Mullen: U.S.-Japan Alliance Serves as Model for Others

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) 

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