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National Security Advisor Donilon's Remarks on U.S. Policy in Asia-Pacific, March 2013

Speaker: Thomas E. Donilon
Published March 11, 2013

National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon gave these remarks at Asia Society in New York on March 11, 2013. He discussed why the Obama administration "rebalanced" to Asia, how the United States will contribute to the region's security, and regional and economic architecture.

Excerpt from the speech:

"Why Rebalance Toward Asia

Let me begin by putting our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific in context. Every Administration faces the challenge of ensuring that cascading crises do not crowd out the development of long-term strategies to deal with transcendent challenges and opportunities.

After a decade defined by 9/11, two wars, and a financial crisis, President Obama took office determined to restore the foundation of the United States' global leadership—our economic strength at home. Since then the United States has put in place a set of policies that have put our economy on the path to recovery, and helped create six million U.S. jobs in the last thirty-five months.

At the same time, renewing U.S. leadership has also meant focusing our efforts and resources not just on the challenges that make today's headlines, but on the regions that will shape the global order in the decades ahead. That's why, from the outset—even before the President took office—he directed those of us on his national security team to engage in a strategic assessment, a truly global examination of our presence and priorities. We asked what the U.S. footprint and face to the world was and what it ought to be. We set out to identify the key national security interests that we needed to pursue. We looked around the world and asked: where are we over-weighted? Where are we underweighted?

That assessment resulted in a set of key determinations. It was clear that there was an imbalance in the projection and focus of U.S. power. It was the President's judgment that we were over-weighted in some areas and regions, including our military actions in the Middle East. At the same time, we were underweighted in other regions, such as the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, we believed this was our key geographic imbalance.

On one level, this reflected a recognition of the critical role that the United States has played in Asia for decades, providing the stabilizing foundation for the region's unprecedented social and economic development. Beyond this, our guiding insight was that Asia's future and the future of the United States are deeply and increasingly linked. Economically, Asia already accounts for more than one-quarter of global GDP. Over the next five years, nearly half of all growth outside the United States is expected to come from Asia. This growth is fueling powerful geopolitical forces that are reshaping the region: China's ascent, Japan's resilience, and the rise of a "Global Korea," an eastward-looking India and Southeast Asian nations more interconnected and prosperous than ever before.

These changes are unfolding at a time when Asia's economic, diplomatic and political rules of the road are still taking shape. The stakes for people on both sides of the Pacific are profound. And the U.S. rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific is also a response to the strong demand signal from leaders and publics across the region for U.S. leadership, economic engagement, sustained attention to regional institutions and defense of international rules and norms.

What Rebalancing Is, and What It Isn't

Against this backdrop, President Obama has been clear about the future that the United States seeks. And I would encourage anyone who has not already done so to read the President's address to the Australian parliament in Canberra in 2011. It is a definitive statement of U.S. policy in the region; a clarion call for freedom; and yet another example of how, when it comes to the Asia-Pacific, the United States is "all in."

As the President explained in Canberra, the overarching objective of the United States in the region is to sustain a stable security environment and a regional order rooted in economic openness, peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for universal rights and freedoms.

To pursue this vision, the United States is implementing a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.

These are the pillars of the U.S. strategy, and rebalancing means devoting the time, effort and resources necessary to get each one right. Here's what rebalancing does not mean. It doesn't mean diminishing ties to important partners in any other region. It does not mean containing China or seeking to dictate terms to Asia. And it isn't just a matter of our military presence. It is an effort that harnesses all elements of U.S. power—military, political, trade and investment, development and our values.

Perhaps most telling, this rebalance is reflected in the most valuable commodity in Washington: the President's time. It says a great deal, for instance, that President Obama made the determination that the United States would participate every year in the East Asia Summit at the Head of State level and hold U.S.-ASEAN summits; that he has met bilaterally with nearly every leader in Southeast Asia, either in the region or in Washington; and that he has engaged with China at an unprecedented pace, including twelve face-to-face meetings with Hu Jintao.

Let me turn to each pillar of our strategy and several of the challenges we face in 2013."

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