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Adm. Mullen's Speech at the 2010 Asia Society Washington's Annual Dinner

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the Asia Society Washington Awards Dinner on June 9, 2010.

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the Asia Society Washington Awards Dinner on June 9, 2010.

Under our overarching duty to defend the country, I see our responsibilities to the region as three-fold.

First is to meet our security commitments to our allies.  This is unwavering.  From the bedrock alliances we have with the Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, to burgeoning relationships we foster with emerging partners like Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, to name but a few, we are duty-bound and will remain so to dedicate our might to mutual defense. 

Those who need our help may depend on it.  Those who question our sincerity need not.

Our second responsibility, tied to the first, is to help secure the free and unfettered use of the commons.  By this I mean sea, air, space, and now cyberspace, through which the flow of goods, services and information must travel.  As you all know, half of the world's economy and its population calls the Asia-Pacific region home.  The region accounts for a third of the U.S. two-way trade, more than $600 billion annually, and 400 billion (dollars) in direct U.S. investment.

And more than half of Asia's oil is imported from the Middle East, passing, as it must, through the narrow Strait of Malacca before reaching its destination.  Indeed, the success of Indonesia's Integrated Maritime Surveillance System over the last few years and the positive relationship between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in surveilling the Strait of Malacca are great examples of how military forces can cooperate to improve security.  We must find more, and for our part, we must be willing to do more.

Just this week, United States Pacific Command kicked off a maritime exercise with Cambodia, marking that country's first participation in this exercise series and making Cambodia the first new country to join since 1995.  It's a good start, but securing the commons requires more than just exercises.  It requires real investments and real strategies.

Anti-access and area denial are not simply buzzwords we use to argue for more money in the budget.  These are real capabilities being pursued by real people, and we would do well to bear them in mind as we build the force for the future.

In particular, I remain extremely concerned about competition in cyberspace, not because competition in and of itself is a bad thing - in fact, the opposite is true - but because cyber remains a global common for which we do not have established processes or procedures, in which international mores are the easiest to flout without consequence, and upon which our entire way of life depends.

In the next 20 years, cyberspace will change how we fight much more so than it does today.  In fact, it may be where we fight and how we fight.  And, given the lack of controls upon cyber in some places and excessive controls upon it in others, such an ad hoc approach to management bodes well for no one along the vast stretch of Asia.

And that brings me to our final responsibility:  regional stability itself.  Now, I certainly don't believe that military forces alone can bring about regional stability in an area as vast and diverse as Asia.  Nor am I suggesting that we'll ever really achieve something akin to perfection in this regard.  But I do believe that in the attempt - in the pursuit of stability there is goodness and perhaps great effect, for from the effort comes a greater appreciation of mutual need, shared interests and capability

From the effort comes a greater focus on cooperation and collaboration and transparency, and from the effort comes reduced tensions and reduced risks of miscalculation.  And right now I would argue that's a much needed outcome.