Admiral Harris' Full Speech
Commander of US Pacific Command discusses Asia-Pacific security and US Indonesia ties
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
The United States-Indonesia Bilateral Security Partnership
U.S. Indonesia Society & American Chamber of Commerce - Financial Hall
August 7, 2017
(Introduced by Mr. Theo Sambuaga, Co-Chair USINDO)
Thank you for that warm welcome Theo and a special thanks to Ambassador Donovan, the U.S. Indonesia Society and Brian Arnold, President of the American Chamber Indonesia for sponsoring this event and for the work you do to further U.S.-Indonesia relations.
This is my first trip to Indonesia as the PACOM Commander, and I’m honored to be here today to underscore the strategic partnership between Indonesia and the United States. I also had the opportunity to visit the Istiqlal Mosque this morning and honor the Commonwealth war-dead at Menteng Pulo.
In preparing my remarks for today, I was reminded that a good speech should be like a comet: Dazzling, eye-opening and over before you know it.
I don't know how well I can do on the first two, so I'll try to achieve the third. Perhaps it’s best I set the stage by providing a little context about PACOM.
PACOM is America’s oldest and largest military combatant command that is headquartered in Honolulu Hawaii, and we’re made up of about 375,000 personnel – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Department of Defense civilians – who stand the watch over half the Earth. I always say it goes from Hollywood to Bollywood, and from polar bears to penguins.
Although many refer to this area as the Asia-Pacific, I prefer to call it the Indo-Asia-Pacific. This term, in my view, more accurately captures, for me, the fact that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are the economic lifeblood that links India, Australia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, Oceania and the United States. And, of course unlike the United States, Indonesia straddles both oceans.
Maintaining and strengthening U.S. security, diplomatic, and economic connective tissue throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific is nothing new for PACOM. For 70 years, our Joint forces have been protecting America’s enduring national interests throughout this critical region. But the U.S. is not the only beneficiary of this effort, far from it.
The Indo-Asia-Pacific has been one of the world’s great success stories. Completely transformed since the end of World War II, the region is now home to the world’s three largest economies and seven of the eight fastest growing markets.
Consider Indonesia as a G-20 member; Indonesia has experienced sustained economic growth since the late 1990’s and is now the largest economy in Southeast Asia, and the 16th largest economy in the world.
The Indo-Asia-Pacific also has 7 of the world’s 10 largest armies, which means the area also shapes the course of global security. But even so, this region has experienced decades of relative peace and stability. This secure environment has facilitated an increase in prosperity unequaled in human history.
In my opinion, this success story has been made possible, in large part, by the rules-based security architecture in the region – supported by seven decades of American military presence and underpinned by America's security alliances and partnerships – strategic partnerships with countries like Indonesia.
We know that like-minded nations work together to support the existing regional order, and we truly value our relationship with Indonesia.
During his visit last April, Vice President Pence said it best, and I quote: ‘As the second and third largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values – including freedom, the rule of law, human rights, and religious diversity.’ Unquote.
The U.S.-Indonesia strategic partnership is critical to the national interests of both nations, and will grow more so in the years to come. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and one of the most pluralistic societies on Earth…and you boast a political system that provides proof that your culture, your history and your religion have also contributed to a nation with strong democratic norms and values.
So working together makes sense to me. Our opportunities here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific are abundant, but the path is burdened by several considerable challenges, including North Korea, China, and ISIS.
Now why is North Korea – far away in Northeast Asia – a challenge for the entire Indo-Asia-Pacific region? The answer is simple – Kim Jong-Un’s missiles point in every direction, and he’s actively exploring ways to expand their reach.
Now I want you to stop for a minute and really think about this. Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of Kim Jong-Un is a recipe for disaster. And because he isn’t afraid to fail in public, North Korean capability will continue to improve.
Now, Secretary Tillerson and UN Ambassador Haley have vigorously pursued diplomatic and economic pressures aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms program. So at PACOM, we’re doing our best to back up these preferred diplomatic options with credible combat power.
I firmly believe that every nation who considers itself to be a responsible contributor to international security must work diplomatically and economically to bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.
President Trump in a statement, recently highlighted why these partnerships are so important when he addressed the security threat posed to the international community by North Korea following its July 28th ICBM launch. He condemned the test and rejected the regime’s claim that these tests ensure North Korea’s security. They have in fact the opposite effect.
He said ‘By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people. [We] will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.’ Unquote.
So I’ll continue to provide military options to President Trump and Secretary Mattis, while doing everything possible to emphasize our desire for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That includes calling on China to do more to exert its considerable economic influence to stop Pyongyang’s unprecedented weapons testing. North Korea only has one ally – that’s China…and vice versa.
China remains by far North Korea’s largest trading partner according to the South Korean–based Korean Trade and Investment Promotion Agency. China was North Korea’s top trading partner in 2016 at more than 92% and total Chinese-North Korean trade grew in 2016 by more than 6% to almost $6 billion U.S. dollars.
While China supported renewed U.N. sanctions against North Korea on Sunday, we remain cautious of its sincerity to hold the regime accountable, as China had previously claimed little to no culpability in assisting Pyongyang with efforts to disrupt global peace and security despite being the major contributor to its economic development.
Let me be clear in what I’m saying here. Beijing has exponentially more influence on Pyongyang than anyone else. In my opinion, that makes China the key to a peaceful outcome on the Korean Peninsula. But China is not the key for all outcomes.
We continue to try to find common ground with China about the North Korean threat …even as we criticize Chinese aggressive behavior in the region.
That said, I remain very concerned about Beijing’s increasingly assertive actions that run counter to the international rules-based order.
Some might find it odd for me to advocate cooperation with China on one hand while criticizing it on another … but as I like to say, great powers can walk and chew gum at the same time. By that, I think we can praise Chinese efforts to include its help in working with the U.S. Navy this past week to try to find a missing American Sailor lost in the South China Sea…. even as we rightly hold them accountable for not doing enough to influence their North Korean allies. I think we can and should do both.
Accordingly, I’ll remind you that the Chinese are building up combat power and positional advantage in an attempt to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features and spaces in South China Sea…where they are fundamentally altering the physical and political landscape by creating and militarizing man-made bases…and then using tone-deaf propaganda to justify these unprovoked aggressions as measures intended to rescue some wayward fisherman. As I’ve said before, fake islands should not be believed by real people.
We can’t turn a blind eye to these challenges. And we can’t give any nation or insidious non-state actor a pass if they purposefully erode the rules-based security order.
And in regards to commerce and protecting natural assets, Indonesia is rightfully focused on the economic and environmental impacts of illegal fishing in your Exclusive Economic Zone off your coasts. As one of the top producers of seafood in the world, you have a vested interest in protecting and maintaining this valuable natural resource for generations to come. This issue can't be solved by just one or two countries - but requires a regional dialogue and regional solution. This is yet another reason why the United States is committed to working with Indonesia and other regional partners in multilateral forums. This is why ASEAN is so important and Indonesia’s voice and leadership in ASEAN are so important.
Another challenge I want to mention today is ISIS – a clear threat that must be defeated. The main geographic focus of the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition has rightfully been in the Middle East and North Africa. But as I’ve been saying for more than a year now, as our military operations continue to deny ISIS territory, radicalized, weaponized, and displaced terrorists will inspire new fighters in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
And Indonesia is no stranger to terrorist acts. With the attacks on Bali in 2002, Jakarta last year, and more recently the cold blooded killing of Ramadan revelers in Kampung Melayu, you have felt firsthand the impact of violent extremists.
Elsewhere this past year, the region has witnessed ISIS-inspired terrorism in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Sadly, we’re seeing some of this come to fruition right now in the Southern Philippines in Mindanao, where in 2016, Isnilon Hapilon, a commander in the Abu Sayyaf Group, a Philippine-based terrorist organization, was named ISIS emir of Southeast Asia. In just a matter of months, Hapilon started uniting elements of several violent extremist organizations–building a coalition under the black flag of ISIS.
These terrorists are using combat tactics that we’ve seen in the Middle East to murder in the city of Marawi in Mindanao – the first time ISIS-inspired forces have banded together to fight on this kind of scale in this region.
It’s clear that foreign fighters are passing their ideology, resources and methods to local, home-grown, next-generation radicals. So Marawi should be a wake-up call and a rallying cry for every nation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. It’s critical that Indonesia and the U.S. continue our efforts to destroy ISIS sooner rather than later.
But we cannot do it alone. Only through multinational collaboration can we eradicate ISIS and other violent extremist organizations before they spread.
This is partnership with a purpose if there ever was one.
Multinational efforts are underway to meet this challenge. Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are deepening cooperation to fight regional piracy and related kidnapping for ransom in the Sulu Sea. The Abu Sayyaf Group, as previously mentioned, whose leader has sworn allegiance to ISIS, is responsible for much of this activity.
Cooperative efforts in this vast and largely ungoverned maritime area connecting these three great nations and their thousands of islands will help deny these terrorists maneuver space, recruits, and revenue streams. This partnership, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ renewed offensive against the group, is another step in the right direction.
Cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia is yet another high point. Because of the coordination between these two nations, a plot by a terrorist cell with links to ISIS to conduct an attack in Singapore was broken up by Indonesian security forces.
Indonesia plays a significant role in stemming ISIS’ influence and for that I’m grateful. PACOM, including Special Operations Command Pacific, or SOCPAC, supports these efforts to improve cooperation against this nemesis to humanity. The coordination and relationship between PACOM and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI are key to this effort. And I’m grateful for the relationship that I enjoy with the Indonesian military.
So now, let me now highlight some of those exercises that demonstrate the growing cooperate effort between PACOM and the TNI.
The first is Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training or CARAT Indonesia…This 23rd annual exercise promotes bilateral security, fosters the growing relationship between the U.S. and Indonesian navies, and it is part of a nine-nation exercise series. During this exercise, our sailors will train to better perform anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, visit board search and seizure activities, diving and salvage, and perhaps more importantly, develop maritime domain awareness.
CARAT-Indonesia is scheduled for early September, and I’m anxious to see what our military professionals continue to learn and gain through this effort.
Another equally important exercise is GARUDA SHIELD, now in its 11th iteration with soldiers from both our armies performing jungle field training, combined arms live-fire, and a command-post exercise, but overall it offers opportunities for us to continue developing our security relationship.
Through subject-matter-expert exchanges, GARUDA SHIELD also provides the opportunity for Indonesia to exercise its aviation interoperability with AH-64 Apache helicopters to execute bilateral maritime interdiction. This is the first littoral gunnery exercise outside of the Korean peninsula.
Of note, PACOM honors the Indonesian Army request with the participation of U.S. Army Apaches in the TNI Armed Forces Day Parade on October 5th.
As a military, we are often more known for our fire power, but let me mention a third purposeful U.S.-Indonesia exercise called GEMA BHAKTI. This is our opportunity to dive into humanitarian aid and disaster-relief or H-A-D-R. This exercise allows us to bring together joint military personnel from both nations to increase civil-military cooperation, emergency preparedness, and rescue capabilities. GEMA BHAKTI promotes partnerships at the joint, operational level of planning and staff processes.
And one last exercise I want to highlight that encompasses both our air forces is COPE WEST. Last November, we brought U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 aircraft to train with the Indonesia Air Force, and marked the first joint U.S.-Indonesian fighter focused training in 19 years. This exercise brought together our fighter capabilities to build air power interoperability. It allowed us to further develop our partnership and relationships across our air components and establish common concepts for stability operations. PACOM is committed to sustaining this fighter exercise and looks forward to executing COPE WEST again in 2018.
The sum of these bilateral activities demonstrates the strength and depth of our strategic partnership. Through our combined exercises, we enhance and maintain our security cooperation efforts; we enhance our ability to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenarios together and not just when crisis requires it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we’re approaching an inflection point in history. We’re certainly not approaching anything resembling the end of history. Freedom, justice, and the rules-based system hang in the balance. And the scale won’t tip of its own accord or simply because of wishful thinking.
When you take all of this together, the result is great potential, serious risk, and enormous strategic complexity. And this complexity is magnified by a wide, diverse group of challenges that can significantly stress the security environment.
Some of those challenges are the traditional ones that always emerge between states. States will always compete over resources, disagree over borders, and try to match, mitigate, or surpass each other’s military capabilities. In a sense, that’s normal. But in the Pacific, state-to-state competition is happening in some deeply concerning ways.
So, in closing, let me just state again that these are only the mil-to-mil elements of our relationship and in sum, they form just one of the ways our two countries are working together to make the Indo-Asia-Pacific safer and more prosperous.
As Indonesia celebrates its Independence Day, Hari Kemeredekaan on the 17th of this month, congratulations! Seventy-two years of Independence is not insignificant. Let me offer a historical quote from your great leader, the first Panglima, General Sudirman. He said, “Stand up for what you believe in even if it means standing alone.” Ladies and gentlemen, in the great issues facing all of us in the 21st century, Indonesia and the U.S. will stand together.
Again, it’s been a real honor being here; thank you for listening.