TOKYO, Jan. 13, 2011 — The U.S.-Japan alliance, negotiated and signed during the height of the Cold War, may be even more important today, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said to the students of Keio University here.
Gates delivered the speech the morning of Jan. 14 in Japan, which was early this evening on the U.S. East Coast.
The U.S.-Japan defense pact, signed in 1960, is based “not just on economic and military necessity, but on shared values,” Gates said in prepared remarks. The alliance has successfully deterred aggression and has provided a security umbrella for the region, he added, and must continue to grow and deepen to continue to be successful. The alliance faces many security challenges, Gates acknowledged.
“Some, like North Korea, piracy or natural disasters, have been around for decades, centuries or the beginning of time,” he said. “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.”
Japan’s role in the world has grown, and the country is acting on its values, the secretary noted, helping countries and people struck by disaster and by promoting peacekeeping operations on land and sea.
“Participating in these activities thrusts Japan’s military into a relatively new — and, at times sensitive — role as an exporter of security,” Gates said. “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.”
Japan has worked with the United States in many of these operations, but Japan needs to use the base of the alliance to strengthen multilateral institutions, Gates told the group. “Working through regional and international forums puts our alliance in the best position to confront some of Asia’s toughest security challenges,” the secretary explained. “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 have, sadly, not changed.”
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and proliferation of nuclear know-how and ballistic missile equipment are developments that threaten not just the peninsula, but the nations of the Pacific Rim and international stability as well, Gates said.
Through all recent North Korean provocations, the United States, Japan and South Korea have stood firm, Gates told the students. “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,” he said.
Nations must cooperate, and any solution in Korea needs Chinese help, the secretary said. Though China is a world power with a fast-growing economy, he added, questions have arisen about the nation’s intentions and the opaque nature of its military buildup. “I disagree with those who portray China as an inevitable strategic adversary of the United States,” Gates said. “We welcome a China that plays a constructive role on the world stage.”
The secretary said his visit to Beijing was intended to re-start the military-to-military relationship between the two nations, and that he wants to ensure connections between the United States and China remain open at all times. Dealing with the Soviet Union, he said, convinced him of the importance of open lines of communications. “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 misunderstandings and miscalculation,” he said. “The Cold War is, mercifully, long over and the circumstances with China today are vastly different. But the importance of maintaining that dialogue is as important today.”
The scope, complexity and lethality of these challenges and more mean “that our alliance is more necessary, more relevant and more important than ever,” the secretary said. “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.”
Ballistic missile defense is one important area, and the United States and Japan have worked together to develop the best anti-missile system in the world, Gates said. “This partnership — which relies on mutual support, cutting-edge technology and information sharing — in many ways reflects our alliance at its best,” he added.
The Chinese military has made strides in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, posing a potential challenge to the ability of U.S. and Japanese forces to operate and communicate, Gates said. Meanwhile, the Japanese government is weighing its defense needs in the National Defense Program Guidelines – a document that lays out a vision for Japan’s defense posture. The guidelines call for a more mobile and deployable force structure; more 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,” Gates said.
And that cooperation needs U.S. forces forward-based, the secretary said. Without it, “North Korea’s military provocations could be even more outrageous — or worse,” he said. “China might behave more assertively toward its neighbors.”
The forward-basing concept itself is changing, using the realignment roadmap Japan and the United States issued five years ago. The most significant and contentious change is the relocation of the Air Station Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa.
“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,” Gates said. “The Futenma relocation plan will return land 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,” he continued, “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.”
As the alliance grows and deepens, Japan must take on an even greater regional and global leadership role that reflects its political, economic and military capacity, the secretary said. The United States is wrestling with the size and cost of the American military, he added, but America will stand by treaty allies.
“To do this, we need a committed and capable security partner in Japan,” Gates said. “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.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)