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American Forces Press Service

U.S.-Japan Defense Officials Increase Military Cooperation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, March 30, 2007 – The United States and Japan are increasing their military cooperation and coordination to face evolving threats, the commander of U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force here said.

“The security relationship between the United States and Japan is tied to international knowledge and understanding of the alliance,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright.

The bedrock of U.S. strategy in Asia remains the Japanese-U.S. Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Defense. Signed in 1960, the treaty relationship between the two nations has changed, but the document still remains relevant.

“Only 15 years after the end of a horrific war between our nations, Japan and the United States made a decision to move forward,” Wright said. “The words in the treaty come from America’s ideal – all are created equal, a commitment to freedom and democracy for all.

“What’s neat for me is that the results speak for themselves,” he continued. “The results are exemplary. It is now a pact between the two greatest economic powers in the world. We are mutually supportive economically and certainly in our military-to-military relationships.”

Wright said coordination and cooperation between the two militaries has increased exponentially. In 1960, the United States essentially was responsible for the defense of Japan. The enemy at the time was the Soviet Union. China was a lurking menace, and the Korean War was just seven years in the past.

Today, the North Korean threat has drawn the two countries closer together, Wright said. North Korea has proliferated missile technology, and the country’s nuclear test last year gave impetus to the relationship between the United States and Japan for ballistic missile defense.

“There is a lot of debate within Japan over the issue of collective self-defense,” the general said. Japanese and American forces are working together to establish the missile defense posture. “That requires a level of close coordination that hasn’t been needed in the past,” he said.

A new joint operations and coordination center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, was very effective during the North Korea missile tests, Wright said. A new bilateral and joint operations coordination center is going in at Yokota and will be operational in 2010. U.S. and Japanese personnel will use their own equipment, but coordination will be close.

The flight time of a missile from North Korea to Japan is short, Wright said. The coordination needed to defend against that threat is extensive and should carry over to other aspects of U.S.-Japanese cooperation.

“If you can handle the ballistic missile defense problem, it’s going to percolate in a joint bilateral way in how we coordinate,” Wright said. “It’s just an improvement in defense capabilities. There is no expansion of U.S. or Japanese forces involved. In a resource-constrained environment, it is using information systems technology, it’s building on a shift in our traditional ways of doing business.”

The two militaries working together equal more than the sum of their parts, Wright said. What is more, the pact allows for allies to play important roles.

“This is an alliance that has its arms open,” Wright said. “This military alliance should and does reach out to include military-to-military-to-military-plus interaction with multiple countries in the region, including South Korea and China.

“From the foundation of an exemplary alliance, now is the time to reach out,” he continued. “Certainly, Australia is an important part of this alliance. That’s just another example of the relevance of the alliance in a dynamic security alliance.”

The Japanese have moved more decisively into security operations. The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force sent engineers to Iraq. The Air Self-Defense Force is flying missions out of Kuwait. The Maritime Self-Defense Force maintains tankers in the Indian Ocean, providing long-term capabilities for navies operating there.

“The Japanese have a lot of pride in the operation in Iraq,” Wright said. “It had a positive affect on the Japanese as a whole. The military for years has not been very visible. That’s changing over time, and I think that it is changing for the good in the context that it reminds people that there is a Japan-U.S. military partnership. It is helpful to both nations at the strategic level.”

The United States will continue the realignment of its forces in Japan, Wright said. “(The realignment) will be expensive, but I think the forces are about the right size and it is essential to work on the roles and missions and capabilities of our forces for the future,” Wright said.

That assessment, he said, must include improved planning coordination, interoperability, more consistent and persistent joint and bilateral training and addressing common weapons systems so those systems are compatible.

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