UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

Keio University
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan, Friday, January 14, 2011

Thank you for that kind introduction. And thank you to Keio University for all the work you have put into hosting this event – in particular Professor Seike and Professor Kokubun.

As a former University President, I always look forward to visiting the academy and hearing from students. One large similarity between my current responsibilities as U.S. defense secretary and my previous job as president of Texas A&M University is that, in both instances, I am responsible for the well-being of large numbers of college-aged men and women. It is a responsibility I took very seriously then, and am honored to have now, especially with so much at stake for our young people in uniform and for our country

This is my third visit to Japan as Secretary of Defense – and my fourth trip to Asia in the past eight months. It is a privilege to be the latest in a series of U.S. senior leaders who have visited Japan over the past [year], including President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Treasury Secretary Geithner, Commerce Secretary Locke, and Energy Secretary Chu.

This past year, we marked the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan as well as the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the U.S. Notably, one of the younger members of that first Japanese delegation was Fukuzawa Yukichi, the founder of this university. As you know, Fukuzawa drew on this experience and subsequent visits to the United States to become Japan’s preeminent expert on the institutions and values of American democracy, and to shape this great institution of learning.

Writing more than a century ago, Fukuzawa saw extraordinary promise in the future relationship between Japan and the United States. This promise was tragically interrupted by war, but fulfilled 50 years ago when our two nations forged a partnership that has fostered stability, prosperity and growing political freedom in Asia. Ours is an alliance based not just on economic and military necessity, but on shared values with respect to how governments should treat their own people and deal with other nations in the conduct of international affairs: a belief in democratic ideals and the pursuit of peace and prosperity through international norms and organizations, rather than militarism and coercion.

I think it is important to remember those basic truths, indeed the wide, deep and rich array of values and interests that bind our two countries together – especially since news headlines about our alliance are often dominated by difficult issues such as Host Nation Support, the Futenma relocation, and funding for Guam. So what I would like to do this morning, before taking your questions, is to provide some strategic context to the U.S. – Japan defense partnership.

* First, I want to discuss the complex array of regional security challenges we face together, and the benefits of addressing those challenges between and among nations of shared interests; and
* Second, I want to explain the ways the U.S.-Japan defense partnership must adapt to meet those challenges, to include modernizing the alliance’s military capabilities and basing arrangements.

Over the course of its history, the U.S.-Japan alliance has succeeded at its original core purpose – to deter military aggression and provide an umbrella of security under which Japan – and the region – can prosper. Today, our alliance is growing deeper and broader as we address a range of security challenges in Asia. Some, like North Korea, piracy or natural disasters, have been around for decades, centuries, or since the beginning of time. Others, such as global terrorist networks, cyber attacks, and nuclear proliferation are of a more recent vintage. What these issues have in common is that they all require multiple nations working together – and they also almost always require leadership and involvement by key regional players such as the U.S. and Japan.

In turn, we express our shared values by increasing our alliance’s capacity to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief, take part in peace-keeping operations, protect the global commons, and promote cooperation and build trust through strengthening regional institutions.

Everyone gathered here knows the crippling devastation that can be caused by natural disasters – and the U.S. and Japan, along with our partners in the region, recognize that responding to these crises is a security imperative. In recent years, U.S. and Japanese forces delivered aid to remote earthquake-stricken regions on Indonesia, and U.S. aircraft based in Japan helped deliver assistance to typhoon victims in Burma. We worked together in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, earthquakes in Java, Sumatra, and Haiti, and most recently following the floods in Pakistan. These efforts have demonstrated the forward deployment of U.S. forces in Japan is of real and life-saving value. They also provide new opportunities for the U.S. and Japanese forces to operate together by conducting joint exercises and missions.

Furthermore, U.S. and Japanese troops have been working on the global stage to confront the threat of failed or failing states. Japanese peacekeepers have operated around the world, including the Golan Heights and East Timor and assisted with the reconstruction of Iraq. In Afghanistan, Japan represents the second largest financial donor, making substantive contributions to the international effort by funding the salaries of the Afghan National Police and helping the Afghan government integrate former insurgents.

Japan and the United States also continue to cooperate closely to ensure the maritime commons are safe and secure for commercial traffic. Our maritime forces work hand-in-glove in the Western Pacific as well as in other sea passages such as the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, where more than a third of the world’s oil and trade shipments pass through every year. Around the Horn of Africa, Japan has deployed surface ships and patrol aircraft that operate alongside those from all over the world drawn by the common goal to counter piracy in vital sea lanes.

Participating in these activities thrusts Japan’s military into a relatively new, and at times sensitive role, as an exporter of security. This is a far cry from the situation of even two decades ago when, as I remember well as a senior national security official, Japan was criticized for so-called “checkbook diplomacy” – sending money but not troops – to help the anti-Saddam coalition during the First Gulf War. By showing more willingness to send self-defense forces abroad under international auspices – consistent with your constitution – Japan is taking its rightful place alongside the world’s other great democracies. That is part of the rationale for Japan’s becoming a permanent member of a reformed United Nations Security Council.

And since these challenges cannot be tackled through bilateral action alone, we must use the strong U.S.-Japanese partnership as a platform to do more to strengthen multilateral institutions – regional arrangements that must be inclusive, transparent, and focused on results. Just a few months ago, I attended the historic first meeting of the ASEAN Plus Eight Defense Ministers Meeting in Hanoi, and am encouraged by Japan’s decision to co-chair the Military Medicine Working Group. And as a proud Pacific nation, the United States will take over the chairmanship of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum this year, following Japan’s successful tenure.

Working through regional and international forums puts our alliance in the best position to confront some of Asia’s toughest security challenges. As we have been reminded once again in recent weeks, none has proved to be more vexing and enduring than North Korea. Despite the hopes and best efforts of the South Korean government, the U.S. and our allies, and the international community, the character and priorities of the North Korean regime sadly have not changed. North Korea’s ability to launch another conventional ground invasion is much degraded from even a decade or so ago, but in other respects it has grown more lethal and destabilizing. Today, it is North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and proliferation of nuclear know-how and ballistic missile equipment that have focused our attention – developments that threaten not just the peninsula, but the Pacific Rim and international stability as well.

In response to a series of provocations – the most recent being the sinking of the Cheonan and North Korea’s lethal shelling of a South Korean island – Japan has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Republic of Korea and the United States. Our three countries continue to deepen our ties through the Defense Trilateral Talks – the kind of multilateral engagement among America’s long-standing allies that the U.S. would like to see strengthened and expanded over time.

When and if North Korea’s behavior gives us any reasons to believe that negotiations can be conducted productively and in good faith, we will work with Japan, South Korea, Russia, and China to resume engagement with North Korea through the six party talks. The first step in the process should be a North-South engagement. But, to be clear, the North must also take concrete steps to honor its international obligations and comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions.

Any progress towards diffusing the crisis on the Korean Peninsula must include the active support of the People’s Republic of China – where, as you probably know, I just finished an official visit. China has been another important player whose economic growth has fueled the prosperity of this part of the world, but questions about its intentions and opaque military modernization program have been a source of concern to its neighbors.

Questions about China’s growing role in the region manifest themselves in territorial disputes – most recently in the incident in September near the Senkaku Islands, an incident that served as a reminder of the important of America’s and Japan’s treaty obligations to one another. The U.S. position on maritime security remains clear: we have a national interest in freedom of navigation; in unimpeded economic development and commerce; and in respect for international law. We also believe that customary international law, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, provides clear guidance on the appropriate use of the maritime domain, and rights of access to it.

Nonetheless, I disagree with those who portray China as an inevitable strategic adversary of the United States. We welcome a China that plays a constructive role on the world stage. In fact, the goal of my visit was to improve our military-to-military relationship and outline areas of common interest. It is precisely because we have questions about China’s military – just as they might have similar questions about the United States – that I believe a healthy dialogue is needed.

Last fall, President Obama and President Hu Jin Tao made a commitment to advance sustained and reliable defense ties, not a relationship repeatedly interrupted by and subject to the vagaries of political weather. On a personal note, one of the things I learned from my experience dealing with the Soviet Union during my earlier time in government was the importance of maintaining a strategic dialogue and open lines of communication. Even if specific agreements did not result – on nuclear weapons or anything else – this dialogue helped us understand each other better and lessen the odds of misunderstanding and miscalculation. The Cold War is mercifully long over and the circumstances with China today are vastly different – but the importance of maintaining dialogue is as important today.

For the last few minutes I’ve discussed some of the most pressing security challenges – along with the most fruitful areas of regional cooperation – facing the U.S. and Japan in Asia. This environment – in terms of threats and opportunities – is markedly different than the conditions that led to the forging of the U.S-Japan defense partnership in the context of a rivalry between two global superpowers. But on account of the scope, complexity and lethality of these challenges, I would argue that our alliance is more necessary, more relevant, and more important than ever. And maintaining the vitality and credibility of the alliance requires modernizing our force posture and other defense arrangements to better reflect the threats and military requirements of this century.

For example, North Korea’s ballistic missiles – along with the proliferation of these weapons to other countries – require a more effective alliance missile defense capability. The U.S.-Japan partnership in missile defense is already one of the most advanced of its kind in the world. It was American and Japanese AEGIS ships that together monitored the North Korean missile launches of 2006 and 2008. This partnership –which relies on mutual support, cutting edge technology, and information sharing – in many ways reflect our alliance at its best. The U.S. and Japan have nearly completed the joint development of a new advanced interceptor, a system that represents a qualitative improvement in our ability to thwart any North Korean missile attack. The co-location of our air- and missile-defense commands at Yokota – and the associated opportunities for information sharing, joint training, and coordination in this area – provide enormous value to both countries.

As I alluded to earlier, advances by the Chinese military in cyber and anti-satellite warfare pose a potential challenge to the ability of our forces to operate and communicate in this part of the Pacific. Cyber attacks can also come from any direction and from a variety of sources – state, non-state, or a combination thereof – in ways that could inflict enormous damage to advanced, networked militaries and societies. Fortunately, the U.S. and Japan maintain a qualitative edge in satellite and computer technology – an advantage we are putting to good use in developing ways to counter threats to the cyber and space domains.

Just last month, the Government of Japan took another step forward in the evolution of the alliance by releasing its National Defense Program Guidelines – a document that lays out a vision for Japan’s defense posture. These guidelines envision:

* A more mobile and deployable force structure;
* Enhanced Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities; and
* A shift in focus to Japan’s southwest islands.

These new guidelines provide an opportunity for even deeper cooperation between our two countries – and the emphasis on your southwestern islands underscores the importance of our alliance’s force posture.

And this is a key point. Because even as the alliance continues to evolve – in strategy, posture, and military capabilities – to deal with this century’s security challenges, a critical component will remain the forward presence of U.S. military forces in Japan. Without such a presence:

* North Korea’s military provocations could be even more outrageous -- or worse;
* China might behave more assertively towards its neighbors;
* It would take longer to evacuate civilians affected by conflict or natural disasters in the region;
* It would be more difficult and costly to conduct robust joint exercises – such as the recent Keen Sword exercise – that hone the U.S. and Japanese militaries ability to operate and, if necessary, fight together; and
* Without the forward presence of U.S. forces in Japan, there would be less information sharing and coordination, and we would know less about regional threats and the military capabilities of our potential adversaries.

Given its importance to our alliance, we are pleased to have come to an agreement on Host Nation Support, Japan’s contribution to the financial cost of our shared defense efforts. This support is a tangible sign of Japan’s commitment to our security relationship, and it enables the U.S. to continue deploying our most advanced military capabilities in your defense. We are committed in return to using these funds efficiently, effectively, and transparently. As part of our “Green Alliance” agenda, we will together explore ways to make the U.S. military presence more environmentally friendly.

The Realignment Roadmap issued five years ago was designed to modernize our presence by updating U.S. basing arrangements – the most significant change being the relocation of the Air Station Futenma. Communities that host our bases make critical contributions to Japan’s security and peace in the region, but we are constantly seeking ways to reduce the impact that U.S. military activity imposes on the local population. The Futenma relocation plan will return land and facilities to the Okinawan people, move thousands of U.S. troops out of the most densely populated southern part of the island, and move the air station to the less populated north. As a result, after the relocation is completed, the average citizen of Okinawa will see (and hear) far fewer U.S. troops and aircraft than they do today.

Finally, as our alliance grows and deepens further still, it will be important for Japan to take on an even greater regional and global leadership roles that reflects its political, economic, and military capacity. In the United States we are engaged in a robust debate about the size, composition and cost of our military. Even as President Obama has committed the U.S. to a strategy of engagement and cooperation – with special emphasis on Asia – we will continue to maintain the military strength necessary to protect our interests, defend our allies, and deter potential adversaries from acts of aggression and intimidation. To do this we need a committed and capable security partner in Japan.

I would close by noting that the world has changed to a truly remarkable extent since our partnership was first forged. Just as no one in 1960 could have predicted the need for cyber security or the challenges of a truly global economic order, we can’t know with certainty what next threats and opportunities our nations will face.

Shortly after it was signed at the White House, President Dwight Eisenhower hailed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security as the fulfillment of a goal to “establish an indestructible partnership” between our two countries. I would say that over the last 50 years we have been faithful to that vision. And whatever the next 50 years hold, I’m certain that our alliance will remain an indestructible force for stability, a pathway for promoting our shared values, and a foundation upon which to build an ever-more interconnected and peaceful international order.

Thank you.


Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list