WASHINGTON, July 15, 2011 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on his first visit to Japan since it suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, today praised the U.S.-Japanese alliance and said the two nations must expand such relations throughout the Pacific region.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, speaking at a news conference from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, offered condolences to the Japanese people in the aftermath of the natural disaster and said the United States still is committed to helping its ally however it can. His visit is part of an East Asia tour this week that included trips to China and South Korea.
“Watching from afar, I must also say that I was inspired by the dignity, the strength, the grace and resilience with which Japanese citizens responded to the shock,” he said. “If ever there was by any people a finer display of character and courage under such circumstances, I simply haven’t seen it. And so, thank you, as well, for the power of your example to the world.”
Mullen praised the response of the Japanese Self-Defense Force for its skill and professionalism in helping Japanese citizens following the disaster. “For our part, the United States military was proud to support your troops and to labor side by side [and] day and night with them — on the ground, in the air, and at sea — as we jointly battled the elements and the unspeakable destruction.”
The collaboration of the Japanese and U.S. forces following the earthquake is a testament to the countries’ strong relationship, the admiral said, adding that his trip to Japan was meant to underscore the U.S. commitment to a partnership with Japan.
“We know you, and you know us,” he said. “And, together, we have served not only the defense of Japan, but the cause of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. And it is the strength of that friendship I am here to reaffirm. In every meeting I will attend, in every discussion I will have, I will convey my government’s commitment — and that of my military — to expanding and improving our bilateral relations.”
Noting that the United States is a Pacific power, Mullen said it will seize every opportunity to promote peace in the region. “Of course, should your women’s soccer team defeat ours in the World Cup this weekend, we may have to seriously rethink our position,” he joked about the much-anticipated July 17 match-up.
As part of strengthening their alliance, Mullen said, Japan and the United States also must reach out to expand multilateral relations in the region. “No single nation can address all of today’s challenges alone,” he said. “There is greater strength to be found in the diversity of talent presented through plural initiatives and cooperation.”
Japan’s recent efforts to improve bilateral relations with South Korea and Australia are a good example, Mullen said, in addressing common challenges ranging from piracy in the Straits of Malacca to weapons proliferation and disaster response.
Mullen said he would like to see those bilateral relationships extend to more conventional and defensive capabilities with South Korea and others. “The United States has enduring interests in the Pacific, and we have enduring security commitments we plan to broaden and deepen,” he said. “But so, too, would we like to see others broaden and deepen their cooperation with their neighbors.
“Relationships matter,” he continued. “Where they are strong, there is trust and transparency and a better chance for stability. Where they are weak or nonexistent, there is, at best, suspicion and, at worst, the very real risk of miscalculation.”
Mullen began the Asia trip at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chen Bingde, who visited the Pentagon in May. The admiral said the meetings he took part in over several days in China were “productive and generally positive with respect to moving us closer to some sort of relationship.” He noted that the U.S. and Chinese militaries have not had “a sustained, reliable relationship.”
The chairman said he made clear in Beijing that “there’s just too much at stake for us not to have an understanding of one another.” But, he acknowledged, U.S. military leaders and those with the People’s Liberation Army have a long way to go.
“I am under no illusion that we have cemented anything like a partnership with the PLA,” he said. “Maybe we never will. Differences between us are still stark. But the work of establishing a relationship has to start somewhere. The exchanges and exercises we agreed to are good first steps, as are discussions we will soon have about the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement.”
U.S. allies should not be concerned about the country’s efforts at a military relationship with China, Mullen said.
“Relationships are not zero-sum affairs, replete with winners and losers,” he explained. “One relationship does not come at the expense of another. Nor does a relationship in the nascent stages of development unseat or make unsteady those that have been tempered over time and trial. Quite the contrary. A constructive [U.S.-China military] relationship is eventually good for everyone with whom we are close.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)