TOKYO, Jan. 13, 2011 — The U.S.-Japan defense pact has demonstrated its value over the past 50 years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told students at Keio University here.
In a question-and-answer session after a speech he delivered the morning of Jan. 14 in Japan – late this evening on the U.S. East Coast — the secretary also said he believes Chinese President Hu Jintao is firmly in control of the Peoples’ Liberation Army, but the civilian and military sides must communicate better.
Gates spoke at the beginning of a day that will take him from the college to Seoul, South Korea, and then to Washington, D.C. He told the students that Japanese defense costs would skyrocket if the nation decided to go it alone.
“Because of our alliance, Japan has been secure from foreign threats for over half a century at a cost of less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product,” Gates said. “I would say, in economic terms, this alliance has been a very good deal for Japan.”
Gates went on to say that the United States and Japan working together are stronger than either would be operating independently.
China is a concern and a challenge to the United States and Japan, the secretary noted. The United States and China have cooperated many times since the normalization of U.S.-China relations in 1972, he told the students. Early in the relationship, he said, the two countries cooperated against the Soviet Union, and since then, the nations have close and huge economic ties.
“I think there are a wide array of relationships between the United States and China that underpin the contacts between the two countries and provide opportunities for us to get to know each other better and to cooperate,” the secretary said.
On the military side, Gates and his Chinese counterparts agreed that the militaries can cooperate in counterterrorism, counterpiracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and other areas. Also, China, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia “very much have in common the need for stability and peace on the Korean peninsula,” he said. Opportunities always are present for nations with different economic and political systems to work together, Gates said. He cited as proof his experience with the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War and the contacts he maintained with Soviet leaders. Two countries having different political systems is no obstacle to harmonious relationships, he said.
Gates told the students and faculty that there are signs of a “disconnect” between Chinese civilian and military leaders.
“We think the civilian leadership was not aware of the aggressive approach by Chinese ships to the USNS Impeccable a few years ago,” he said. “We also think the civilian leadership may not have known about the anti-satellite test that was conducted about three years ago, and … there were pretty clear indications that they were unaware of the flight test of the J‑20 [stealth fighter Jan. 10],” he said.
Part of this disconnect can be explained by bureaucratic mistakes, Gates said, but it still worries him.
“One of the reasons why I have pressed so hard for there to be a deeper, senior-level military-civilian dialogue from both countries is we have no forum right now on military issues that includes senior civilians and military,” he said.
“I don’t question the [Communist] Party’s control of the Peoples’ Liberation Army,” he continued. “I have no doubts about the fact that President Hu Jintao is in command and in charge, but I know from our own system that sometimes there are disconnects with military information flowing to our civilian leaders.”
Gates said the U.S. system features the National Security Council, in which military and civilian staffs work side by side and military information is shared in detail not only with the White House, but also with the State Department.
“There are opportunities in this dialogue to advance this civilian-military cooperation,” he said, “and I think it would also enhance military-to-military relationships.”
Gates immediately left the university to travel to Seoul, South Korea.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)