Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, visited Sri Lanka November 27-29 to attend the Galle Dialogue 2016 maritime security conference and meet with senior government and military leaders, including President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“Oceans that once were physical and psychological barriers that kept us apart are now maritime superhighways that bring us together,” remarked Admiral Harris during his keynote address at Galle Dialogue.
Admiral Harris stressed the importance of the Indo-Asia- Pacific region and expanding partnerships among like-minded nations to uphold the rules-based global operating system.
“Sri Lanka is a welcome and significant contributor to the system. For example, Sri Lanka is conducting U.N. peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, Mali, Central African Republic, and South Sudan,” said Admiral Harris. “I believe that Sri Lanka could be a convening power to discuss freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Your voice matters.”
Admiral Harris also met privately with Commanders of the Sri Lanka Navy, Army, and Air Force, along with discussions with Foreign Minister Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, State Minister for Defence Hon. Ruwan Wijewardene, and other senior government leaders.
Admiral Harris traveled to Trincomalee, visiting sites where U.S. military personnel have continued to train with the Sri Lanka Navy on skills such as disaster assistance and underwater demining. He also met with members of the newly-established Sri Lanka Navy Marines, who on November 23-25 worked with the U.S. 11th Marines Expeditionary Unit and the crew of the visiting USS Somerset to hone basic military skills and small boat operations that support humanitarian assistance missions.
“Expanded cooperation with the United States – cooperation that benefits both countries in meaningful ways – will be matched with Sri Lanka’s efforts to continue on its path of reconciliation and transparency after three decades of tragic conflict,” said Admiral Harris.