Opening Remarks for Pacific Partnership 2018 by Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Hilton

[As prepared]

Admiral Attygalle, Admiral De Silva, Captain Bretz, Captain Roberts, senior government officials, colleagues, partners, friends, good evening.  To those joining us from the USNS Mercy, on behalf of U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap and all the personnel of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, welcome to Sri Lanka.  We are glad you are here.  I am certain your time in Sri Lanka will be as memorable as it will be productive.  I am delighted to join you for the inauguration of the second-ever Pacific Partnership exercise here in Sri Lanka.  Following the remarkable success of Pacific Partnership 2017, when the USNS Fall River visited the southern port of Hambantota, I am confident this engagement will be even more robust and extensive than its predecessor.  You are also building on the achievements of Pacific Angel, which took place in the Jaffna area in 2016.  Let me say thank you to U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Sri Lankan Navy, and the staff of the USNS Mercy, without whom this exercise would not be possible.

2018 marks 70 years of Sri Lankan independence and 70 years of U.S.-Sri Lankan diplomatic relations.  Ties between our countries go back even further, however, to the early days of the American republic when New England whalers called at Galle Port for supplies, and to the 19th century, when travelers as varied as Mark Twain and American missionaries came to Ceylon, some to visit and some to stay. They all left their mark in the friendship between our countries.  Pacific Partnership will write the newest chapter in this story.

Building on last year’s exercise, this year’s Pacific Partnership will feature events in four critical lines of effort: engineering, medicine, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and community relations.  The impact of these events is significant.  Not only will this exercise feature the exchange of ideas and best practices, but more importantly it will foster the development of professional and personal relationships between its participants.  Our sailors are building schools and clinics and providing medical care to hundreds of Sri Lankans, but more importantly, they are sharing their expertise with Sri Lankan professions so that many more people can benefit in the future.  They are also building relationships that are a cornerstone of multilateral cooperation and the bedrock of true partnership among nations.

As part of the 36 planned events that will take place over the next two weeks, Pacific Partnership will culminate with a capstone training exercise focused on disaster response and humanitarian relief.  The participation of our British, Australian, French, Canadian, Japanese, and Peruvian partners truly makes this an international affair.  Effective disaster response is a concerted multinational effort.  Along with enhancing interoperability between our respective militaries, this exercise demonstrates our shared commitment to this region and the resolve we possess to contribute to its success.

Pacific Partnership is a testament to U.S. support for a reconciled, prosperous, and secure Sri Lanka.  Even more so, it is reflective of our commitment to maintain and strengthen the bonds of partnership between our countries.  Welcome once again, good luck, and thank you for all that you will do over the next ten days.  Thank you.