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Good afternoon. I want to thank the Japan National Press Club for hosting this event. I am very pleased to be here, especially as we continue to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Cooperation and Mutual Security between the United States and Japan. This is truly an historic time for an historic alliance.
As the commander of U.S. Forces Japan for a little over a year, I have been impressed with the hard work and professionalism of the 54,000 men and women who are part of USFJ. And I have also been thoroughly impressed by the capability and professionalism of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. It is a great honor for me to see these two groups of professionals work together every day. It is also an honor to be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my Jietai counterparts every day. This close cooperation is the real heart of the alliance.
This is my second tour in Japan, and while much is familiar, the security situation has changed significantly since my time at Misawa. In the mid 1990’s, the rapidly changing environment we face presents significant challenges for both our nations. The U.S.-Japan Alliance is more important than ever as both our nations face an increasingly severe security environment. I am convinced this relationship has a great deal of potential energy for further growth as we collectively work to ensure continued peace and security in this dynamic region.
In regards to security environment, China, North Korea, and Russia each present different kinds of challenges.
First, until the nuclear and ballistic missile situation is resolved on the peninsula, North Korea will remain our most immediate threat. We need to maintain the readiness of our Joint and Combined forces until the final, fully verifiable denuclearization of the DPRK.
However, China represents the greatest long-term strategic threat. China’s increasingly provocative behavior in the Indo-Pacific, particularly the East and South China Seas is challenging the peace and stability in this critical region. China’s growing economic, military, and diplomatic power often manifests itself in ways that are threatening, coercive, and counter to the rules-based international order. And as commanders in Japan and the US have pointed out – the fault line for the international rules-based order lies in the first island chain. While we are not trying to contain China, we do have serious concerns. We want them to be responsible actors on the international stage – we will cooperate where we can, but we will compete where we must.
I am also concerned about the growing malign influence of Russia throughout the region. Moscow regularly plays the role of spoiler, seeking to undermine U.S. interests, and imposes additional costs on the United States and our allies whenever and wherever possible.
But, there is a counter balance to this malign activity – the U.S.-Japan Alliance, which has been – and continues to be – the cornerstone of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.
U.S. – Japan Alliance
Last month, we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. This is a major milestone in our two nations’ history and I was truly honored to be a part of that event.
Our alliance is built on shared interests, shared values, and a steadfast commitment to regional security. It serves as a beacon to those who value transparency in government, transparency in economic matters, access to markets, access to all domains, and respect for human rights and national sovereignty. These values and interests are embraced in the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Today, the strength of our alliance can be seen in the alignment of the U.S. National Defense Strategy and Japan’s National Defense Program Guidelines.Both of our countries identify the need to prepare our forces to carry out flexible and strategic plans in every stage of crisis, from humanitarian operations to high-end conflict.
And both our strategic documents acknowledge an increasingly complex global security environment and efforts to shift the balance of power in the international arena.
It is imperative that your audiences understand how the regional security environment drives requirements for training and readiness – of US and Jeitai forces. In order to maintain security and deter aggression, we must field ready and capable forces, capable at a moment’s notice to respond across the spectrum of conflict. Forces that are not ready – are a target, not a capability. To be ready requires continuous realistic and demanding training. This kind of training – and readiness – is the linchpin to a strong alliance.
We are fortunate in Japan to have the most advanced capabilities the U.S. operates. Forward basing modern systems in Japan is a recognition of the importance of our alliance, and further enhances the quality of training we can do here.
Thanks to bilateral and multilateral exercises such as KEEN EDGE, KEEN SWORD and COPE NORTH, our service members are prepared to integrate and operate in any sort of scenario.
The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of peace and security in this region for 60 years, and I am personally committed to ensuring this vital partnership will continue to meet the challenges of an increasingly severe, and complex security environment. As I have said before, readiness of the forces here in Japan is a top priority for me and is absolutely essential for deterrence and for the continued success of the alliance.
I’d like to conclude by thanking the Japan National Press Club for their excellent support to this important event, and I am happy to take your questions.
Go sei-cho, arigatou gozaimashita. (Thank you for your attention).