The doors of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) auditorium were opened Nov. 8 to welcome Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, who spoke to more than 120 students and educators from 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies.
Thirty or so of the students were from Kamehameha Schools here in Hawaii and all are delegates of the “Future Voices of APEC” program. The delegates represent most of the 21 APEC member economies and are here to participate in the program, which includes a week of discussions, tours and contact with business leaders from the region.
Acting APCSS Director Army Brig. Gen. (Ret.) James T. Hirai opened the session with questions on the topic of connections between economy and security, which got an immediate reply from a Peruvian delegate.
“Security is vital for trade – security is the cornerstone of economic prosperity,” the young delegate answered. Seemingly impressed by the quick response, Hirai paraphrasing Dr. Joe Nye said “Security is like oxygen. We take if for granted until it is gone, then we know how valuable it is.”
Adm. Walsh began his address by saying that when he received the invitation to speak to the “Voices” delegation, he “jumped at the opportunity to a frank discussion on security and stability – in a security that meant freedom from threats and coercion.” He further emphasized that “security and stability will not take place on their own ”
He then used a short presentation that emphasized that the Asia-Pacific area is massive, diverse, and fraught with deep historical and sovereignty issues. He trained his focus on the South China Sea, calling it the “pivot area” for security and stability, and that what happens in the South China Sea has great impact for the economies in the region. He then offered that the key to success in international relations has always been a willingness of countries to work together with their neighbors to settle their differences.
Adm. Walsh then took questions from the group for about 45 minutes. One delegate from Singapore asked about transnational terrorism and piracy, while a delegate from South America asked about potential for the U.S. and China to further cooperation. Adm. Walsh philosophically stated that the sea, “offers many ways to bridge differences between countries.”
“Personal relationships with leadership of other countries is vital to countering terrorism,” Walsh proposed, “and closer relations and the sharing of intelligence and information are vital to increasing security.”
Adm. Walsh became the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet on September 25, 2009. He is responsible for the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles and approximately 180 ships, nearly 2,000 aircraft and 125,000 Sailors, Marines and Civilians.