United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, who recently returned from a 10-day trip to Asia, issued an emphatic justification of the American strategic rebalance toward Asia last night at Asia Society New York. In conversation with Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carter described the ways in which the U.S. Department of Defense is “walking the walk” in the Asia Pacific region.
Carter said the United States is “at a strategic inflection point in national defense” and that it’s time for the U.S. “to look up, look around, and look out, to what the world will need next — to the security challenges that will define our future.”
The Deputy Secretary of Defense warned against “taking security for granted,” a mistake Carter said “we can’t afford to make.” He went on to explain that “if that security were ever to go away, if old animosities were ever to take root, and conflict to occur, all of the people in the Asia Pacific region that have been lifted up into prosperity in the post-war period would be set back significantly. The global economy would be set back significantly. We don’t want that to happen — and that’s partly why we’re rebalancing our efforts in the region.” Carter described the rebalancing as a win-win situation: “It’s good for us, and it’s good for everyone in the region.”
Responding to those who have speculated that the pivot to Asia is just a thinly veiled refocusing of crosshairs on China, Carter asserted, “The rebalance is not about any single country or group of countries. It’s not about China. It’s not about the United States. It’s about a peaceful Asia Pacific region.”
Carter made clear that the Department of Defense would continue to sustain and expand existing efforts despite budget cuts, and that “the Asia Pacific region will see more of the Army and Marine Corps for the simple reason that they will not be in Iraq or Afghanistan anymore.”
Carter concluded by reiterating that American “engagement with the region has always been one of partnership and cooperation… to ensure the security and stability of the Asia Pacific region so that every state in the region may prosper. We in the Pentagon are investing to sustain peace and working with our partners every step of the way.”
Video: Highlights from Ashton B. Carter's Asia Society talk (5 min., 25 sec.)