Commemorating U.S. Peace and Security Partnerships in the Pacific
Secretary of State
Thank you very much, Admiral Locklear for your strong leadership and your wise insights and your understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing this vast region. Also, Rear Admiral Ray, thank you for your commitment to the security in the region and the very important work that you are doing with the Coast Guard. I’m delighted to see all of you here as we discuss peace and security and the role that the United States has played for many years and the role that we intend to play.
When we talk about our engagement in the Asia Pacific, we really are looking at a model of partnerships that reflect our shared values, delivers practical benefits, and helps create stronger economies and societies. Our goal is to help the island nations of the Pacific realize their own aspirations, reach your own goals. And therefore, we are working on everything from expanding economic opportunity to protecting the environment to fighting gender-based violence, and we particularly honor the sacrifice that many of our Pacific partners are making to bring peace and security to war-torn areas around the globe, including places like Afghanistan and Sudan.
Now I know there are those who see America’s renewed engagements over the last three and a half years in the Pacific perhaps as a hedge against particular countries. But the fact is, as I said this morning, the United States welcomes cooperation with a number of partners, including Japan, the European Union, China, and others. The Pacific is big enough for all of us. We share a common interest in advancing peace, security, and prosperity in this vital region.
So we are doubling down in two areas. We already work closely with our partners on a range of transnational and maritime security issues, including crime, trafficking in persons, nuclear nonproliferation, disaster response and preparedness. But the two that I want to highlight today are – the first is maritime awareness. Under our Shiprider program, ships and aircraft from the U.S. Coast Guard host law enforcement officers from Pacific island nations to patrol their own maritime areas. The benefits can be significant. Since just 2009, for example, this program has helped KiriBati us that more than $4 million in fines for illegal fishing. Now we’re working to expand our Shiprider partnership to include the United States Navy in addition to the United States Coast Guard. This will allow countries to take advantage of U.S. Navy ships that are already in the region or are transiting through the region to get help enforcing their own laws.
Additionally, we are working with Australia, New Zealand, and France to strengthen our Pacific maritime surveillance partnership, which puts a particular focus on fisheries. All of these steps will help strengthen regional law enforcement and promote security, with the goal of making sure that the people of the region benefit from your abundant ocean resources.
And that brings me to the second area I want to mention. Our work to reduce the number of unexploded bombs, shells, and other ordnance left over from World War Two that unfortunately still litter the lands and waters of the region. I’m aware that no one knows the full extent of the problem, but we do recognize it is a crucial matter for security and prosperity. Decaying ordnance leaks chemicals that pollute the water and soil. That makes it harder for people to develop their land, promote tourism, and spark economic growth. Ordnance and small arms can be recovered and used by criminals. And it can take a terrible toll on the local populations – Children and adults who lose limbs by picking up or stepping on some of the remaining unexploded ordnance.
In recent years, the United States Government has committed more than $2 million to help identify, remove, and destroy unexploded ordnance throughout the Pacific islands. Today, I’m pleased to announce we will seek to provide an additional $3.5 million in funding and training for these efforts. We want to promote a more integrated approach to assessing unexploded ordnance and training local teams to identify and remove it safely.
The United States, as you heard from both Admirals, is proud to support these efforts and our many partnerships and our longstanding friendships in the region. Seventy years ago our countries stood together to fight for security and peace in the Pacific. At the end of that terrible world war, who could have predicted where we would be in 70 years?
The United States did not leave the Pacific, instead we focused on making sure that the region continued to be safe and secure so that you could develop, you could pursue commerce, you could raise your children in peace, you could become more prosperous. We’re going to work together to ensure that all the people of the Pacific islands, in the 21st century, have the chance to fulfill their own God-given potential. That is the hope that the United States brings to our partnerships and our friendships. We have put very real initiatives behind these hopes and these commitments, and we will be with you over the years and decades, and I would predict centuries to come, as we see these islands continue to prosper, to go from strength to strength. Thank you all very much.