Mullen: Trilateral Cooperation Best Response to North Korea

TOKYO, Dec. 9, 2010 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met here today with Japan­ese lead­ers to encour­age clos­er bi and mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion, not only to con­front cur­rent threats like North Korea, but also to tap new oppor­tu­ni­ties to advance region­al secu­ri­ty.
Meet­ing with Gen. Ryoichi Ori­ki, Japan­ese chief of staff, Defense Min­is­ter Toshi­mi Kitaza­wa and Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Kenichi­ro Sasae, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen under­scored the impor­tance of the long­stand­ing U.S.-Japan alliance and the desire to rein­vig­o­rate it dur­ing “these very crit­i­cal times.”

Mullen, who trav­eled here after meet­ing with South Kore­an lead­ers in Seoul, rec­og­nized the volatil­i­ty of the region, much of it owed to “the reck­less behav­ior of the North Kore­an regime, enabled by their friends in Chi­na.”

The chair­man con­demned North Korea’s recent provo­ca­tions, most recent­ly, an unpro­voked Nov. 23 artillery attack on South Korea’s Yeon­pyeong Island, and said he fears it’s not the last.

“I actu­al­ly believe that because these provo­ca­tions con­tin­ue in seem­ing­ly more fre­quent inter­vals that the dan­ger is going up and that steps must be tak­en to ensure that they stop,” he told reporters at a news con­fer­ence at the U.S. Embassy.

Mullen reit­er­at­ed his call for Chi­na to exert its influ­ence and get North Korea to change course. “There is no coun­try in the world that has more influ­ence in Pyongyang than Chi­na,” he said. “And that is part of respon­si­ble lead­er­ship, … of being a glob­al pow­er, and I would hope [Chi­na] would heed this call and do that.”

But Mullen said it’s also up to Japan, South Korea and the Unit­ed States, as well as oth­er region­al nations, to work togeth­er in a way that that not only sends a clear deter­rent mes­sage to North Korea and Chi­na, but also pro­motes longer-term region­al secu­ri­ty.

“The strong pref­er­ence is that this be done peace­ful­ly, that we don’t get into a sit­u­a­tion that esca­lates, and that lead­ers and coun­tries step for­ward to ensure that doesn’t hap­pen,” he said.

Not­ing the 42 nations con­tribut­ing troops in Afghanistan, Mullen called mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion “the way of the future.”

“No sin­gle nation can address all of today’s chal­lenges alone,” he said. “Even if some­one could, there is a greater strength to be found in the diver­si­ty of tal­ent and skill pre­sent­ed through mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion.”

The chair­man, vis­it­ing here as the Unit­ed States and Japan con­duct the “Keen Sword” bilat­er­al mil­i­tary exer­cise, said he was encour­aged that South Korea had sent mil­i­tary observers to par­tic­i­pate. Mullen called it “a ter­rif­ic first step to broad­en­ing our tri­lat­er­al rela­tion­ship and deep­en­ing our col­lec­tive readi­ness.”

Mullen empha­sized the val­ue of this tri­lat­er­al mil­i­tary engage­ment, cit­ing “a real sense of urgency” on the Kore­an penin­su­la “that is much bet­ter addressed with all of us, togeth­er, in terms of show­ing strength and get­ting to a point where we are able to deter North Korea’s behav­ior.”

The chair­man acknowl­edged past acri­mo­ny between Japan and South Korea, but said today’s chal­lenges and future oppor­tu­ni­ties require look­ing ahead, togeth­er. “All lead­ers, civil­ian and mil­i­tary, have to fig­ure out a way, in the region and in the world, to work togeth­er and be less tied to our past,” he said.

Dwelling on the past “too often drags us back when we should be mov­ing for­ward,” he said. It “can hold back ini­tia­tives for the future which are real­ly impor­tant as we look at this chang­ing world.”

Mullen praised Japan’s lead­er­ship in that chang­ing world: spear­head­ing inter­na­tion­al mar­itime and com­mer­cial ini­tia­tives and expand­ing its role in inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty affairs, includ­ing con­tri­bu­tions to Afghanistan and Pak­istan.

He said he was heart­ened dur­ing today’s meet­ing with Japan­ese lead­ers about their com­mit­ment to the Japan-U.S. part­ner­ship and their will­ing­ness to enhance it in ways that ben­e­fit the alliance and the region.

In doing so, the chair­man warned against let­ting tac­ti­cal issues dri­ve strate­gic thought – with short-term objec­tives obscur­ing long-term out­comes.

“It was through such a view that we approached our dis­cus­sions in Seoul, and it is through this view that I believe Japan and the Unit­ed States must con­tin­ue to approach our own bilat­er­al rela­tions,” he said. “What is nec­es­sary, over the long term, is a larg­er vision for a sta­ble, secure and even more pros­per­ous region — not based on threats but on oppor­tu­ni­ties, not mired in fear, but alight­ed through mutu­al trust and coop­er­a­tion.”

Japan and the Unit­ed States have shared this type of trust and coop­er­a­tion for 50 years, Mullen said, and will con­tin­ue build­ing on it as they explore ways to strength­en their alliance for the future.

“Yes­ter­day I was in Seoul, reaf­firm­ing in the face of this hos­til­i­ty our strong com­mit­ment to the defense of South Korea and to secu­ri­ty on the penin­su­la,” he said.

“Today, I come to Tokyo for much the same rea­son: to reaf­firm America’s unbreak­able bond with the peo­ple of Japan, to reas­sure you of our endur­ing defense oblig­a­tions under Arti­cle Five of the mutu­al defense treaty, and to our pledge to look for ways to improve coop­er­a­tion across the full spec­trum of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions.”

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

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