By U.S. Forces, Japan
Thank you for welcoming me here today to recognize the newest recipients of the Kato Prize. As commander of U.S. Forces, Japan, I am always eager to talk about the Alliance. But I am especially proud when I am able to join in celebrating the achievements of the individuals who dedicate themselves every day to the values and mission underpinning our Alliance.
Just over 60 years ago, our countries made history with the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The two concepts are intimately tied – our enhanced cooperation directly results in enhanced security. It’s why we are here to recognize our Kato Prize awardees today. As both Nakama-san and Mr. Goldberg can tell you, our Alliance is only as strong as the individuals who form it and the cooperation amongst them. Luckily for me, the U.S.-Japan Alliance is truly made of some of the strongest men and women, the most innovative thinkers, the most dedicated public servants, and the closest friendships I have seen in my career.
We have come together both in the face of adversity and opportunity countless times over the past 60 years. Indeed, the most recent example is the close cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The strength and resilience of the Alliance has been on display since the pandemic began. Our quick response to the Diamond Princess in February 2020 foreshadowed our ability to respond collectively to emerging challenges in a COVID environment. Most recently, close cooperation amongst Alliance professionals allowed U.S. forces to vaccinate local employees who work on bases in Japan. Every shot counts as we work closely to defeat the virus. And throughout the entire pandemic, we did not allow the virus to be an excuse or roadblock to training; SDF and U.S. forces continued to train and prepare for a wide range of contingencies.
That is because at the core of our relationship lies our vision for and commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. That vision means prosperity, not just for the United States and Japan, but for all nations. It means international waters that remain international, freely navigable to support the trade and market access that has been critical to Japan retaining its spot as the third largest economy in the world. It means prosperity in innovation, the economy, human rights – these are the values that underpin our own alliance and are the values shared with our vast network of allies and partners around the globe. The United States deeply understands and lauds Japan’s leadership in upholding the international rules-based order that supports these concepts. It is one that benefits all nations and, while sometimes imperfect, we are dedicated to working together to continually improve upon it.
Today, the U.S.- Japan Alliance, the cornerstone of peace and security, is the most important, most critical and most consequential alliance we have. We have recently seen this demonstrated through a number of important engagements between our countries’ leadership. This includes several high level leaders, such as the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and our new INDOPACOM commander, who all signaled the importance of this Alliance when they made Tokyo their first international stop. Just this past month, U.S. and Japan leadership joined our partners in Cornwall, UK to participate in the Group of 7 Summit where, U.S. and Japan leadership had an opportunity to meet and discuss the Alliance. The G7’s joint communiqué released after the summit reiterated the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo Pacific which is inclusive and based on the rule of law, amplifying the same language shared by Alliance leadership earlier this spring.
The relationship between our two democracies extends far beyond the defense sector. Our shared vision for a multilateral, international order means we stand together to tackle a range of global threats from COVID-19 and climate change. It also means we are partners in innovation, education, and economic opportunity. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and brings new opportunities, our two nations will continue to lead and grow together.
At the same time, Japan has been expanding its leadership role across the Indo-Pacific. It has played a critical role in the Quad, enhancing cooperation with Australia and India. We’ve also seen Japan’s strong engagement with other nations in the region, as well as increased training and operations with our European partners.
There is no denying that the U.S.-Japan Alliance is strong and full of potential energy. These developments are a direct result of the close working relationships and personal friendships of the thousands of dedicated individuals who make up this Alliance. As everyone here can personally attest, these hard working individuals coordinate closely with one another every single day (and often times at all hours of the night – just ask my staff) to preserve the strength of the Alliance and the role it plays to ensure the international order remains based on our shared values. However, our work is not complete and, in many areas, this potential energy must truly be harnessed into energy of action in order to fully uphold our Treaty commitments.
Right now, there are those who are actively challenging the international order. The People’s Republic of China continues to behave in an increasingly aggressive manner in the region. We are watching their actions closely, and call on them to abide by and respect international norms. As Admiral Davidson said when he was INDOPACOM Commander, “The strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific is not between two nations, it is the contest between liberty and the absence of liberty, or authoritarianism.”
Let me be clear – these actions run adamantly against the core values we stand behind as the U.S.-Japan Alliance. The Alliance must maintain a credible deterrent to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains a region where Japan can thrive and grow more prosperous. In the face of these developments, we must examine the Alliance that was formed 60 years ago, and ensure our capabilities are moving at a speed of relevance, where they are advanced and innovative enough that we are able to uphold the commitments we’ve made in the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
Credible deterrence hinges upon a competitor’s understanding that the likelihood of success and costs of engagement are too high to incentivize action. As you all know well, credible deterrence is made possible through commitments to security and a willingness to dedicate resources (time, manpower, resources, innovative thinking) to their defense. The security provided by credible deterrence is predicated on a competitor’s perception that aggressive or coercive action will not be successful or worth the costs such actions would provoke in response.
High levels of readiness and realistic, high-quality training by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and U.S forces are essential to providing this credible deterrence every day. They ensure that a potential adversary truly believes that the U.S.-Japan Alliance has the proper training, capability, and willingness to defend Japan and that, as a result, aggressive action would be detrimental to the adversary’s own survival.
Our commitments can never just be rhetoric. It’s the actions we take – the bilateral training to ensure the interoperable defense required by the Treaty, the dedication of time and manpower to identifying and resolving vulnerabilities - that are truly essential for our security.
We have work to do. In practical terms, that means conducting high level, realistic training in Japan. Examples include long-range precision fires, low-level flight training, night fires, and multi-domain operations. It includes bilateral commitments and investments in areas like cyber, space, and emerging technologies. Importantly, we must enhance our live-virtual-constructive, or LVC, training environments here in Japan – cutting edge technology critical to U.S. and Japanese forces achieving the most advanced, the most realistic, and also the safest training, which is absolutely essential to our mutual security. Our ability to conduct this highest quality training in Japan and the continued close cooperation between our forces are fundamental to ensuring the security of the free and open Indo-Pacific.
Indeed, as we strive to maintain the qualitative edge required for success, as we continue to seize the initiative from our competitors, I am confident that both sides of the Alliance will continue to make the right kind of substantial fiscal investments and policy improvements to prepare for the future. This will not be easy and we cannot rest on our laurels – our adversaries certainly will not. The Alliance must continue to transform and adapt to overcome new challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities. You know this. Our Alliance managers know this.
At the end of the day, this Alliance is about people. It’s why we are here today – to recognize the actions of individuals whose exceptional contributions to the Alliance have been instrumental to its success. Our Alliance is made up of dedicated individuals who truly believe in what our Alliance stands for. For every aircraft you see in the skies near Okinawa, there are highly trained pilots, exceptional aircraft maintainers, and attentive aircrew who believe in this Alliance and its values. For every ship you see arriving at Yokosuka or Sasebo, there are hundreds of sailors serving away from their families who have made a commitment to the security of Japan and the region. For every exercise at Camp Fuji, there are hundreds of U.S. and Japanese forces who have shared training advice as well meals, stories of their families, and cultural experiences with one another. And for every official statement you hear or read in the press, there are countless individuals who have spent hours engaging and coordinating closely with their counterparts to fully implement our commitments, whether that be in the Joint Committee or operationally coordinated in the Alliance Coordination Mechanism.
As I am sure anyone who has worked with the Alliance can attest, our connection is not just one based upon history or common threat. At its core, this is an Alliance based on deep, personal friendship and true caring and trust for one another. Japan is rich with history, culture, generous hospitality and, of course, world-class food that is unmatched around the globe. On behalf of the USFJ community serving here, we thank our local communities and Japan for welcoming us so warmly.
The U.S.-Japan Alliance is strong as a direct result of actions by today’s awardees. I am honored to be here today to recognize the hard work and dedication of Ben Goldberg and Nakama Hidehiko for their service to this Alliance. Because of your actions and the actions of others like you, the U.S.-Japan Alliance continues to thrive and grow each day.