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Pacific Islands Society

PO Box 632 | Ebensburg, PA 15931 | USA

843.271.6891 ph web
Domestic Non-Profit Organization
The Reality of Americas Pacific
By Mr. Mark Tokola
Published: May 28, 2013

Thank you very much for that gracious
introduction, Keiko, and thank you all for your
warm welcome this evening.

I feel privileged to be part of this years
Ambassador Speaking Series.

Having addressed SOAS students before I am
expecting a well-informed audience, which of
course is both a pleasure and somewhat of a

I know that youll be ready to engage in an
honest and unrestrained question-and-answer
session shortly.

At SOAS, it seems in my experience, that free
speech is not just encouraged its the house

As an American, of course, that makes me feel
right at home.

I should also note that I feel at home here at the
Pacific Islands Society, since something thats
often forgotten in Europe is that America is itself
a Pacific nation.

To quote President Obama: The Pacific Ocean
doesnt so much separate us as connect us.
Even so, Americas so-called Pacific Pivot has
been without doubt the most dissected,
examined and evaluated of this administrations
foreign policy priorities.

Perhaps, even, of all its policy priorities.

Not especially scientific I know, but tap Pacific
Pivot into Google and you get something like
eight million results.

Obamacare only gets you six million.

So today, I plan to discuss what the Pacific
Pivot is, why it is, and address some of the
misconceptions about it.

It is true that as we look across the globe, one
region stands out in terms of its growing
importance to the long-term interests of the
United States and thats Asia-Pacific.

All the key global trends point to Asia-Pacific as
being critical to the future.

Its home to nearly half the worlds population,
several of the largest and fastest-growing
economies, and some of the worlds busiest
ports and shipping lanes.

It also presents challenges, from military
buildups and concerns about the proliferation of
nuclear weapons, to natural disasters and the
worlds worst levels of greenhouse gas

Secretary of State John Kerry reinforced the
importance of Asia-Pacific when he spoke of
Americas Pacific Dream last month.

Mark Tokola and the Acting Deputy Chief of
Mission at the Embassy of the United States in

Ambassador Series
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013
In short, the idea he outlined was for us to
translate our strongest values into an
unprecedented regional partnership of security,
economic, and social cooperation.

This concept follows on from his predecessor,
Hillary Clinton, who declared the 21st century
as Americas Pacific Century.

Youll also be well aware, Im sure, that last year
Secretary Clinton became first U.S. Secretary of
State to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum
Post-Forum Dialogue.

So it is fair to say the Obama administration has
made a major push to increase our
engagement across the region.

I say increase, because as you will see, the
U.S. historically has been very active in the

In terms of the Pacific Islands in particular this
push has meant resolute commitment on a
number of local and global challenges.

Currently, the United States spends $330 million
every year supporting the nations and people of
the Pacific Islands.

Additionally, our Export-Import bank is active in
the region, providing $3 billion for investments
in Papua New Guinea, helping in the last few
years to finance U.S. trade with Tonga, Tuvalu,
Fiji, and Micronesia.

And our USAID office in Papua New Guinea is
strengthening our development partnerships in
the region.

One of our shared priorities is encouraging
sustainable economic development that
protects biodiversity and the regions
magnificent natural resources.

As part of this environmental stewardship we
are working with Kiribati to protect, preserve
and conserve marine ecosystems.

A new USAID program will also help coastal
communities increase their capacity to adapt to
the effects of climate change, while another will
help develop the regions renewable energy

We are also committed to working with our
Pacific partners to renew the Tuna Treaty, to
ensure sustainability and a fair, transparent
return for all.

Throughout the region we seek to advance a
sound economic agenda that includes more
free trade and increased investment in energy.

And we strongly support good governance
because sustainable growth and capable
leadership go hand in hand with the respect for
the rule of law and human rights.

That is why the U.S. Department of State
continues to help link Pacific Island nations with
other countries in the region to increase
capacity for building anti-corruption and law
enforcement communities.

Another priority the United States shares with
the Pacific Islands is security.

Hundreds of U.S. vessels from our Navy and
Coast Guard, as well as our fishing vessels, sail
the regions waters.

We know how important the ocean and the
resources are to economic development, food
security and traditional culture.

So we have worked to be a strong partner in
fighting illegal and unregulated fishing and
other crimes that take place at sea such as
human trafficking.

The U.S. Coast Guard already has security
partnerships with nine Pacific Island nations,
and we are working to expand them.

And were determined to increase efforts to rid
the regions waterways of unexploded ordnance
to protect peoples lives and security by
investing $3.5 million for assessment, training
and cleanup projects.

Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013
A third priority of ours is supporting the people
of the Pacific, especially women, because long
term progress depends on realizing the
potential and skills of everyone.

The Rarotonga Partnership for the
Advancement of Pacific Island Women is a
collaborative venture with Australia and New
Zealand to identify rising women leaders across
the region and connect them with networks of

And this year, the U.S. Navys Pacific
Partnership has returned.

Already, such deployments have collectively
provided medical, dental and educational
services to a quarter of a million people.

Investments such as these in the economy,
security and people of the region reflect the
depth of our commitment to the Pacific Islands.

We greatly value our relationships and we want
our partnership with these proud nations to
continue to strengthen and multiply.

The same goes for right across the Asia-Pacific
region, which is what the Obama administration
has been intently focused on since day one.

Nevertheless, I do feel that the intense scrutiny
and analysis of Americas renewed focus on
this part of the world has encouraged three
distinct myths to take hold.

The first is that the pivot is in some respects
an entirely new policy.

The second is that it is principally a military
undertaking, concerned with containing China.

And the third is that by turning our face towards
Asia-Pacific, America is at the same time
turning our back on Europe.

Each of these is wrong.

And I want this evening to take this opportunity
to explain the reality of our engagement.

Let me begin with the idea that this is a
departure from existing and long-established
U.S. foreign policy.

In fact, the phrase Pacific Pivot which
thankfully seems to have been dropped from
the government lexicon was always somewhat

Originally designed to send a reassuring
message of increased engagement to our
partners in the region, it actually
overemphasized change rather than the

A rebalancing of U.S. foreign policy towards the
Pacific is in fact something that President
Clintons administration championed back in the

Twenty years ago in 1993 for example,
President Clinton hosted the Leaders Summit of
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in

With APEC and other initiatives, the United
States sought to be involved in and assist the
enormous economic growth taking place in the

Therefore, what President Obama has done is
simply to revive and revitalize a well-establish
policy that was a strategic response to a
fundamental shift in the dynamics of the global

Moreover and far more importantly any
suggestion that the rebalancing is a recent
development also ignores a fundamental truth:
America is and has always been a Pacific

Even from its earliest days, the United States
has been engaged in trade with east Asia.

In February 1784, the Empress of China left
New York, arriving at Macau six months later.

The ship returned to the U.S. the following May
with a consignment of Chinese goods, which
generated a profit of $30,000.
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013

In 1844, China granted the United States
trading rights in the Treaty of Wanghia.

Eleven years later, the Treaty of Kanagawa
granted access to the markets of Japan.

And in 1912, the U.S. established a naval
station at Pearl Harbor.

More recently, of course, Americans made
extraordinary sacrifices in the Pacific many on
the very islands represented in this society
during World War II.

In the years after, the U.S. not only entered into
the NATO alliance but also into a series of
alliances in the Pacific, principally with Japan
and South Korea.

As a result, around 100,000 American troops
have been stationed in the region for decades.

That presence has helped underwrite the
security, which has not only made it possible for
the people of the region to trade and travel
freely; but also protected the Pacific sea-lanes
through which a great deal of the worlds
commerce passes.
Evidence of our long-standing links with Asia-
Pacific also shows itself closer to home.

Indeed, the connection is visible every single
day on the streets of nearly all Americas big
cities and most obviously along the West coast.

The San Francisco Bay Areas population is
30% Asian, not just in San Francisco proper,
but the surrounding counties as well.

Its worth remembering that Los Angeles in
California is as close to Tokyo as it is to London.

And theres no doubt that large Chinese, Thai,
Korean and Japanese immigrant populations
have added to the diversity and vitality of the
United States.

Across business, public services, the arts, sport
and charities and in many, many more areas
Asian-Americans make an enormous cultural,
social and economic contribution.

Quite simply, modern America wouldnt be the
same without them.

Over several generations, the people of the
Asia-Pacific nations have looked to America for
trade, security and opportunity.

And there is nothing new in us looking
westward across the Pacific for the same

For years, we have had widespread, enduring
interests in the region, and they continue to
demand our widespread, enduring engagement

Which brings me to the second myth that has
flourished in the last few years: that our
approach towards Asia-Pacific is an exclusively
military one.

The United States has a military presence in the

But this is not because we are pursuing a policy
of containment against China or anyone else,
as some suggest.

Rather, the presence of American forces is
primarily to increase confidence and stability.

Take for example the decision to send up to
2,000 U.S. Marines to northern Australia.

Well, quite frankly, 2,000 Marines however
good they are could never be realistically
considered a containment force.

Their deployment is instead part of a broader
effort to increase our capacity to respond to a
range of challenges and threats.

From humanitarian crises and natural disasters,
such as earthquakes and tsunamis; to counter-
piracy, counter-terrorism, and counter-
insurgency operations across Southeast Asia.

Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013
The presence of U.S. forces in the region also
provides maritime security, which in turn
guarantees the free flow of commerce.

Indeed, one of our chief concerns as a Pacific
power and a Pacific partner is to promote trade
and sustainable economic growth for all.

Evidence of that came in President Obamas
State of the Union address when he pledged to
complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will
increase economic and commercial integration.

When completed, the TPP will bring together
economies from across the region developed
and developing alike into a single 21st
century trading community.

And it will enshrine our shared goal of broad-
based, sustainable growth that creates jobs,
expands opportunity, protects workers and the
environment, respects intellectual property, and
fosters innovation.

That requires a rules-based order that is open,
free, transparent, and fair.

As a member of APEC, the United States will
continue therefore to make the case that, as a
region, we must pursue not just more growth
but better growth.

This is not merely a matter of economics.

It goes to the central question of which values
we will embrace and defend.

Openness, freedom, transparency, and fairness
have meaning far beyond the commercial

And just as we advocate for them in an
economic context, we also advocate for them in
political and social contexts.

We support not only open economies but open

So we are also looking to our Pacific
partnerships to build a region where all the
people can enjoy the full benefits of democracy,
the rule of law, and human rights.

Human rights are the essential foundation for a
free and an open society.

History teaches us that countries whose policies
respect and reflect these rights are far more
likely to succeed and to be better long-term

Challenges remain, but the trend lines in Asia-
Pacific are heading in the right direction: the
direction of reform and responsive government.

And countries that have transformed
themselves in this way, such as Mongolia and
Indonesia, are now beginning to serve as
examples to other countries.

But we, the Pacific nations, need to undergo
another transformation of similar magnitude
one that can save lives and property, and
create jobs.

Together, we are the worlds biggest
consumers of energy and the biggest emitters
of greenhouse gases.

So we must collaborate and cooperate to
revolutionize the types of energy we use and
how much of them we use.

Because, quite simply, that is the primary
solution to climate change a threat, as the
Pacific Islands know more than most, that
grows more challenging and serious by the

So America is partnering with Japan to realize
the mutual benefits of natural gas and we also
appreciate Chinas increasing investments into
clean and alternative and renewable energy

Under President Obamas leadership, the U.S.
is doing better than ever to combat climate
change and our partnerships in Asia-Pacific are
critical to this global effort.
This broad-based approach to the region then,
goes well beyond defense and security.
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013

And it means that we are locking in substantially
increased investment right across the board to
support the overall development of what is
undoubtedly a complex and consequential

Chinas emergence as a rising global power
has sparked a discussion about the
sustainability of Chinas phenomenal economic
growth and what that means in terms of its
position in the new international order.

And whether U.S.-China relations will be
marked by suspicion and confrontation or by
healthy competition.

We believe that a thriving China is good for both
China and America. We all need China to
succeed and President Obama has been clear
on many occasions that the United States
desires a positive and collaborative

America neither seeks nor invites confrontation
or containment and we see no inherent reason
why there should be tension or friction between
the United States and China.

That is not to suggest that there are no sensitive
issues between us.

But what has marked out President Obamas
time in office is his intent on expanding and
intensifying the dialogue between our

In his view, it is imperative that U.S.-China
relations are set on a stable and sustainable

The reason is straightforward: The United States
and China face many of the same threats and
share many of the same objectives and
responsibilities. We have shared interests.

Given the scale of todays global challenges,
we have to work in partnership there is simply
no other choice.
So the U.S. and China have, for example, set up
the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

This brings together policymakers from across
both governments to discuss a range of issues
from trade barriers to climate change.

And because we sometimes view risks from
different perspectives, or favor a different way
of dealing with them, it is as important for our
militaries to work with each other as it is for our

Thats why we have also established the
Strategic Security Dialogue a forum for
discussion on sensitive topics, including cyber
and maritime security.

One example of security cooperation between
the United States and China is our work to
counter the threat posed by the spread of
nuclear weapons, materials and technology.

In particular, we are striving together to
maintain peace and stability on the Korean
peninsula and to achieve a complete
denuclearization of North Korea.

China has also spoken out forcefully on the
dangers of proliferation, criticizing Irans
nuclear program.

Economic issues have been a distinct focus of
our nations increasing cooperation.

Trade and investment ties are growing rapidly
in both directions.

And with that, of course, comes greater mutual
interest, indeed a greater stake, in the success
of the other.

More importantly as the worlds two largest
economies we are working together to
promote strong, sustainable and balanced
global growth.

But even as we cooperate, we also compete.
That is the nature of the global economy.

Healthy competition is beneficial for both
nations. However, it must take place on a level
playing field.
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013

We still face challenges when it comes to free
trade, fair currency valuations, and concerns of
industrial espionage and sabotage conducted
in cyberspace.

Nor am I dismissing, or ignoring, the fact that
tensions exist elsewhere.

For example, from what the U.S. considers to
be provocative Chinese naval patrols in the
East China Sea that is increasing friction with
our long-standing ally, Japan.

Or from ensuring freedom of navigation in the
South China Sea, where China has maritime
disputes with Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei,
Malaysia and Taiwan.

On this point, Im aware that several weeks ago
you heard from the Philippines Ambassador.

So let me take this opportunity to state the U.S.
position, which is this:

We believe that all parties should clarify and
pursue their territorial and maritime claims in
accordance with international law, including as
reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea

And consistent with international law, legitimate
claims to maritime space in the South China
Sea should be derived solely from legitimate
claims to land features.

We also hope to see tangible progress between
ASEAN and China on developing a Code of
Conduct for the South China Sea before next
months ASEAN Regional Forum.

Beyond such disputes, the U.S. also continues
to speak candidly to Beijing on human rights
issues and moving towards a more open
political system.

But just as were clear that Americas
commitment to Asia-Pacific is not all about
military deployments, so we should be clear
that neither is it all about China.

We are strengthening partnerships throughout
the region.

With Japan, where our alliance remains
essential to regional security and our vibrant
commercial ties contribute to prosperity in both

With Thailand, where were partnering for
disaster relief.

With the Philippines, where were increasing
ship visits and training and helping to support
the people as they continue to embrace

And with the Republic of Korea, with whom we
concluded a free trade agreement last year
our biggest free trade agreement since the
North America Free Trade Agreement.

Enhancing our engagement in the region also
comes through our partnership with Indonesia
against piracy and violent extremism.

In our work with Malaysia to prevent

In our closer cooperation with Vietnam and
Cambodia in particular on human rights

And by re-establishing relations with Burma,
including a historic first Presidential visit to the
country immediately after the U.S. elections last

There is also our ongoing commitments to the
Pacific Islands, which I outlined earlier.

The United States has a long and proud history
as a Pacific nation and in building lasting
partnerships in the region.

It is one of the principal reasons why that part of
the world is now more secure and more
prosperous than it has ever been.
Our goal in the coming months and years is to
build on this progress by intensifying our
multilateral and bilateral partnerships.

Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013
That is why the third myth that we are turning
away from our traditional allies in Europe is
also wrong.

Hillary Clinton summed up this whole issue best
when she said recently that the U.S. is not
pivoting away from Europe to Asia, but wants to
pivot with Europe to Asia.

All countries are increasingly looking to this part
of the world, or should be few more so than
the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister has already made several
visits to the region, including in the first few
months of his Premiership and he is planning

We welcome the increased engagement in the
region of other countries who share our
ambitions and our values, especially the UK
knowing that we can work in close cooperation
on a range of issues.

We believe that the countries of Asia-Pacific will
also welcome increased attention from the
European Union, not only in the commercial
sense but also from the strategic point of view.

There is no substitute for the Atlantic Alliance in
dealing with global issues.

In the words of Secretary Kerry: The
rebalancing that President Obama is engaged
in does not and will not come at the expense of
any relationship in Europe whatsoever.

In fact, we want more engagement with Europe.

As evidence, consider Vice-President Bidens
speech at the Munich Security Conference,
which went way beyond the usual reassuring
rhetoric and reflected this new sensibility in

He reiterated that Europe is the cornerstone of
our engagement with the rest of the world; the
catalyst for our global cooperation; and that we
remain each others indispensable partner of
first resort.

One point often overlooked in all the talk of
BRICs and TIMS and all the other emerging
powers is that Europe remains Americas
largest economic partner.

We share more than $600 billion in annual trade
that creates and sustains millions of jobs and
we have an overall commercial relationship of
$5 trillion.

Both the EU and U.S. economies are two-and-a-
half times that of China the Atlantic economic
space is five times that of China.

And of course, with our mutual commitment to
starting negotiations, there is now the very
exciting prospect of a Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership.

The launch of TTIP heralds a new era in the
transatlantic relationship, one decades in

It has the potential not only to take U.S.-EU
relations to a new level but also to reinforce our
shared global authority and leadership.

It wont be easy. Trade deals never are and I
say that as an old trade negotiator.

But everyone in the Obama administration
believes we can work through the difficulties
and we are determined to do so.

Beyond economics and trade, the U.S.-Europe
relationship is growing stronger in the areas of
diplomacy and development, inside Asia and

Here are just a few examples.

At the recent G8 foreign ministerial, the nations
announced in regard to Burma their firm
intention to continue to support ongoing political
and economic reforms, to help the authorities
tackle the important challenges that remain,
and to work closely with other donors to ensure
our assistance is used effectively to address the
needs of the people of Burma.

Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 28, 2013
On Iran, the P-5+1 initiative, which the EU is
leading with some success, is critical in our
efforts to avoid confrontation.

And, finally, joint assistance to Afghanistan
since 2002 has provided concrete progress in
areas such as public health, demining, and
rural development.

We strongly believe that cooperation and
collaboration with our allies in Europe and the
West enriches our efforts in the East, in
particular in Asia-Pacific.

Americas engagement in Asia-Pacific is not
new, it is not driven by military priorities and nor
does it come at the expense of our other
partnerships around the world.

But we are fully aware of the opportunities and
possibilities that abound in Asia-Pacific across
a range of areas.

And as a Pacific power it is natural that the
United States taps into that potential, just as we
have a responsibility to help our neighbors
overcome the challenges they face.

We are committed to doing so in a spirit of
partnership through forums like ASEAN, APEC,
and of course the Pacific Islands Forum.

All countries have a role to play.

More countries than ever have a voice in global

We see more paths to power opening up as
nations gain influence through the strength of
their economies rather than their militaries.

And political and technological changes are
empowering citizens, activists and corporations
as never before.

Nowhere more so than in Asia-Pacific.

Thank you.

The views expressed are those of the author.