Gates: U.S. Committed to Robust Presence in East Asia

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 — The Unit­ed States remains com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing a robust for­ward pres­ence in the East Asian region, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today.
Gates and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton met with Japan­ese For­eign Min­is­ter Takea­ki Mat­sumo­to and Defense Min­is­ter Toshi­mi Kitaza­wa here for the first U.S.-Japan Secu­ri­ty Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tee Meet­ing held since 2007 .

The meet­ings, infor­mal­ly known as the 2+2 min­is­te­r­i­al, under­score the strength of the U.S.-Japan secu­ri­ty alliance and its role as the cor­ner­stone of sta­bil­i­ty in the region. Dis­cus­sions dur­ing this year’s meet­ing focused on the most crit­i­cal chal­lenges fac­ing the Asia-Pacif­ic region, Gates said. “Those include the denu­cleariza­tion of North Korea, sup­port­ing con­tin­ued progress in Afghanistan, and mar­itime secu­ri­ty,” he said.

Gates said com­mit­tee mem­bers agreed “on a frame­work to trans­fer joint­ly pro­duced mis­sile-defense inter­cep­tors to third par­ties, to deep­en our coop­er­a­tion on human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief, and to start new ini­tia­tives in space and cyber­se­cu­ri­ty.”

Dis­cus­sions includ­ed the response to the March 11 earth­quake and tsuna­mi that dis­abled Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant and left tens of thou­sands of peo­ple dead or miss­ing and hun­dreds of thou­sands home­less.

“The sight of U.S. and Japan­ese forces work­ing side by side to bring aid to the sur­vivors of the earth­quake and tsuna­mi in March demon­strat­ed the high lev­el of inter­op­er­abil­i­ty between the U.S. and Japan­ese forces,” Gates said.

“It also val­i­dat­ed years of invest­ment by both nations in train­ing and capa­bil­i­ties,” he added, ” … [and] demon­strat­ed to a new gen­er­a­tion in both coun­tries the close bonds between our peo­ple and the val­ue of this alliance.”

Dur­ing today’s meet­ing, Kitaza­wa expressed Japan’s “heart­felt grat­i­tude for the very gen­er­ous sup­port giv­en by the Unit­ed States in the after­math of the great east Japan earth­quake and for the kind­ness extend­ed.”

All of Japan is grate­ful for Oper­a­tion Tomodachi, he said, adding, “I believe it will be very impor­tant for us to learn from the expe­ri­ence of the earth­quake and adapt to chang­ing cir­cum­stances.”

Also on the agen­da was the relo­ca­tion of Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Futen­ma in Ginowan city on the island of Oki­nawa.

The Unit­ed States and Japan agreed on realign­ment ini­tia­tives in a May 2006 roadmap doc­u­ment that includ­ed a tar­get year of 2014 to relo­cate the base to the Marine infantry base at Camp Schwab in north­east­ern Oki­nawa.

“The pur­pose of the realign­ment is to main­tain deter­rence and reduce bur­dens on local com­mu­ni­ties,” Mat­sumo­to said. “And the agree­ment this time is to achieve both.” In a doc­u­ment released today, com­mit­tee mem­bers said the relo­ca­tion would not meet the 2014 tar­get and “con­firmed their com­mit­ment to com­plete the above projects at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble date after 2014.”

“The deci­sion announced today on the Futen­ma replace­ment facil­i­ty con­fig­u­ra­tion, along with oth­er ele­ments of the 2006 realign­ment road map, shows we are mak­ing steady progress toward mod­ern­iz­ing U.S. for­ward pres­ence in the region,” Gates said.

“It is crit­i­cal,” he added, “that we move for­ward with the relo­ca­tion of Futen­ma and con­struc­tion of facil­i­ties in Guam for the U.S. Marines.”

Doing so, Gates said, will reduce the impact of U.S. pres­ence on local res­i­dents and allow the Unit­ed States “to main­tain capa­bil­i­ties crit­i­cal to the alliance in Japan.” Inter­na­tion­al top­ics dis­cussed at today’s meet­ing includ­ed North Korea, Afghanistan and oth­er glob­al secu­ri­ty issues.

“On North Korea,” Clin­ton said, “we remain com­mit­ted to deter­ring fur­ther provoca­tive behav­iors by North Korea, sup­port­ing a North-South dia­logue, and pro­mot­ing the com­plete and peace­ful denu­cleariza­tion of the Kore­an Penin­su­la.”

Com­mit­tee mem­bers dis­cussed efforts to improve region­al coop­er­a­tion in sev­er­al mul­ti­lat­er­al forums “and through a tri­lat­er­al dia­logue with India,” she added.

Clin­ton said the mem­bers also addressed “joint efforts to advance peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Afghanistan, ensure Iran’s com­pli­ance with its oblig­a­tions under the Nuclear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, and bring secu­ri­ty against the pirates to the waters off the Horn of Africa.”

Along with a focus on glob­al issues, Clin­ton said the group “cel­e­brat­ed the mutu­al respect and shared val­ues that have served us so well for the past 50 years.”

As the U.S.-Japan alliance enters its sec­ond half-cen­tu­ry, she added, “It remains indis­pens­able to the peace, secu­ri­ty and eco­nom­ic dynamism of the Asia-Pacif­ic region.”

Gates said one of the most pos­i­tive changes he’s seen dur­ing his time in gov­ern­ment and after becom­ing defense sec­re­tary in late 2006 was an “extra­or­di­nary improve­ment” in U.S.-Japanese rela­tions.

“Those ties have only grown and deep­ened in recent years,” said Gates, who will retire at the end of June.

“I leave this post con­vinced that the future of our alliance is a bright one,” the sec­re­tary added. “It will con­tin­ue to be the cor­ner­stone of peace and pros­per­i­ty in the Asia-Pacif­ic [region].”

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

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