Panetta: U.S.-Japan Alliance Vital to Regional Security

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)