Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper embarked on a trip to Hawaii, Guam and Palau to honor the generation of World War II veterans that made peace possible and explain America’s vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Secretary Esper will participate in ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
He will be visiting Palau – the site of the bloody Battle of Peleliu in 1944 — and will mark the end of the war during a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. Surrender documents were signed by the Japanese aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
World War II and the Greatest Generation still resonate today.
The experiences of the war – with millions killed, untold treasure destroyed and huge upheaval – was the impetus behind establishment of the rules-based international order as a means of preventing the type of great power competition that brought on the war.
Those rules are still important 75 years later, officials said, and they still need to be protected.
During this trip, the secretary will visit ships involved in the semi-annual Rim of the Pacific exercise. Although the exercise has been scaled back due to the Corona Virus, 10 nations, 22 ships, 1 submarine, and more than 5,300 personnel are participating in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) from August 17 to 31 at sea in the waters surrounding Hawaii.
Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, said:
“Like-minded nations come together in RIMPAC in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific where all nations enjoy unfettered access to the seas and airways in accordance with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) upon which all nations’ economies depend.”
RIMPAC is a biennial exercise designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships, critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The exercise is a unique training platform designed to enhance interoperability and strategic maritime partnerships. RIMPAC 2020 is the 27th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
The RIMPAC exercise allows the nations to test interoperability and cooperation across a broad spectrum of conflict. RIMPAC highlights the alliance system in the Indo-Pacific.
The main focus of the American national strategy is on the Indo-Pacific. This region is crucial to the U.S. economy. U.S. service members are a crucial element of maintaining peace and stability in the region.
A senior defense official shared the following statement regarding the background of this trip:
”This is an opportunity for the secretary to really reinforce what we’re doing to advance this vision for a free Indo-Pacific. The vision is based on some broadly held principles — peaceful resolution of disputes; freedom of navigation; free, fair and reciprocal trade arrangements — the things that have kind of made the international system work.”
Guam is a centerpiece of American strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. Esper will visit with troops and visit facilities that are being built there.
In the region of the Indo-Pacific, China continues to brazenly challenge these principles. China is busy building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea. They are also using their economic power to bully nations around, forcing those nations to take on China’s point of view.
When the National Defense Strategy was issued in 2018, it stated that the return of great power competition with China and Russia is the main danger to the United States and the world.
The top 3 objectives in the National Defense Strategy are to:
- Build a more lethal force.
- Strengthen alliances and find new partners.
- Reform business practices.
Esper will be talking about what the United States is doing around the reinforcing and upholding the principles of the international rules-based order.