WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2011 — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called the U.S.-Japan alliance a cornerstone of regional security and stability that’s critical to addressing challenges such as North Korea and China.
Panetta emphasized America’s commitment to maintain a robust forward presence in Asia as he arrived today for his first visit to Japan as defense secretary.
In a commentary published in today’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the secretary cited the security and economic interests the United States and Japan share, as well as the two nations’ belief in democracy and the rule of law.
“That is why I’m convinced the ties between our two countries will only grow and deepen as American increases its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region,” Panetta wrote.
Panetta lauded the Japanese people’s resilience and strength in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation in March, noting the U.S. support provided in the aftermath as an affirmation of the alliance’s strength. That same spirit of cooperation will be critical in addressing a range of common challenges that abound across the region, he said.
Panetta cited North Korea’s “reckless and provocative behavior” and its focus on developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. This threatens not just Japan, but the entire region, he said.
Similarly, the secretary noted lack of transparency about China’s rapid military modernization program and its “increasingly assertive activity” in the East and South China Seas.
“Together, the U.S. and Japan will work to bring North Korea back to the Six Party Talks, and encourage China to play a responsible role in the international community,” he wrote.
Panetta recognized positive progress on goals laid out at the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting in June. This includes improved interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces, he said, as well as joint development efforts in areas including missile defense, space and cyberspace.
While emphasizing U.S. commitment to a “robust forward presence in Asia,” the secretary said the realignment of the U.S. military footprint in Japan will reduce its cost and impact on local populations.
“Moving forward with the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Camp Schwab is a core part of this effort,” he wrote. “Doing so as soon as possible will be good for the alliance, for the people of Okinawa and for regional peace and stability.”
Panetta closed calling the U.S.-Japan alliance “an indispensable pillar of regional and global security.”
“Drawing strength from our shared values,” he said, “we will work to uphold the international order and ensure the continued peace and prosperity of our people in the 21st century.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)