[Ambassador Harris’ Speech] Globalization v. Regionalism: Notes on the U.S. Perspective

Harry Harris
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
East-West Center Alumni Conference
Sapphire Ballroom, 3d Floor, Lotte Hotel, Seoul
August 24, 2018

As Prepared for Delivery –

It is a true privilege to be here with you this morning as part of the East-West Center’s alumni conference.

I have had the privilege of working with the East-West Center for many years during my naval assignments to Honolulu, and have followed it for much of my 40 years in the Navy.  As an education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress, the East-West Center is doing important work strengthening relations and promoting understanding among the peoples and nations of the Asia-Pacific region and the United States.

I think it’s important that we look at the connections between regional tensions and global ones, especially since regional issues can easily become global issues if they aren’t managed well.  Our world is connected by networks of shared spaces that enable the free flow of goods, services and ideas.  The oceans, the global airspace, outer space, and cyberspace – these are the arteries of a truly global economy and, more importantly, a civil society.

You may have heard President Trump and, more recently, Secretary Pompeo, talk about that inter-connectivity on this side of the planet when speaking of the U.S. policy towards the Indo-Pacific.

Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has advanced freedom, openness, and prosperity across the world.  I think Secretary Pompeo said it best last month:  “The great theme of our engagement is this:  Where America goes, we seek partnership, not domination.”  This can be as ambitious as implementing the Marshall Plan in Germany, or as focused as helping to establish Fulbright University Vietnam.

Here in Korea, the work to advance freedom and openness began in earnest in 1950 as we joined 15 fellow UN countries, one of which is also represented on this stage (hat tip to Amb. Choi), in defense of this great nation.  That work, leveraged and magnified by the passion, resilience, and incredible ingenuity of the Korean people, has blossomed into an alliance and strategic partnership encompassing security, economic, and people-to-people ties between the United States and Korea, one of the greatest success stories of the past century.

This alliance, emblematic of our engagement with the world, is more than just a partnership or a friendship; it is a comradery that has lasted generations, and it will continue to thrive for generations to come.

Just as we witness spectacular success in our connection with Korea and other parts of the world, however, we also face tremendous challenges.  Those networks of shared spaces that I mentioned earlier create opportunities, but they can lead to vulnerabilities and threats as well.  Such challenges emerge as technology disrupts existing economic models with ever-increasing speed, placing pressure on businesses, governments, and peoples to adapt.

You see it as non-state actors now have the wherewithal and capabilities to impact directly, and even pose threats to, lives, economies, and infrastructure.  You see it as these disruptions lead to increased migration flows, which exert pressures on nations and people, from Europe, to Asia, to the United States.  And you see it in cyberspace, where a tool that brings people together can also be used to steal intellectual property, threaten financial networks, and divide nations and people through misinformation.

In all of these challenges, the United States sees partnerships as important to success, whether they are with governments, people, or civil society.  We will continue to work with any and all who are committed to fostering a rules-based system that respects international law and adheres to international norms.  We remain staunch in our commitment to ensure that every nation and every person maintain the current freedom of access to these shared domains.

Our network of alliances – here in Asia with five alliance partners, three represented on this stage today – is key to ensuring that the benefits of globalization continue to outweigh its costs and remain a net positive for the world and for the United States.  During my time as Ambassador, I look forward to bolstering the U.S. Alliance with the Republic of Korea, the linchpin of our security in Asia.

Thank you again to the East-West Center for having me on this panel this morning, and I look forward to hearing what my fellow Ambassadors have to say on this important topic as well.  Thank you.