Remarks by Consul General Kurt W. Tong at a Reception
aboard the USS Ronald Reagan
November 23, 2018
(as prepared for delivery)
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is a distinct honor to welcome such distinguished guests from Hong Kong on board the USS Ronald Reagan tonight.
We are joined here tonight by members of the Hong Kong Government and the Legislative Council, along with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the People’s Liberation Army. We are also joined by many distinguished members of academia, civil society, and the American business community in Hong Kong, along with my own colleagues in the Consular Corps. Welcome everyone! I hope you have a good time, and please take the opportunity to look around the ship and meet the fine men and women who serve aboard her.
It is also a real honor for me to welcome to Hong Kong our fantastic officers and sailors serving aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Chancellorsville and the USS Curtis Wilbur. Your ships, and your crews, are well-known around the Indo-Pacific region for the important contribution that you make to regional peace and security – whether by protecting important sea lanes, responding to natural disasters, or preventing terrorism and piracy.
I know you have been looking forward to visiting this beautiful city, and I know you will not be disappointed.
Ladies and gentlemen: The United States seeks to be a friend and partner of every nation in the region, in order to ensure stability, and with the aim of promoting free commerce and shared prosperity.
This year, I have been especially mindful of the history of this harbor, and of the U.S. role in this city and around the region.
In 2018, we have been proud to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of our Consulate here in Hong Kong. Our Consulate General dates back to 1843, and has been open for more years than any other U.S. diplomatic office in Asia.
The U.S. Navy relationship with Hong Kong is older still. The first U.S. Navy ship to visit Hong Kong was the USS Constellation, arriving in 1842, one year earlier than the first Consul.
Back in those days, brave clipper ships crossed the ocean, catching the wind to deliver their cargoes of tea and silk. Although the business was very profitable, total U.S. foreign trade in 1842 was only about $200 million, worth about $6 billion in today’s dollars.
By 2017, that number expanded almost a thousand-fold. That year, the United States enjoyed more than $1.8 trillion in trade just with the nations of the Indo-Pacific. Still, most of that trade continued to travel the old-fashioned way, across the seas, where for generations now the U.S. Navy has patrolled to help ensure stability and the safe flow of commerce.
I think it is safe to say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. From that time, throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, and up to today, our vision for the Indo-Pacific has been one and the same: a vision of open ports and open doors, and of stability and free commerce, with all nations committed to an open and fair architecture for commerce in the Indo-Pacific.
I also think it is fitting to be reminded of that vision here in beautiful Victoria Harbor, aboard this fine ship, which is itself a 100,000-ton demonstration of America’s historical and continuing commitment to the Indo-Pacific.
As the President recently said, “This entire region is emerging as a beautiful constellation of nations, each its own bright star, satellites to none – and each one, a people, a culture, a way of life, and a home.”
The alliances that the United States has maintained in this region over decades, together with our forward-deployed military and our diplomatic presence, all contribute to maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific. And our long and historic presence helps us to build the relationships and capability that add to the regional teamwork necessary to tackle shared threats.
Whether we are combatting piracy, or fighting transnational crime, or working to denuclearize the Korea Peninsula, the United States will continue to cooperate with all willing and sincere partners.
Just last week, military teams from the United States and China completed a week-long Disaster Management Exchange together in Nanjing. We know that joint efforts are important. In 2018 alone, the United States invested over half a billion U.S. dollars in security assistance to other nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
As we stand here tonight on the USS Ronald Reagan, enjoying the hospitality of the men and women who sail aboard her, let me leave you with a thought from my boss, Secretary of State Pompeo:
“We aspire to a regional order [of] independent nations that can defend their people and compete fairly in the international marketplace. We stand ready to enhance the security of our partners and to assist them in developing their economies and societies in ways that ensure human dignity.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoy yourself tonight, and that you have blessed and safe days going forward. Thank you.