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International Seapower Symposium/Maritime Security Update

FPC Briefing
Admiral Gary Roughhead
Chief of Naval Operations
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
September 30, 2009

Date: 09/30/2009 Location: Washington DC Description: Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, briefed about the upcoming International Seapower Symposium, which will be held in Newport, RI on Oct 7-9, at the FPC on September 30, 2009. © State Dept Image
3:00 P.M., EDT

MR. STRIKE: Hello, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we have Admiral Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, to deliver a maritime security update briefing and to also talk about next week’s International Seapower Symposium, which will be held in Newport, Rhode Island.

Without further ado, here is the admiral.

ADM ROUGHEAD: Well, thank you, Andy, and thank you for the opportunity to come to the Foreign Press Center and talk about next week, because it’s an event next week that we will hold at our Naval War College that is a bit of history unto itself.

We will host the 19th International Seapower Symposium at our War College in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s an event that started in 1969, which, coincidentally, was the year that I began my naval surface at our Naval Academy. And it’s a forum where navies and maritime services from around the world can discuss common interests and propose solutions to the common challenges that are faced on the world’s oceans.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of these similar symposiums around the world in the past two years – the Regional Seapower Symposium in Italy, the Chiefs of European Navy Symposium in Bulgaria, the Maritime Planners Conference in Denmark, the Indonesian Sail Bunaken Fleet Review, as well as the 60th anniversary of the People Liberation Army/Navy in China.

While each of these symposiums is significant, the number of navies that will join us in Newport next week is truly remarkable. Four years ago, this symposium had 71 nations and 56 chiefs or heads of the services in attendance. Two years ago, we saw an increase in that attendance and participation. This year, even more nations will attend. To date, 106 nations have accepted an invitation to attend the International Seapower Symposium, and 98 chiefs or heads of service will be in attendance. That is a remarkable number.

I think that the International Seapower Symposium, this is – in the fourth decade that we have been hosting this – is evidence of the uniting method of the sea and the uniting influence of the sea. But it also is an opportunity to be presented to all of the nations that attend the International Seapower Symposium. It has grown because there is now broad recognition that the International Seapower Symposium is a platform, a venue, for any nation to propose new initiatives to the international community.

There will be three panels at the International Seapower Symposium this year; not one of them will be chaired by a U.S. participant. They will all be chaired by our guests. This aligns, I believe, exactly with President Obama’s vision that the spirit of partnership is a defining feature of our foreign policy. The challenges on the oceans that unite us today are many. There are trafficking in arms and narcotics and in people. There is piracy. There is the theft of everything from fish to oil. And it is only by working together that we can adequately overcome the many challenges that we face. But for as many challenges as there are, there are an equal number, if not more, opportunities for us to seize.

The relationships that we build at the International Seapower Symposium can prevent misunderstanding and foster an open and honest dialogue. The relationships we build at sea can build capacity for smaller developing navies that may lack the infrastructure to keep their trade, their natural resources, and their population safe. Those are things that also fall into the category of security force assistance. And the work that we do with developed navies can work toward the mutual benefit of all.

So I look forward to meeting with my counterparts and my friends that I have made around the world. I look forward to listening to their views and for us to be able to discuss the views and the possible solutions that can lead to a mutual approach to ensuring the safety, the security and the prosperity of the world’s oceans.

I look forward to your questions.

MR. STRIKE: Thank you. Please wait for the microphone, which could be coming from either side, and state your name and publication.

Go right ahead, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Donghui Yu with China Press. I wonder if China will participate in this symposium?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Indications are that China is not sending a representative to this symposium.

QUESTION: Okay. So is it because they – doesn’t want to participate in all – they did not receive an invitation?

ADM ROUGHEAD: No. The PLA Navy has been invited to participate, and I reinforced the invitation with Admiral Wu Shengli when I was there, and the information we have is that there will not be a participant.

QUESTION: Okay. Last question: Admiral Keating recently talking – was talking about the joint military exercise among the United States (inaudible) and China. So do you support this proposal, or you have any certain plan? Thank you.

ADM ROUGHEAD: I think that, as you could tell from the position that I hold with regard to International Seapower Symposium and the activities that our navy participates in globally, I’m an advocate of multilateral activities and opportunities for our navies around the world to come together and to operate together.

MR. STRIKE: Okay. Right here.

QUESTION: Thank you. Richard Lardner from The Associated Press. Admiral, there is a provision in the House version of the defense authorization bill that would require military security teams to be aboard U.S.-flagged vessels traveling through the Gulf of Aden in those difficult East African waters. Can you tell us what your opinion is of that provision? Do you support it? Does the Defense Department support it? Is it a good idea?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Yeah. We have addressed this before, and the position that I see is that it is not the responsibility of the Navy to provide those armed security teams on ships that are transiting through those waters.

QUESTION: Can you explain a little bit more specifically why it’s not – it should be the shipping companies’ responsibility?

ADM ROUGHEAD: That’s what I believe, right.

QUESTION: But why? Are there not enough security teams? What are the downsides to --

ADM ROUGHEAD: I believe that the operations that we conduct with respect to the kind of piracy operations are appropriate for the navies, the maritime forces, and that the security that’s provided on board the ship’s to be the responsibility of the shipper and the owner.

QUESTION: Petr Cheremushkin with Interfax News Agency. Did you send an invitation to Russia? And did it accept?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Yes, we did send an invitation and I’m very pleased that there will be a delegate attending from Russia. And it is also the first time that a delegate has come from Russia to be at the International Seapower Symposium. Previous attendance in the ‘90s was by the attaché posted here. So I’m very pleased that Russia is sending a representative.

QUESTION: So is it going to be one person? And what is going to be the level of this person?

ADM ROUGHEAD: It’s going to be a vice admiral who is the war college president, Vice Admiral Adam Rymashevskiy.

QUESTION: And any – so it would be only him or the delegation?

ADM ROUGHEAD: I do not know the exact size of his party, but he is the delegate that will be representing Russia.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sir, my name is Javed Soomro. I’m with BBC South Asian Services. My question is that recently there was a mysterious piracy against a Russian ship and there were some investigations by U.S. Navy as well. Did we find out what was exactly going on with that ship? Was that real piracy or something else, as was suggested by some press?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Right. With regard to an investigation by the U.S. Navy, I wouldn’t categorize anything as an investigation. But it does appear that there were some other factors in play and that it did not fit the type of piracy that we’re seeing in other parts of the world, specifically off of Somalia.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

ADM ROUGHEAD: I’d prefer not to comment on it because it would be some speculation on my part.

MR. STRIKE: In the back.

QUESTION: Thank you, and my name is Masuda. I’m a correspondent for NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation. On this occasion, I’d like to ask you about Japan’s self-defense forces refueling activities in the Indian Ocean. Japanese new administration will stop this activity, and I guess you have valued highly of this activity. How about – how do you think about the new policy of Japan’s administration?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Well, you’re right. We have valued that contribution greatly, but I would say that many countries have valued that contribution of the Government of Japan to provide fuel to those navies that were operating in the Indian Ocean. So it was a significant – is a significant contribution that the Government of Japan is making, and it’s greatly appreciated.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Salmy from Bernama, Malaysia. Sir, what are the responses of the Southeast Asian navies to this symposium? Would the – and especially from Malaysia, of course – and would the piracy in Southeast Asia (inaudible) be top on the agenda?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Thank you. I would say that the response of the countries in Southeast Asia to the ISS are extraordinary. In fact, I look forward to Admiral Aziz (Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar) being there, and I’ve asked him to chair one of the panels that we’re going to have. So I look forward to seeing him again and for the contributions he will make. But also, we’re very pleased that for the first time, Vietnam is sending a delegate to the ISS from Vietnam. They have previously in the ‘90s as well sent their attaché, but this is the first time that the representative from Vietnam will come to ISS.

There is clearly, I think, going to be discussion about the successful efforts in Southeast Asia with regard to piracy. I often hold up the example that was set by Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand in addressing piracy in that very, very important area of the world and the successes that have been achieved through the cooperation and the sharing of information that has taken place. And I believe many navies look to those countries as an example of how you can overcome some of the threats that we see in the maritime area.

QUESTION: What are the Southeast Asians doing to show the success, and do you have figures, like the drop in piracy, for instance?

ADM ROUGHEAD: The drop – and we can get some of those figures to you, but the drop in piracy has been really quite dramatic, and going back a few years in the Straits of Malacca, the numbers were quite high, high enough to the point where insurance companies were beginning to take action, but the success has turned that around.

And it’s also worthy of note that, for example, Malaysia has also contributed to the counter-piracy operations off of Somalia, which shows not just the interest in dealing with the threat there, but having someone like Malaysia and the lessons and the experiences that they have had and the successes they have had becoming part of a collaborative effort in addressing piracy off the coast of Africa.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Sugita, I’m from Kyodo News, a Japanese news agency. Thank you for this opportunity.

ADM ROUGHEAD: Thank you.

QUESTION: I have two questions. This – you highly valued the refueling mission of the Japanese self-defense? Do you have any intention to ask for the – to continue the – to Japan – the continuance of the refueling mission? And my second question is about the absence of China. What is the reason of that? Is there any reason mentioned about – from China?

ADM ROUGHEAD: On the latter question, I think that’s a question best posed to China. And with regard to the refueling, I believe it’s clear that – of the value that we place on that, and it will be a decision on the part of the Japanese Government.

QUESTION: Thank you. From Japanese news (inaudible), Jiji Press. You’re having Japanese navy mission (inaudible). If Japanese navy ships stop refueling, how affect (inaudible)?

ADM ROUGHEAD: Right. Well, I think, clearly, the effect will be felt by some of the smaller navies that are participating in those operations. The time that a ship now has to go into port before being able to participate in the operations at this time away and that absence of presence has an effect on the operation itself. But I think the smaller navies that have found great value in the contribution of the Japanese refueling effort will feel that.

I do very much appreciate the contributions that Japan is making with regard to the counter-piracy, but I do believe in the OEF that one will see the effects of that.

MR. STRIKE: Are there any other questions? If there are no other questions, this is Andrew – oh, sorry, go ahead, go ahead.

QUESTION: Betty Lin of the World Journal. I wonder whether the U.S. Navy is still operating over the American Samoa tsunami (inaudible) over this?

ADM ROUGHEAD: We do have ships in that part of the Pacific and our commanders there are assessing the situation and providing direction to those ships. But it’s a tragedy. I was involved in the relief operation of the tsunami in 2004, and my condolences go to those who have been affected by the tsunami. But as our ships and sailors around the world do whenever there is a disaster or a tragedy, we prepare to respond, and upon the request of the governments and the communities that are affected, we do respond. So we are always aware, alert and are always prepared to provide that assistance as needed.

MR. STRIKE: Okay. If there are no further questions, this event has now concluded. Thank you, sir --

ADM ROUGHEAD: Thank you very much.

MR. STRIKE: -- for your time.

ADM ROUGHEAD: Thank you. And I hope to see some of you in Newport. It’s a beautiful time of year to be there, by the way.

MR. STRIKE: Please remain behind if you have any questions about Newport. I know some – the FPC is taking a group up to Newport. We may or may not – we may have transport for a certain number of folks. And then that back to the briefing, we will have, hopefully, a transcript and audio of this event for participants tonight or tomorrow, and photos as well if you’d like that.

Thank you all again.