Prepared Remarks for Vice President Pence at the East Asia Summit Plenary Session

Suntec Convention Centre
Suntec City, Singapore
November 15, 2018

  • It’s an honor to be here with so many leaders from across the Indo-Pacific at the 13th East Asia Summit. Prime Minister Lee, thank you once again for hosting this meeting in the beautiful and inspiring nation of Singapore.
  • Last year, President Donald Trump attended this summit to lay out the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. I’m here today to discuss the concrete steps we are taking to protect our nation, defend our allies and partners, and uphold the principles and that have led to so many years of peace and prosperity in the region.
  • The East Asia Summit is important to our collective efforts. Since 2005, this body has brought the region’s nations together to discuss pressing political and security issues, and the United States has gladly participated since 2011. We are determined to ensure this forum remains squarely focused on its original mission.
  • This summit’s origins lie in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and as I emphasized earlier today, ASEAN is at the center of our Indo-Pacific strategy. The nations of Southeast Asia have a pre-eminent role to play in regional affairs, and the United States is proud of our 41-year strategic partnership with ASEAN.
  • We’re also drawing even closer to our cherished allies – Japan, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. And the United States has placed renewed emphasis on our strategic partnership with India. India is a major defense partner, and we are addressing security issues across the region together.
  • The United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific is steadfast and enduring. In all that we do, the United States seeks collaboration, not control. And together with our allies and partners, we are advancing the vision that is shared by the vast majority of the region.
  • We seek an Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, can prosper and thrive – secure in our sovereignty, competing fairly with one another, free from coercion and domination, and upholding the principles, values, and norms that have enabled the region’s rise.
  • We hold that empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific, and that progress is built on a foundation of independence and partnership. Our vision excludes no nation, requiring only that they treat their neighbors with respect.
  • The United States is working to protect our shared principles; advance our shared prosperity; and ensure our shared security.
  • The United States is promoting renewed investment in the Indo-Pacific. Our businesses have already invested more than $1.4 trillion across the region, and they hold to the highest standards of quality and respect for your sovereignty.
  • To facilitate renewed investment, the United States has more than doubled our ability to support private development projects in emerging economies. We now offer $60 billion in development financing, and Indo-Pacific infrastructure projects are a top priority.
  • When it comes to security, the United States is also taking unprecedented action to strengthen our military, law enforcement, and intelligence collaboration across the region.
  • This year, we’ve devoted more than half a billion dollars to security assistance in the Indo-Pacific, including nearly $400 million in foreign military financing – more than the previous 3 years combined.
  • Terrorism is a global challenge and a growing problem in Southeast Asia, and it has the potential to grow worse as foreign fighters return from the Middle East, following our destruction of ISIS’ so-called caliphate. We stand with you to defeat this menace.
  • After ISIS-inspired terrorists went on a rampage in the Philippines last year, the United States helped our ally liberate Marawi City, and we’re helping rebuild it, as well. We will never let ISIS – or any radical Islamic terrorists – establish a foothold in the Indo-Pacific.
  • We must also prevent terrorists from gaining access to the deadliest weapons. The United States is pleased to have put forward, along with the Republic of Korea, a Leaders Summit statement on nuclear safety and security. Nuclear technology is bringing remarkable benefits to the region, and as it expands, we will ensure that it’s safe and that it stays in the right hands.
  • When the President spoke here last year, the greatest threat to the Indo-Pacific was North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
  • Faced with this threat, the United States marshaled the world to enact an unprecedented pressure campaign. Our joint actions brought North Korea to the negotiating table, and the United States is grateful for the efforts of every nation here.
  • Following President Trump’s historic summit with Chairman Kim here in Singapore in June, we have made progress, but more work remains.
  • Now is the time to maintain the pressure campaign and enforce all U.N. sanctions. We must work together to stop North Korea’s evasion of sanctions, including the illegal ship-to-ship transfer of oil and coal. All countries must also expel North Korean labor.
  • All nations must continue to take strong action until we achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea. Chairman Kim agreed to this, and we must hold North Korea to its commitments.
  • The United States will continue to stand with our allies and partners to uphold the order that we helped build, and we will defend freedom of the seas and skies. This is especially important in the South China Sea.
  • Let me be clear: China’s militarization and territorial expansion in the South China Sea is illegal and dangerous. It threatens the sovereignty of many nations and endangers the prosperity of the world.
  • For our part, the United States will continue to fly and sail wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. Harassment will not deter us; it only strengthens our resolve.
  • As I said during our summit with ASEAN today, it’s time to adopt a meaningful and binding Code of Conduct for the South China Sea – one that protects the freedoms of navigation and overflight, resource exploration and development, and nations’ ability to establish partnerships of choice, as well as respects the rights of third parties.
  • Finally, let me urge all our nations to do more to address the plight of the Rohingya. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled their homeland because of the slaughter and persecution by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilantes. This is a humanitarian crisis, but we must also beware the potential radicalization of refugees.
  • The United States has already devoted nearly $400 million to support the Rohingya, making us the largest donor in the world. We’re grateful to Bangladesh for hosting these refugees.
  • Today, I urge the nations of this Summit to step up your efforts to support Bangladesh, work with Burma to end this crisis and enact democratic reforms, and help ensure the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of the Rohingya to Burma. Justice and humanity demand nothing less.
  • The United States seeks a relationship with China that is based on fairness, reciprocity, and respect for sovereignty. We have documented the difficulties that the United States and other nations face with China, and China knows where we stand.
  • Nevertheless, President Trump is looking forward to his meeting with President Xi at the G-20 Summit in Argentina. He believes that progress could be made, but either way, we are confident that the United States remains in a strong position. And the United States will continue to work with our allies and partners to promote our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
  • Let me thank you again for the discussions we’ve had. There is no better forum than the East Asia Summit to discuss the Indo-Pacific’s strategic issues. Here, nations of all sizes have a voice as we shape the region’s future. Here, all nations are equal partners.
  • The United States will work to strengthen this summit and maintain its focus on political and security matters. The challenges we face are many; we are determined to solve them together with you.
  • The United States is an Indo-Pacific nation, and this is where our future lies. Our commitment to the region is steadfast and enduring – and it has never been stronger.
  • We will always uphold the values, principles, and norms that enabled this region’s rise, for they are also essential to this region’s future. And we will continue to advance our vision, together with so many of you, for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Thank you.