Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Aloha. It is a sincere pleasure to be here in Hawaii with my colleagues and friends – Vice Foreign Minister Lim, Vice Foreign Minister Sugiyama – for the fourth deputy-level trilateral meeting of the United States, Korea, and Japan.
I want to start by thanking the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies for hosting us today and for allowing us to rearrange their furniture.
But I especially want to extend our profound appreciation to Vice President Biden for his very meaningful participation this morning. The Vice President has been a strong, committed champion of our nation’s rebalance to Asia, foreseeing from the first day in office – just like President Obama – that nowhere in the world are our economic and strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling.
Today, the Asia Pacific is home to four of the United States’ top ten trading partners, five of our seven treaty alliances, the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, representing 40 percent of overall global growth and nearly two-thirds of the world’s middle class – and of course, some of the most wired and innovative people anywhere on Earth.
Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden, we have given real substance to the rebalance, deepening our strategic, economic, and diplomatic ties with the region commensurate to its importance. United by shared values and strategic interests, the trilateral partnership among the United States, Korea, and Japan is an indispensable and foundational pillar of our rebalance, a fact that was once again underscored by a very productive trilateral session today.
The steps we’ve taken just in the last few months demonstrate the depth of our commitment and the seriousness of our efforts. Since the last trilateral meeting that we held in April, we’ve had separate meetings of our Middle East, health, human rights, and development experts – sharing assessments and advancing common projects and initiatives. We joined together in a missile warning exercise just last month here in Hawaii that showed we have both the capability and the resolve to counter the threat that North Korea poses. Our trilateral meeting on human rights in North Korea that same day shined a spotlight on North Korea’s grave human rights violations.
Today, we continued our dialogue on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We discussed a trilateral roadmap to build comprehensive, sustained pressure on North Korea to denuclearize. We identified ways we can counter North Korea’s proliferation activities. We reaffirmed our resolve to focus international attention on North Korea’s deplorable human rights violations.
We’re also united in our determination to defeat Daesh and relentless in our shared fight against violent extremism, which has scarred our communities and brought heartbreak to our people.
Now, we’ve just heard of a horrific incident in Nice, France. And we don’t know yet know who was responsible or what the motive is, but it does have at least initially the hallmarks of a terrorist incident. And I know that our own thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of that incident, their families, and loved ones.
We condemn as well in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh that extinguished the bright lives of one American, seven Japanese development workers, and more than a dozen others. Our Japanese friends gave their lives trying to improve the lives of others. We share in Japan’s sorrow for their loss.
These acts around the world, taking innocent lives – these are not the acts of martyrs. They are the acts of murderers. We condemn those who perpetrate them and those who glorify them. In their brutality, in their viciousness, they only succeed in strengthening our resolve to counter terrorism and defend our belief in the inherent dignity and rights of every person on this planet. And that too is very much what we heard today in our conversation.
In a world that’s fraught with greater complexity than ever before, this trilateral partnership among our countries is a force multiplier for good, a relationship that strengthens our common stand against threats and seeks out new possibilities for cooperation. By acting together, our impact is magnified. By speaking together on matters of principle, our message is amplified.
This week’s decision by the tribunal in the Philippines-China arbitration is an important contribution to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, a goal that we share with countries throughout the region. The tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding on both China and the Philippines. We hope – indeed, we expect – that both parties will comply with their obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention. The United States strongly supports the rule of law, one of the many values that we share with the Republic of Korea and Japan. All three of our countries, along with many others, depend on peace and security in the South China Sea. We are trading nations: all of us suffer when tensions rise; all of us prosper when there is stability and predictability and the free flow of commerce.
By tonnage, half the world’s merchant fleet passes through the South China Sea. Twenty-five percent of all traded goods, twenty-five percent of oil that travels by sea, passes through the South China Sea. One-third of the world’s liquefied natural gas. So this is something that is of profound importance to all three of our countries, and indeed to countries around the world.
In the weeks ahead, we encourage all claimants to avoid provocative statements or actions and to use the tribunal’s ruling as an opportunity to peacefully manage and ultimately resolve the differences that remain. Now is the time for a new path in the South China Sea, a renewed commitment to the peaceful and diplomatic resolution to disputes, free from coercion or the use or threat of force.
Finally, we looked today to the future as we discussed new frontiers of cooperation among us in the months ahead – protecting our oceans, exploring outer space, countering cyber threats, meeting energy needs, engaging our citizens directly through public diplomacy. Our cooperation in these and other areas will bring tangible benefits to the lives of citizens in all three of our countries, and indeed beyond.
When the first Korean and Japanese immigrants began to arrive here in Hawaii more than a century ago, I doubt they could have imagined the ties that would bind our three nations together today, rooted in a commitment to the security, prosperity, and health of one another. It’s a commitment held together not only by the currents of water, history, and trade, but by a common belief in the principles that have enabled the success of all three of our nations – democracy, human rights, open markets, and the paramount importance of the rule of law. Given the substantive and productive record of our trilateral partnership over the last year, I’m confident that new ideas that we discuss today will become the new normal for tomorrow.
Thank you very much, and it’s very, very good to be with both of you.