WASHINGTON — The Pacific remains "the defining region" for America's future, despite the ongoing challenges in the Arabian Gulf and European regions, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Monday.
Carter said it remained his goal to "lift our heads up and think about the places and events" that will change future security, and identified the Pacific as the hub of that future.
The secretary's comments came hours before the start of his first trip to the Pacific region since his confirmation as secretary in February.
The speech laid out a roadmap of sorts for how Carter sees the Pentagon approaching the Pacific and its strategic challenge.
That includes an emphasis on new technologies, such as the long-range strike-bomber and new anti-ship cruise missile, both of which can cover the major distances that come into play when operating in Asia. It also includes keeping current generation technologies, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter, on track and not falling behind on production.
However, Carter emphasized, the greatest key is the relationships between nations.
The "miracle of rapid progress" seen throughout Asia has been enabled by the "enduring presence and relationships of the United States," Carter argued, and maintaining those relationships will be a key part of his message next week.
Getting the TPP finalized is "as important" as getting another aircraft carrier in the budget, Carter said. Those financial ties are "an important part of the strength of our country, and it's a sign of our strategic influence."
The secretary also struck a tentatively positive note when discussing China, noting that while "the US and China are not allies, but we don't have to be adversaries."
"I reject the zero-sum thinking that China's gain is our loss," Carter said. "There is another scenario in which everyone wins."
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.