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Pacific Command Change Highlights Growing Importance of Indian Ocean Area

JOINT BASE PEAR HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis today stressed the importance of the Indian Ocean region of U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility and announced that the Defense Department is renaming the combatant command as U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

VIDEO | 00:27 | Mattis Announces Renaming of U.S. Pacific Command

Mattis made the announcement at the change-of-command ceremony here where Navy Adm. Philip S. Davidson relieved Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who had commanded Pacom for the last three years.

“In recognition of the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific oceans, today we rename the U.S. Pacific Command to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command,” the secretary said. “Over many decades, this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstance and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”

‘From Bollywood to Hollywood’

The command stretches “from Bollywood to Hollywood, and from penguins to polar bears,” Mattis said, and it plays an important part in America’s National Defense Strategy. “The 2018 National Defense Strategy – the first of its kind in a decade – acknowledges Pacific challenges and signals America’s resolve and lasting commitment to the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

VIDEO | 00:17 | Strategy Acknowledges Commitment to Indo-Pacific Region, Mattis Says

The region has benefitted greatly from the international order put in place at the end of World War II, the secretary said. Most nations in the region recognize the benefits of the current order, he added, which has raised quality of life across the region.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command seeks to strengthen the bonds across the region and is a cornerstone of “a region open to investment and free, fair and reciprocal trade, not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads,” Mattis said, alluding to China’s “One Belt, One Road” policy for the region.

The command will give U.S. diplomats the security anchor they need to negotiate with all nations in the region, Mattis said, adding that America will continue to work with allies and seek to strengthen bonds and build new ones in the region. Diplomats will continue to work for peace, but will do so “from a position of strength,” he said.

“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” the secretary said. We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations, large and small, are essential to the region if we are to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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