In April, I laid a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery, in the Philippines, where some 17,000 Americans are buried. Looking up at the mosaic maps of battles whose names still echo throughout the U.S. Department of Defense—Guadalcanal, Midway, Leyte Gulf, and more—it is hard not to appreciate the essential role that the U.S. military has long played in the Asia-Pacific. Many of the individuals buried in the cemetery helped win World War II. For the people and nations of the region, they also won the opportunity to realize a brighter future.
Since World War II, America’s men and women in uniform have worked day in and day out to help ensure the security of the Asia-Pacific. Forward-deployed U.S. personnel in the region—serving at Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base in South Korea, at the Yokosuka naval base and Yokota Air Base in Japan, and elsewhere—have helped the United States deter aggression and develop deeper relationships with regional militaries. The thousands upon thousands of sailors and marines aboard the USS John C. Stennis, the USS Blue Ridge, the USS Lassen, and other ships have sailed millions of miles, made countless port calls, and helped secure the world’s sea-lanes, including in the South China Sea. And American personnel have assisted with training for decades, including holding increasingly complex exercises with the Philippines over more than 30 years.
We plan to do more, not less, in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.
Every port call, flight hour, exercise, and operation has added a stitch to the fabric of the Asia-Pacific’s stability. And every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine has helped defend important principles—such as the peaceful resolution of disputes, the right of countries to make their own security and economic choices free from coercion, and the freedom of overflight and navigation guaranteed by international law.
Ensuring security and upholding these principles has long been U.S. policy. During Democratic and Republican administrations, in times