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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter November 05, 2015

Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Sailor Event aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt


Hello, gang. First of all, you look so magnificent. You make us so proud. I am so proud to be your secretary of defense. And your country is so proud of you.

You're what I wake up to, every morning. You're what I think about all the time. You are my principle concern, my principle responsibility. And it makes me so proud when I can go to places -- like, I've been meeting with all these other defense ministers throughout the week, and that I represent you, makes me incredibly proud.

And I can boast about you. And they know that it's the American military power in this region that keeps the peace here.

So, you all, in the course of this -- I know you can't wait to get home, and you've been out for a long time. But think of the history that you have made.

Just this vessel has been part of everything that's happening around the world, now. And so, we are so grateful to you, for what you have been part of.

First of all, you have been part of the counter-ISIL fight. And ISIL is an evil thing, and it will be defeated, because we are the good, and they are the evil. And we're the many, and they are the few. I don't have any doubt that we are going to beat ISIL.

It's going to take some time, because if it were just a matter of us beating them, it would be over quickly, right? But the point is, as we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, isn't just getting them beaten, it's keeping them beaten, it's have this victory stick.

And if you're going to have that, you have to have people on the ground, the people who live there, willing to keep the peace after we have helped them make the peace. That's tricky in Iraq and Syria, because those countries are so broken.

But, that's why it's going to take some time, and it's very hard to find capable and motivated forces there that we can support and enable, including through the awesome air power of the Theodore Roosevelt. But we will beat them, and we have to.

Likewise, you are a part of the operation that's involving Iran. That's another source of concern in the region; Iran's malign activity. And so, ISIL and Iran are the two principle issues that we deal with in the Middle East. You are part of both of them.

Now, you're in a completely other part of the world, and if -- you don't read about this one in the newspapers all the time, right? You don't turn on your television, most weeks, you find something about the Middle East, or something terrible going on in the Middle East.

Not here, and it's worthy -- and it's because of you that that is the case. You and those who went before you, including on the TR

Because, if you look around this region, there is no NATO, there is no structure that keeps in the peace in Asia, and yet, half of humanity lives here, half of the world's economy is here. And so, it's a place of great consequence for America's future and America's security.

What has kept the peace for 70 years? The United States. The pivotal role of American military power, here; we're what creates reassurance, and brings people together, and stops the animosities here, that are very real among these countries, from flaring up and ruining the whole economic miracle that is Asia.

The United States has done that. And when we talk about the rebalance to this region -- which is what you represent, your being here -- what we're saying is, the United States of America intends to continue to play that role into the future.

And that's a very big deal for our country. And you have been at the heart of it. So, when you go home, and I know it will have been a long time, and you get a chance, really, to sit down with your families and talk to them, please tell them two things.

First of all, how proud we are of you, of how magnificent you are. And -- that you do the noblest thing a person can do, which is to be part of securing our country, and allowing all other Americans to live in peace, live their lives, and dream their dreams.

That's the noblest thing you can be doing.

And second, that you have been at the hinge of everything happening in the strategic history in this era through this cruise. You have seen it all; you have been part of it all.

And you should be very proud of that. You look back in the years to come, and be extremely proud that you were a part of the things you've been part of on this crew.

So, I wish you a good few more weeks. And then, finally, you get back home to the United States, to a place that is very grateful to you, and extremely proud of you.

And I think -- can we do some questions? And -- yeah, can we do that?

So, you may have questions for me, you may have something you just want me to know. So, it doesn't have to be question; it could be an observation that you have, or something you think that I ought to know.

And there's -- I think there's some mics, or should I walk this one around? And just have at it.

And then, what I'd like to do, is get each and everyone of you to come up here and let me look you in the eye, individually shake you hand and thank you.

We'll get a picture, I'll give you a coin. Ash Carter coins are still relatively new, so I always say I don't want to see it on eBay.


They're still valuable. But anyway, give me a chance to thank you personally.

But before we do that.

STAFF: Mic is out now. So, does anybody have a question?

SEC. CARTER: We can start out -- you can start out just by coming up here.

Why don't you come up here? It's right over there.


Why don't you just come over here? It's two out of three.

How are you?

Q: Yes, sir. Is there going to be, to your knowledge, or talks, any change in how 7th Fleet is being viewed with the recent advances that the Chinese naval has made as far as the carrier being deployed?

Some of their missile capabilities, and the fact that, in so small words, basically walked out of negotiations a couple of days ago?

SEC. CARTER: Well, yeah, we are responding to -- China is one of -- it's the principle new, rising military power in Asia.

By the way, it's not the only one. Japan is -- I don't know if you know it, but they just had a constitutional change that -- it allows them to operate much more widely. And Japan has got a considerable armed force, and considerable economy.

India -- a billion people. Also, I just met with the Indian defense minister. You're right, I was just at a meeting where tensions were very high over this particular part of the ocean. And people were very glad to see the Americans there, and to know that you're out here.

Because they know -- most of them know that we're the ones who have kept peace and stability in this region.

Now, we're very inclusive and we want everybody to be a part of that. We're not trying to cut anybody out. We're not trying to cut China out. We wanted them to be included.

That's why I'll be going to China. President Xi invited me to go to China. I'll be going there in the spring. At the same time, to get to another of your question, we do watch what everybody is doing out here, including the Chinese. And so, we see them building a system that's new. We make sure we have countermeasures to that and actually, we're making new substantial investments, new investments.

Electronic warfare, cyber air defense, defense against cruise missiles, and all that's really important because we've got to make sure the balance doesn't change here, qualitatively or quantitatively, and we're not going to let that happen.

Q: I also have a question. (Inaudible).

As far as the Spratly Islands, does the U.S. have any short-term or long-term goals to handle that?

SEC. CARTER: Yes, I mean, these islands out here you know very well, they are disputed by who owns them or whose territory it is, is disputed by a number of states out here, to Vietnam, to China, the Philippines and so forth.

And the United States doesn't take a view on those disputes, like it belongs to you and not you. All these things go back in history. We do take the view about how these things are addressed though.

And our view is it should be done peacefully through, you know, the traditional processes, law of the city and so forth. Not by fighting over them or trying to militarize them.

Now, a number of countries have done that and are doing that, but this year, this past year, the one that's done it more than anyone else is China. And that's why it's gotten a lot of attention and that's why there's so much tension around this part of the world right now.

So, our view is that everybody should stop reclaiming land and militarizing it. And by the way when President Xi was in Washington a couple of weeks ago, he said he had no intention to militarize outposts in the South China Sea and he needs to be good to his word.

For our part, we don't recognize if -- we go anywhere international law permits. So you see the last event there and this week it proved with respect to China and a number of other claimants, that we're going to do, the United States is going to do, what international law permits no matter what anybody says.

That's called freedom of navigation. We exercise it here, all the way up to the Arctic. It's an important principle around the world. We stand up for it, we're going to stand up for it. The tensions here though, are very real among all these claimants.

And it's having a long, interesting effect which is, they all want more American military presence. So they're coming to us to do more with them. So I was just in Malaysia. We have Marines exercising down there, doing amphibious exercises. The Malaysian defense minister is on board right now with me. We do a lot of them. So all the countries here out here.

I was in Korea earlier this week. They all want the U.S. presence. And you know, that's not a bad note to end on because you might say -- you know, why is that, why when things get nasty in the Middle East and everybody says, well, what are the Americans going to do about it? And when things get tense out here, they say where are the Americans? What do the Americans say?

Now sometimes that -- we get tired of that right? I mean, and we'll say, come on guys. You know, you feel like they rely on us too much. On the other hand, it's a compliment. It's a compliment to you. And it's not just that we're strong. It's what we stand for. It's what you stand for. That's what they like.

It's the principles. It's not being American per se. It's the principles that being an American stands for. That's what makes us so attractive. That's what you stand for. And it's also the way you conduct yourselves. When they interact with our military, they interact with people that they believe are honorable and dignified and skilled.

And so, you make us proud. I hear it all the time. There's other militaries say to me, man I had the Americans around here and they were so good and they were such nice people to work with. That's why they all want us. So, sometimes we get tired of it right? And we say can't anybody take care of their own situation but they always have to ask for us.

But on the other hand, its praise in a way for you, for who you are and what you stand for. And so, that makes me proud and that makes your country proud of you. Now I will get a chance to look each one of you in the eye and say exactly that to you personally.

We start over here? Okay. Thanks again.

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