europe have both increased our attention to Asia.

Our economic ties respectively with the region have generally grown in the last seven years. We’ve both signed Free Trade Agreements, put an emphasis on liberalization of markets and high standards in areas like intellectual property and services and e-commerce.

And while pursuing a rebalance in Asia and a TPP -- Trans-Pacific Partnership -- trade deal, President Obama’s made a point to also strengthen TransAtlantic trade ties through TTIP. These two trade networks will combine to create important new norms of international trade that benefit all of us.

The U.S. and like-minded countries have stood up for universal values -- not American values, not Western values -- universal values across the region.

And in particular, I think the U.S. and Germany have stood out in standing up for these values; have not allowed the pursuit of short term economic interests in the region to deter us from advocating for universal values and for international laws, things that underlie our economic success.

We cooperate in support of Burma’s - Myanmar’s democratic transition, and we encourage friends like Thailand to return to their own democratic traditions.

We undertake advocacy, albeit with mixed success, on behalf of human rights defenders in Asia, in China; on behalf of those who argue against problematic laws and regulations like cyber, banking, counterterrorism, and foreign NGO management laws that are under discussion now and could have, would have, a chilling effect on not only civil society but on international trade.

Your Chancellor Merkel has very effectively used her moral authority and her personal story as a former East German, as the child of a pastor. And your President Gauck’s trip this week to China, I think, further emphasizes Germany’s strong tradition and strong support of human rights.

Germany and other European countries contribute to security in the region, participating, for example, in the ASEAN Regional Forum; participating in joint exercises like RIMPAC, the Pacific exercise. They work with Asian countries on counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. Those are important.

The U.S. and Europe, the EU, have pioneered a new level of coordination on development work with the five nations of the Mekong River Basin. We’ve worked together to promote cooperation, to promote a more sustainable approach to economic development in that important waterway.

And we each cooperate with Asian countries more broadly on climate change, including in international forums. The EU works with APEC, with other groupings on shared interests like women’s rights and girls’ education, the environment, trade standards, labor rights, protection of workers.

And to go back to the reference that Marina made at the outset, the horrific attacks in Brussels this morning like the horrible attack in Paris, like the bombing in Jakarta, like the attacks in Sidney, they all underscore that we must in fact work together to defeat the scourge of ISIL, to repudiate and expose its false ideology, to repair the fabrics of broken societies that feed despair and radical extremism.

These are genuine concerns not only of the Middle East, not only of Europe and the United States, but of Asia, particularly of Southeast Asia as well.

So we have to work together and we are working together. Working with Asian nations in the region and beyond. But what is the environment that we’re working in when we work in the Asia-Pacific?

Well, I think the place to start thinking about it is with the important 21st century trends that we see in the region.

Southeast Asia is rising. It’s experienced what some call a youth-quake, a demographic transformation with over half of its population, more than 300 million people under the age of 30; and moving dramatically, rapidly into the middle class. By and large they’re better educated than any previous generation.

They’re also better connected than any previous generation due to investments in telecoms and investment in transportation infrastructure. They travel a lot. And they have more job opportunities as a result of integrated supply chains which are increasingly enabled by trade initiatives, globally and in the region. And as the middle classes grow, they demand more accountability from their governments.

So despite the setbacks I mentioned in Thailand, we’re seeing really dramatic advances for democracy in Myanmar. We’re seeing strong democratic, pluralistic, tolerant traditions in Indonesia, in Mongolia, in the Philippines. And we’re seeing incremental but significant progress in a number of other countries in Southeast Asia and also in the Pacific.

To the south in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand have greatly expanded trade with East Asia and they have increased their participation and their influence in the region. And likewise, our close friends and allies -- Japan and Korea -- have stepped up -- not just in the neighborhood, but on global issues like climate change and pandemic disease.

They’ve added value in areas like regional security and diplomacy. And importantly, as major economies they’ve made huge strides in opening their markets and leaving behind an old-fashioned model of export or die.

And of course there’s the rise of China. Hundreds of millions of people lifted from poverty. Dramatic economic modernization. Dramatic military modernization. These are dramatic trends, and as the middle class in China grows, as in elsewhere, as more people travel, study abroad, use smart phones, expectations rise.

They want better housing, they want better education, they want cleaner air, they want water they can drink, they want safer food, they want increased opportunities, they want jobs, they want more dependable institutions, they want transparency, they want a say over the decisions that affect their lives.

So the question is, for us, either as researchers or students or policymakers, how should we harness these trends to make a more prosperous, a more stable, a more livable Asia-Pacific region that benefits not just the people there, but the global economy, the global community? What should it look like?

Well I had a boss who used to be particularly fond of doing what he called thought experiments, the what if. What if. So let’s try one.

What if we were starting from scratch? What if the Asia-Pacific, the Pacific Rim countries were starting from scratch, what kind of institutions would they build? What would we want? How would these nations organize themselves? How would they agree on shared rules to promote shared prosperity and meet shared challenges, ensure shared security?

Well, when you think about it, to establish or to strengthen shared rules the region would want institutions with expertise and resources, they’d want a foundation of agreements and some impartial mechanisms for resolving disputes or problems that the parties couldn’t solve themselves, including something like ASEAN, for example.

And to advance prosperity the region would want an open system that allows every country, big or small, to trade fairly with its neighbors and to open up safely to investment from the world at its own pace including something like APEC, for example.

And to address shared regional challenges like national disasters, of which there are plenty in Asia, food and water security, public health, the region would want a mix of permanent institutions and specialized groupings including something like the ASEAN Regional Forum or the Lower Mekong Initiative, for example.

To ensure shared security the entire region would want some arrangement that prevents any resident powers, any large powers from either dominating Asia or from dividing it. They’d want a platform to work cooperatively on problem areas, and the ability for countries with shared values or shared interests to organize into collaborative networks, including something like the East Asia Summit, for example.

In other words, my point is this, that if Asia-Pacific nations were starting from scratch, it’s plausible to imagine that they would probably construct arrangements that are in many respects pretty similar to the architecture that we have now. But let’s take a closer look.

First on strengthening shared rules. I mentioned ASEAN –- the ten Southeast Asian nations.

Now ASEAN started small 45 years ago with five countries that wanted to find a way to establish common ground and find mutual support in what is, we’ll all agree, a pretty tough neighborhood.

Since then, ASEAN has doubled in size to ten countries and it’s tremendously expanded its scope, pursuing economic integration and a broader ASEAN community, and making itself a focal point for the entire region.

The United States has helped and we’ve helped by stepping up our engagement as a partner with ASEAN.

President Obama decided very early on in his term that the U.S. should join the ASEAN Treaty, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation; that he personally would participate in the annual meetings, the East Asia Summit; and that he would appoint America’s first resident Ambassador to ASEAN Headquarters in Jakarta. And by the way, I commend the European Union for having just followed suit.

From our point of view, that investment has paid off. Last year we launched the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership, and last month at what was really a historic summit meeting at Sunnylands in California -- the same place where President Obama had previously hosted China’s President Xi Jinping -- we put forward something called the Sunnylands Declaration, which is a statement of principles, a statement of the rules that we all want to live by. The fact of the ten leaders of Southeast Asia coming to the U.S. and finding consensus on some of the really tough, the thorny issues that face us, like the South China Sea, shows how much progress we’ve made -- shows how strong and close our relationship has become.

So maybe this is a good time to just spend a few minutes on that thorny issue, the South China Sea, because it is really a very important one, and it is every bit as important to the countries of the Atlantic as it is to the countries who border on the South China Sea itself, and I’ll explain why.

Now, I said a minute ago that anybody who dreamed up a new system for dealing with international problems would want to have in place some basic agreements and some arbitration mechanisms for dealing with problems and disputes that couldn’t be hashed out bilaterally.

One example of that is the 2002 Declaration of Conduct that China and the ten ASEAN countries negotiated over 13 years ago, in response to an escalating pattern of confrontation in the South China Sea. This was in the years following China’s occupation of Mischief Reef and some very bloody and very brutal encounters that cost the lives of a lot of Vietnamese sailors and soldiers.

So in this 2002 Declaration, the countries, 11 countries, pledged not to use coercion, not to use force, not to use the threat of force. And they pledged further to exercise self-restraint in terms of activities and avoiding activities that would complicate or would escalate disputes, that would affect peace and stability. That was a solemn pledge that frankly, helped maintain calm and the status quo there for quite a few years.

But what we’ve seen is that the status quo has been up-ended by an unprecedented campaign of digging up the coral reefs, dredging the sand from the ocean floor, reclaiming land on submerged reefs, building military facilities, large-scale construction there. And claims of national control over international waters. Over international airspace. And over the disputed maritime areas of claims in the South China Sea.

So it is absolutely true that in the course of the decade or so after the Declaration of Conduct was issued there have been cases where claimants have at times put military personnel or weapons on the outposts that they occupy. Nobody ever made a new outpost, nobody ever seized an outpost, nobody ever did anything on a large scale. But it is correct to say that others have built breakwaters or in a few cases small runways, and this was not a good thing.

But in under two years, despite the very strong objections of all of the other claimants and most of its neighbors, China has chosen to build seven advanced outposts on top of these fragile coral reefs using thousands of acres of landfill and tons of concrete with state-of-the-art ports and runways and other significant military facilities. The scale and the scope of this campaign vastly outstrips what all other claimants in the proceeding decade combined have done.

So the question is why? Particularly in light of its pledge not to militarize its outposts.

Is this to protect civilian populations? I’ve heard that. But these features are uninhabited. I mean they’re basically uninhabited features other than the personnel the government puts there.

Is it to assist fishermen in need? I’ve heard that argument too. But why now? People have been fishing there for generations. And why are Philippine fishermen and fishing boats chased away? Why are Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing boats chased away? These are their traditional fishing grounds, too.

Are these outposts there to monitor the weather? That’s another argument I’ve heard. Well, last time I looked, surface-to-air missiles were not categorized as meteorological equipment.

Is it to conduct humanitarian relief missions? Well, one point is that all the countries in the region have put together a collaborative mechanism for cooperating on humanitarian relief and coordinating it. For one country unilaterally to tackle that seems inconsistent with the collective work of the region. But even if you set that aside, why build a 3,000-meter runway on three different military airfields in the middle of nowhere?

Another argument I’ve heard is to safeguard freedom of navigation. But it’s pretty hard to argue that you’re safeguarding freedom of navigation when your military radio operators challenge a ship or a plane from a neighboring country and say hey, you’ve got to get out of here, even though it’s international space.

So we’re faced with a real paradox, a conundrum here. But in the coming months, the tribunal, an arbitrarion tribunal that has been convened under the Law of the Sea Convention which is a treaty that all of the claimants in the Asia-Pacific region have both signed and ratified, this tribunal is expected to make a decision on a case that was brought by the Philippines.

Now this case addresses some very specific issues. It does not address the question of which island belongs to whom, which claimant owns what island. That’s not what this case is about. And whether it is the United States or whether it’s Germany, no outside country, no third party takes a position on the question of sovereignty over the land features in the South China Sea. We don’t say we think the Philippines has a better claim than China or China has a better claim than Vietnam. We stay out of that piece.

What the tribunal will do is to make some important decisions about the maritime space, not the land, but the sea -- and some important decisions about the rights that claimants have to the sea.

But regardless of how this tribunal ultimately rules, I’d say there are three important things to note here. Number one, the decision will be binding on both China and the Philippines. Those are the two countries, the two states, parties to the treaty, that are subject to this arbitration.

I should add that the Chinese flagged early on their view that the tribunal had no jurisdiction over this case. So in reviewing the question of whether in fact the tribunal had jurisdiction or not under the Law of the Sea Convention, whether it could hear the Philippines’ case, the judges who are designated by the tribunal under the treaty to make that decision reviewed a very lengthy legal position paper that China submitted.

They considered all the arguments. And they issued their decision. And their decision as the judges was that they rejected the Chinese arguments and found that the court did have jurisdiction over this particular case.

So China has had its day in court already on the issue of jurisdiction. The question of how the tribunal will find on the maritime entitlements won’t be answered for another few months.

The second point I’d flag about this case is that it could significantly narrow the geographic area of the maritime space that’s in dispute. In other words, shrink the areas of disputed water among not only China and the Philippines, but presumably the other claimants as well.

And thirdly and more importantly, I think that this verdict can serve as a pivot point, as a launching pad for a very positive, constructive diplomatic process towards a modus vivendi, towards a new arrangement that would reduce tensions and that would open the door to cooperation.

Another way of looking at it is this, that the ruling in this case under the Law of the Sea Treaty is going to be an important test of our collective efforts to uphold a rules-based system in East Asia, a system that protects the rights of all states, and a system that continues to underpin the region’s success.

So in that respect, even though Germany and the rest of Europe aren’t on the Pacific, and like the United States have no stake in who gets what island, we don’t take a position on that.

We do have a stake in the success of the effort to apply the rule of law. And it’s very important that in this regard everybody’s voice, including European voices, be heard in support of the rule of law, in support of peaceful resolution of disputes.

I’ll make one last point on rules. While domestic rules and laws aren’t shared in the same way that international rules are, Europe and the U.S. along with all democracies share a responsibility to support and to advocate for universal rights and for universal freedoms.

That’s why we have all so strongly supported Myanmar’s democratic transition. And that country, although it still has a long way to go on human rights and civil rights, passed a huge milestone last week because the party that won what was found to be a free and fair election, the NLD, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, is taking power in Parliament and is selecting a civilian government, and the president that they’ve elected will be inaugurated in just over two weeks.

So that brings me to the second area that I mentioned which is advancing shared prosperity. Increasingly, economic success in the 21st century depends on the innovation ecosystem. It depends on free-thinking institutions like this one and regulatory systems, on strong national institutions that foster research, that protect intellectual property.

And on a regional basis as well, we can see on the economic side that rules underpin successful economies. Not only do these rules help advance economic growth, but the rules and the rulemaking institutions help smaller countries maintain economic autonomy in the face of pressure from outside.

In the Asia-Pacific region, APEC is the key platform for economic cooperation that brings most of the region’s economies together, and APEC’s strength is its ability to advance projects that everybody can agree on, like reducing tariffs on solar panels that all countries need to address the threat of climate change. APEC is a forum that helps countries think through ways forward on the next generation of trade issues like digital trade.

But beyond an organization like APEC, we also have the flexibility to work jointly with other partners and organizations like the G20 and in more tailored multilateral groupings. So ASEAN members, for example, have forged ahead with their own economic community and that includes important features -- customs, single window, and so on.

For our part, we’ve responded with a new framework initiative, U.S.-ASEAN Connect. The President announced this at the Sunnylands summit. This is a way of helping ASEAN develop both the hardware of infrastructure but also the software of infrastructure, and it includes both government-to-government cooperation but also public-private partnerships with a focus on energy and innovation and business promotion.

And as I mentioned TPP earlier, that is the big one. It’s an agreement that links economies from all parts of the Pacific Rim around high standards for trade and investment, protecting workers, protecting the environment, protecting intellectual property.

And we in the U.S. government are hard at work now taking the steps necessary to bring TPP into force; taking the steps necessary to successfully negotiate TTIP which, as I said, is the other agreement that will raise standards and open markets to the world economy.

The point there is that only a prospering and outward-looking Asia can meet the shared challenges that we face: climate change, violent extremism, pandemic diseases. And these are challenges that hit developing countries first and often hardest.

I think the developing countries in the Asia Pacific see this and a trend I see is an increasing willingness to think and to act for the long term with the support of wealthier nations.

So bilaterally, the U.S. and China cooperated to set the stage for the Paris Climate Agreement. This started two years out, then culminated in the joint announcement of our two presidents of ambitious national targets. That helped galvanize the thinking of a number of key emitter countries. And other Asian nations engaged in that process.

I just completed a tour through the Pacific and the Pacific Island countries, they’re called Small Island Developing States. But as I traveled around and saw them, and saw the mammoth size of their exclusive economic zones, the tremendous amount of water, ocean they’re responsible for, you realize it’s not so much that they’re small island states as much as they’re big ocean states.

These countries were absolutely instrumental in calling on the U.S., calling on Germany, calling on the world’s conscience to address what is to them, and to all of us, an existential threat. They are on the front lines of climate change, and resilience and adaptation are not enough.

Terrorism, as I mentioned, is another threat that Southeast Asia is mobilizing to address. This includes countering violent extremist messaging, countering the recruitment of terrorist fighters to ISIL.

Indonesia, for example, is the world’s largest Muslim country. It has a commitment to a pluralist society embedded in its constitution. Indonesia’s not only a natural partner, it’s an essential partner to all of us in international efforts to counter violent extremism.

Malaysia, next door, also a Muslim-majority country, is about to open its own messaging center that aims at repudiating the hypocrisy and the false ideology of ISIL recruiters.

Other countries like Australia and the Philippines have very

legitimate, well-founded concerns about fighters being radicalized to attack at home or to join the fight in Syria and many more countries in Asia, as well as in Europe, are working with or in the counter-ISIL coalition.

Another example is global health. Asian nations learned from the SARS epidemic that infectious disease is not a localized problem. That’s why they helped respond to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

And nations like Japan and Korea and China who sent personnel into the hot zone now recognize the importance of building strong health infrastructure throughout the developing world in order to prevent or contain pandemics that could reach them at home. That’s the logic behind initiatives like the Global Health Security Agenda.

Let me talk, though, a little more broadly about security. Europe, through NATO and through the EU, has clearly developed the world’s strongest regional institutions as part of the post-World War II order, and having served myself for a number of years in Europe, I am not underestimating the challenge of reconciling competing interests among member states. But having served in Asia, I don’t underestimate the value of having a forum and a system to try to do so.

So although it’s barely a decade old, the most important and promising institution in the Asia-Pacific for addressing regional strategic and security issues is the East Asia Summit -- EAS. It’s held annually with ASEAN chairing, ASEAN in the driver’s seat.

So President Obama’s decision when he first came to office in 2009 that he was going to participate in EAS has helped strengthen the forum to the point where this past year on its tenth anniversary, the 18 leaders agreed to give EAS a much greater coordination role at the center of the region’s multilateral security architecture.

And one of the things that the EAS does is give the leaders a place where they can discuss regional security problems, where they can discuss global security issues, and because the rotating head of ASEAN year on year also chairs the EAS, ASEAN really is at the center of EAS. It means that big countries can’t highjack the agenda, can’t dominate the meeting.

So instead of a great power rivalry that turns Southeast Asia into a battlefield, instead of a tug of war between, say, the U.S. and China, you have the U.S. and China, Japan and Australia, India and Russia, Korea and New Zealand, all of these partners engaging with ASEAN as partners.

That’s a healthy development and I’m convinced that the EAS will prove more and more valuable as it becomes more operational over time.

Shared security in the Asia-Pacific continues to rest on a strong U.S. military presence and a growing network of alliances and close partnerships that promote interoperability and coordination.

America’s traditional alliances in Asia are stronger and more resilient than ever before.

We’ve modernized both our presence and our partnerships to adjust to 21st century challenges and realities, and we’re working jointly with partners to counter piracy, to protect lawful commerce and freedom of navigation, to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises like irregular migration.

We’re expanding our military-to-military engagement. We’re participating in training, exchanges and exercises with every single country in the Asia-Pacific region except North Korea, where we are regrettably forced to expand our deterrence and expand our capabilities to address North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear threat.

Now the U.S. is not the only partner that’s actively seeking to shape the emergence of regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific or seeking to strengthen and modernize our military to meet new challenges. Look at China. China’s very much doing the same thing.

Before I talk more about China, let me just right here and now dispose of the idea that the U.S. approaches our relationship with China as a zero sum game. That we are out to contain China. That we want to stunt its growth in an effort to claw and hold onto our slipping global dominance. This is a story line that I hear, and it’s not true.

First of all, reports of the demise of the U.S. economy are premature. America’s economy is doing pretty well.

Secondly, if we kept score in the world on the basis of our relative share of the global economy, if we thought that having a bigger slice of a smaller pie was a good thing, there never would have been a Marshall Plan, there wouldn’t be a modern Japan.

Now President Obama has said this repeatedly in public. Having worked for him, I’ve heard him say it behind closed doors in the Oval Office when no cameras were present, so I know he means it.

We, the United States, want a China that is stable and that is prospering. It’s not altruism, it’s self-interest.

Bill Clinton as president supported China’s membership in the WTO.

George W. Bush established the Strategic Economic Dialogue with China.

Barack Obama expanded those talks. He intensified leaders’ level dialogue. He’s built up our U.S.-China military-to-military ties. He’s extended visas for Chinese students and businessmen. He’s promoted tourism. He’s worked with China on climate, on clean energy. Supported China’s APEC chairmanship, its G20 chairmanship, and much, much more.

The notion that we’re trying to contain or undermine China simply doesn’t bear up to scrutiny. Instead, our strategy is to engage China widely, candidly, at high levels, and work to put a floor under the relationship so that it can absorb stress, it can absorb crises.

We actively pursue meaningful cooperation wherever there’s an alignment of U.S. and Chinese interests. So in peacekeeping, in Afghanistan, in Iran, in North Korea, at the G20, at COP 21.

But we also directly address areas of disagreement with a view to wherever possible resolving them. Where we can’t resolve them, to narrowing them. And where we can’t narrow them, at least to managing them.

Not to sweep them under the rug. Not to acquiesce to some mystical principle of core interests which mean that you can’t go there, you can’t talk about that. If those core interests violate global norms or universal rights, of course we’ll talk about them.

Now that can make for tension. That compels us to hold China to account when it uses cyber theft to take our companies’ intellectual property and commercialize it, sell it back to them. When it tries to coerce smaller neighbors or when its projects in the developing world lead to environmental damage and unsustainable debt loads and official corruption.

So what we want is for China’s rise to not destabilize, to not be detrimental to the interest of the region or the global system. And what we’re trying to do, and this is no secret, what we’re trying to do is to help ensure that China’s rise is consistent with universal rights and the rule of law.

Sure, this puts limits on China’s ability to act. But the United States accepts limits. Germany accepts limits. All countries have to. And those limits, frankly, pale in comparison to the benefits that we derive and certainly that China derives from a rules-based international system.

And we’ve never suggested that the rules can’t evolve, to adapt to new circumstances and respond to legitimate concerns by countries.

What we don’t accept is the idea that rules can be disregarded when they’re inconvenient or that they can be supplanted by fiat or by creating regional spheres of influence.

Now I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that the European formula of integration would necessarily work for Asia. But I don’t believe that the Asians are somehow so unique that Europe’s experience isn’t relevant to them. The Atlantic and the Pacific regions have a lot to teach one another, a lot to learn from one another’s example.

At the same time, we have to be cognizant of their respective histories. Asia has known a variety of models through the centuries. The ancient imperial model where the Chinese emperor was surrounded by tributary vassal states. The colonial model where Western powers divided and exploited North and Southeast Asia. Imperial Japan’s military push to create a “Pan-Asian co-prosperity sphere.”

But the model that has fostered extraordinary economic growth, that’s fostered human dignity and remarkable stability has been the model that we have built together, painstakingly, in the aftermath of the war. It’s a rules-based regional order. This is the environment that has allowed China to prosper. This is the model that Pacific nations should build on.

And as important as U.S. leadership has been and will remain, the core of the model isn’t the U.S. The core of the model is respect for the rule of law. It’s respecting the principle that the rules should apply equally to all, to big and to small. Respecting universal values and human rights. This is the trend line that matters most in the Asia-Pacific. This is the trend line that we should seek to reinforce.

Now I have spoken a lot about rules, but I have violated arguably the most important rule for any speaker, which is to keep it short and leave time for questions and answers. So with your permission, Marina, I will stop there. and if anybody’s still conscious, we can move to questions and answers.

Thank you very much.