VP Biden Speaks at Naval Academy Graduation - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

VP Biden Speaks at Naval Academy Graduation

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Vice President Joe Biden Vice President Joe Biden

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)- Vice President Joe Biden told graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday that U.S. foreign policy is rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, and he said many of them will be stationed there "to keep the peace."

Biden described tensions over China's development in parts of the South China Sea as an example of challenges in that part of the world.

"In the disputed waters of the South China Sea, the United States does not privilege the claims of one nation over another, but we do unapologetically stand up for the equitable and peaceful resolution of disputes and for the freedom of navigation, and today these principals are being tested by Chinese activities in the South China Sea," Biden said.

The vice president told 1,070 graduates that the sea continues to be an arena for potential conflict and as important as ever to the nation's security.

"Tensions run high," Biden said. "As I speak, they run high, but you will be there to keep the peace."

Biden said many of the newly commissioned Naval officers will head to the Asia-Pacific region to help manage emerging challenges before they devolve into conflict.

"U.S. foreign policy is rebalancing toward the vast potential of the Asia-Pacific region, but we can't succeed if you don't show up," Biden said. "That's why 60 percent of the United States Naval Forces will be stationed in the Asia-Pacific by 2020."

The vice president also noted the vital role the Navy plays in protecting commerce at sea, as goods are transported around the world by ship.

"That remains the backbone of world commerce, 90 percent of it, and that's only going to increase," Biden said.

Biden echoed some of President Barack Obama's comments at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation this week about climate change. Biden said changing climate means more extreme storms and a greater need for humanitarian missions that need the Navy to deliver live-saving help.

"Our forces will have to be ready," Biden said. "You remain indispensable."

The vice president also underscored the importance of officers ensuring that the sailors and Marines they lead are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve, no matter their faith, gender, race or sexual orientation.

"As leaders in the United States Navy, we count on you to refuse to tolerate sexual harassment or sexual assault in any form, under any circumstances," Biden said. "It's a matter of honor that you prevent that."

Biden also noted the death of Midshipman Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old student who died in last week's Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.

"He would have made a great Navy Seal," Biden said. "He will be missed. My heart goes out to his family."

Of the graduating class of 2015, there are 866 men and 204 women. Of them, 790 will be commissioned as Navy ensigns, and 264 will be commissioned as 2nd lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

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