Remarks by Vice President Harris Aboard USS Howard Naval Ship

The White House

Yokosuka Naval Base

Yokosuka, Japan

3:17 P.M. JST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Commander. And thank you for the tour of this beautiful ship. It is good to be with all of you this afternoon. It is so good to be with you. And to all of you, I say, “Thank you.” Thank you, our forward-deployed naval forces. And it is great to be here with you onboard the USS Howard.

So I consider it a great privilege, a tremendous privilege as Vice President of the United States to visit with all of you and to thank you.

Whether I have been at CENTCOM or SOCOM, Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Changi Naval Base in Singapore, NATO’s eastern flank, and here, I remain impressed by all that you do, by your dedication, your skill, your discipline.

President Joe Biden and I, along with our entire country, are grateful — deeply grateful to each and every one of you for your service and for your excellence.

The United States military, without any question, is the strongest and best fighting force the world has ever seen, and that is because of you — each one of you.

It is also because of your families, many of whom I saw as I was coming aboard, who are such an important part of this work. They, with you, have moved far from home to support our nation, and they serve with you. And to them, therefore, we are eternally grateful.

So, sailors, whether you are an electronics technician or a machinist mate or a culinary specialist, each and every day, you advance America’s interests, both our prosperity and our security.

Your presence here defends international law, including freedom of navigation, both of which are vital for America’s security and America’s economy.

Just think, billions of dollars of commercial activity flow through the Indo-Pacific every day, and your work enables a free flow of this commerce, which supports American workers and American businesses.

And your work strengthens our alliance with Japan. As you maintain our readiness and capabilities, you demonstrate that our commitment to Japan’s defense is ironclad, that our alliance with Japan is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, and that our presence here is enduring.

President Joe Biden has been clear: Our network of alliances and partnerships is a great source of strength for America.

This network enhances our influence and our capacity. And our administration is determined to prioritize and strengthen these relationships.

In addition, sailors, you are charged with defending a set of international rules and norms recognized around the world, rules and norms that have provided for unprecedented peace and prosperity for the American people and, indeed, for the people of this region; principles such as the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the peaceful resolution of disputes, the respect for international law, and the right of all nations to make their own choices free from coercion.

When it comes to America’s national security, I believe one of our defining missions is to uphold the international rules-based order, to defend it, strengthen it, and promote it.

However, we must also acknowledge that these rules and norms are under growing threat.

Russia is attempting to annex the territory of another sovereign nation as part of its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.

Just a few days ago, the DPRK launched a ballistic missile as part of its illicit weapons program, which threatens regional stability and violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

In addition, China is undermining key elements of the international rules-based order. China has challenged the freedom of the seas. China has flexed its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbors. And we have witnessed disturbing behavior in the East China Sea and in the South China Sea, and, most recently, provocations across the Taiwan Strait.

Sailors, last month, not too far from here, China used Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a pretext for an unprecedented show of military force, a pressure campaign against Taiwan, a series of destabilizing actions. And we anticipate continued aggressive behavior from Beijing as it attempts to unilaterally undermine the status quo.

The United States believes that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is an essential feature of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

And we will continue to fly, sail, and operate undaunted and unafraid wherever and whenever international law allows.

We will continue to oppose any unilateral change to the status quo. And we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, consistent with our longstanding policy.

Taiwan is a vibrant democracy that contributes to the global good, from technology to health and beyond, and the United States will continue to deepen our unofficial ties.

As President Joe Biden said last week at the U.N. General Assembly, the United States does not seek conflict with China, and we do not seek a Cold War. In fact, we will work with every willing nation to solve global challenges. And that is why the USS Howard is here.

So to you, sailors, I say: The United States is a proud Pacific power. The American people have a profound stake in the future of this region. And we will continue to promote an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, connected, secure, and resilient.

Your presence here, the presence of the United States in the Indo-Pacific, is in pursuit of peace and stability and to support our allies and partners.

In that mission, each and every one of you plays an essential role. So, again, I thank you for looking out for our neighbors and friends, for pursuing the common good, and for always standing up for freedom. Your country thanks you.

May God bless you. And may God bless America. (Applause.)

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