In his November 2011 speech to the Australian Parliament in Canberra, President Barack Obama articulated his stance on the U.S. foreign policy future in the Pacific, stating, “Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” and continued, “So let there be no doubt: In the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.”
This speech framed the intent to pivot U.S. diplomatic and military efforts to the Pacific. A decade has passed since the Canberra speech, yet the challenges of the physical, political, and cultural geographies of the Indo-Pacific region have persisted and continue to evolve. They do so amidst China’s expanding influence and the impacts of climate change.
1. Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660–1783, 12th edition of 1918, (Boston, Little Brown and Company: 1890), 28–29.
2. Scott Victor Valentine, “Towards the Sino-American Trade Organization for the Prevention of Climate Change (STOP-CC),” The Chinese Journal of International Politics, vol. 4, 2011. Figures quoted were presumably in circa 2010 dollars, just before the publication date of the cited article.
3. Troy Sternberg, “Chinese Drought, Wheat, and the Egyptian Uprising: How a Localized Hazard Became Globalized,” in Werrell Caitlin E. and Francesco Femia, eds. The Arab Spring and Climate Change: A Climate and Security Correlations Series, Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, February 2013, 7–14.
4. For context, consider the situation as reported around the time of Obama’s Australia speech. The South China Sea accounted for approximately 10 percent of the annual global fisheries catch. Also, the South China Sea is of paramount importance to the fishing industries of the nearby countries with the National Intelligence Council predicting in 2012 that world demand for food will rise by at least 35 percent by 2030.
5. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security, October 2011.
6. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982. This convention has been ratified by nearly all of the Earth’s nations, including China (ratified 7 June 1986). The United States has not yet ratified the convention but has for a related agreement on conservation and management of fish stocks. A long running controversy involves the U.S. expectation that nations observe “norms” of UNCLOS, while the United States has not itself ratified the said treaty.
7. Such as the US International Development Finance Corporation, formerly knowns as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).