Gates Calls for Strengthening U.S.-Japan Defense Alliance

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) 

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