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  October 18th, 2016 | Written by

Kerry: TPP Needed for National Security

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  • Kerry: Either the U.S. is an Asia Pacific power, or it isn't.
  • Kerry: “We can’t talk about the rebalance to Asia one day and then sit on the sidelines the next.”
  • Kerry: Asia Pacific countries are major actors on security issues that touch vital U.S. national security interests.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry, in a recent speech in Washington, defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership on national security grounds. U.S. leadership in the Pacific region, he told an audience at the Wilson Center, requires the U.S. to proceed with TPP.

“Either the United States of America is an Asia Pacific power, or we are not,” said Kerry. “We have to show it in our actions and in our choices. We can’t talk about the rebalance to Asia one day and then sit on the sidelines the next.”

For over a century, leaders in Asia have come to expect U.S. involvement in the region, for several reasons. On the level of geography, “The United States is one of the few nations that straddles the divide between the Eastern and Western hemispheres,” Kerry noted. “Add to that the strong economic bonds that we have already developed in the region. Five of our top ten trading partners are in Asia.”

The U.S. also has a history of security alliances and defense cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries including Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Asia Pacific countries are also major actors on security issues that “touch on the vital national security interests of the United States,” according to Kerry. One is the issue of North Korea and its destabilizing influence in the region.

Another involves the competing territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea. “The United States does not take a position on the merits of any individual claim,” Kerry said, “but we have made clear our insistence on freedom of navigation and aviation, and…we do recognize properly rendered legal judgments by properly recognized institutions that have multilateral definition and support.”

In these security cases, U.S. presence and influence in the Asia Pacific is essential for the protection of U.S. interests, Kerry argues. “And believe me—that presence is welcomed and highly valued by friends throughout Asia,” he said.

The bottom line, for Kerry is that when crises arise in Asia, the impacts are felt in the U.S. and that makes it in U.S. interests to have political positive influence in Asia.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership will reinforce our status as a world leader intimately connected to the dynamic economies of the Pacific Rim, the fastest-growing economies in the world,” Kerry concluded. “And it will help strengthen norms and standards that are important to us—not just to other people or to everyone else in the region, but important to every citizen in the United States of America.”