News | Nov. 19, 2020

The United States' Enhanced & Enduring Commitment to the Pacific Islands Region

By ADM Phil Davidson U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Public Affairs Office

ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

The United States' Enhanced & Enduring Commitment to the Pacific Islands Region
East-West Center Virtual Webinar

19 November 2020

As Prepared for Delivery

 

 

Thank you to the East-West Center for the opportunity to participate in today’s discussion.

The United States has long been committed to our allies and partners in promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, and we remain dedicated to the Pacific Islands’ future security and prosperity.

This commitment includes the dedicated resources, consistent efforts to enhance capacity-building, and direct training of people to support the current and future security challenges facing the Pacific Islands.

Of course, our first and foremost priority in the Pacific Islands is the defense of U.S. territories and protection of our American citizens.

The next priority is to the Freely Associated States (Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands), which the United States maintains both security and direct defense obligations.

We are also working closely with Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and others to ensure peace and stability in line with our Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision.

As we further our engagement in the Pacific Islands, we will continue to look to increase our activities alongside our allies and partners in the region.

Our intent is to build upon our historic and cultural links and our shared values to address the major security challenges, including:
- Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing;
- Narcotics and human trafficking;
- Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR); and
- Helping develop the capability and capacity to mitigate disease and pandemics.

Additionally, we continue to enhance our support to regional security by broadening our military exercises, increasing the number of defense attachés, and expanding the National Guard State Partnership Program throughout the Indo-Pacific.

In terms of maritime security, we also have 13 ship rider agreements across the region, where we embark defense and law enforcement officials from the Pacific Islands on our ships to enhance maritime security.

We are deeply interested and continue to contribute to the development of fusion centers in Singapore and throughout the Pacific that combine and analyze sensor data from aircraft, ships, and space-based systems, build a common maritime picture and, together with other countries, improve the collective awareness of the maritime domain.

Pacific Fusion Centers will help raise the awareness and collectively combat challenges in the region, like illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and human and narcotics trafficking.

It is in all of our interests to broaden information sharing to enhance security and access for the global commons.

Of course, USINDOPACOM also contributes to HADR efforts and the impacts of climate change in the Pacific Islands.

As an example, INDOPACOM provided active-duty forces to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands for nearly five months in 2018 following a devastating 500-year storm. The Joint Force cleared roads, fixed roofs, and provided basic necessities like drinking water.

In addition to providing resources, we have a Center for Excellence in Disaster Management dedicated to training U.S. and foreign military personnel, government officials, and nongovernment agents in how to command and control resources in the wake of natural or man-made disasters.

In fact, we export the course to the Pacific Islands, enhancing other governments’ abilities to more effectively respond to future disasters.

Lastly, the U.S. continues to complement, coordinate, and collaborate with our allies and partners to counter malign behavior, corruption, and coercion in the Indo-Pacific.
We work with allies and partners to ensure the freedom of the seas and skies, to ensure strategic lines of communication remain open, and to further demonstrate our commitment to the security and prosperity of the region.

The Pacific-QUAD is a wonderful example of a multilateral engagement between the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France that has been exceptionally effective in its coordination with the Forum Fisheries Agency Regional Surveillance Center in the Solomon Islands, fighting against Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing in the central and western Pacific.

Indeed, the United States’ engagement and enduring commitment to the Pacific Islands is fundamental to our vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion today.