Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of Pacific Partnership 2019

My respects to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation H.E. Dionisio Babo Soares, Minister of Defense and Acting Minister of the Interior H.E. Filomeno da Paixão de Jesus, General Commander of the Timor-Leste Defense Force Major General Lere Anan Timur, Pacific Partnership 2019 Senior Representative Mr. Joseph Martin, Pacific Partnership Mission Commander Captain Randy Van Rossum, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Pacific Partnership 2019 participants and distinguished guests.

Good evening. It is an honor to be here with you all for the official opening of Pacific Partnership 2019. On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for hosting this special event. It is also great to see so many friends, partners and allies here this evening. All of these beautiful flags represent like-minded countries working together to improve the lives of people of Timor-Leste and across the Indo-Pacific. Cooperation is paramount to the success of Pacific Partnership – the largest annual, multilateral humanitarian assistance exercise in the Indo-Pacific. We emphasize the word “Partnership” in Pacific Partnership because it is a vital component of all of our work with like-minded countries. As our treaty allies, friends, and partners – these are countries in the Indo-Pacific region that share our commitment to democracy and human rights.

Pacific Partnership 2019 will include medical exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, engineering, and community relations events taking place in the municipalities of Dili, Liquica, and Ermera. This year’s exercise includes highly-skilled, dedicated women and men from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, and the U.S. Army. Over 170 U.S. and partner nation service members will take part in the exercise, working alongside more than 200 members of the F-FDTL and the Government of Timor-Leste. Our military partners represent Timor-Leste, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Canada, the United Kingdom and Peru. We look forward to working with all of you over the next two weeks. We will work together to reinforce our shared commitment to enhancing humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities in the region.

This is the seventh time that Timor-Leste is hosting Pacific Partnership. As many of you know, the USNS Mercy hospital ship visited Timor-Leste for the first Pacific Partnership in 2006 and most recently in 2016. While visits by ships like the Mercy and the USNS Fall River in the Dili Port are some of the most visible signs of our cooperation, the United States and Timor-Leste enjoy a robust and ongoing military relationship. Each year, approximately 15 Timorese military and defense personnel receive training with the United States Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii. Hundreds more participate in annual training exercises in Timor-Leste such as Crocodilo, Hari’i Hamutuk, and CARAT. We are also proud of the collaboration and skills exchange between our U.S. Navy Seabees and the F-FDTL engineers of the CAS Company.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Seabees’ presence in Timor-Leste. They continue to work closely with their F-FDTL counterparts to improve the lives of Timorese people by building schools, clinics, and other engineering projects in remote areas. All of us here at the U.S. Embassy work closely with the Timorese government and people in the spirit of utmost respect – and indeed – humility. Our work here supports Timorese goals and objectives. Timor-Leste is working to strengthen democratic institutions, diversify its economy, expand the private sector, provide opportunities to its growing youth population, strengthen its health sector, develop infrastructure, and mitigate poverty and all of its effects.

Through Pacific Partnership and other efforts, we aim to support these goals while building interoperability with our regional partners and allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is in the interest of all nations. As an Indo-Pacific country, the United States envisions a regional order where all nations – large and small – are strong, independent, and free from coercion. This is a fundamental principle held in common with Timor-Leste and many other nations in the Indo-Pacific. The United States will work with any nation or institution to advance this vision. The region faces a number of threats and challenges which require us to strengthen longstanding security alliances and partnerships and encourage a more networked approach to security cooperation. Our aim is to build a flexible, resilient network of security partners to promote regional stability, advance maritime security and freedom of navigation, and address shared challenges throughout the region. This is why the United States is expanding security cooperation across the Indo-Pacific.

In 2018, the United States provided more than half a billion dollars in security assistance for the region to strengthen maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and peacekeeping capabilities, as well as to counter transnational crime. It is also worth noting that Pacific Partnership continues to leverage the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. This allows partner nations to coordinate efforts for the advancement of women’s inclusion in peace-building activities, protection from gender-based violence, and equal access to relief and recovery assistance. Pacific Partnership has transitioned its primary focus away from providing direct care to supporting collective capacity building. Any direct care provided will be shoulder-to-shoulder with Timor-Leste and partner nations. This ensures that the knowledge and skills shared during Pacific Partnership will last well after the exercise is over. The United States government is proud to showcase the USNS Fall River and the hardworking military and civilian professionals participating in Pacific Partnership 2019.

I look forward to a successful Pacific Partnership 2019. Thank you very much.