USA/Japan — Gates Cites Importance of U.S.-Japanese Relationship

SINGAPORE, June 3, 2010 — Cit­ing North Korea’s March 26 sink­ing of the South Kore­an naval frigate, Cheo­nan, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today under­scored the need for con­tin­u­ing the strong secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Japan to help the two nations and their Pacif­ic part­ners meet the chal­lenges they face.

Gates spoke with reporters trav­el­ing with him short­ly before arriv­ing here to attend the “Shangri-La Dia­logue” Asia secu­ri­ty sum­mit.

“We are in the midst of the 50th anniver­sary of the Mutu­al Secu­ri­ty Treaty,” he said. “This is a great year for the Japanese-U.S. secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship, and I think that the sink­ing of the South Kore­an ship by [North Korea] sim­ply under­scores for every­body that there are secu­ri­ty chal­lenges in North­east Asia, and there­fore, the impor­tance of the secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Japan.”

Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Yukio Hatoya­ma announced his res­ig­na­tion yes­ter­day, and Gates expressed his hope that Hatoyama’s suc­ces­sor would speak to the impor­tance of that rela­tion­ship ear­ly on.

Hatoyama’s res­ig­na­tion is wide­ly report­ed to have result­ed from his rever­sal of a cam­paign posi­tion that would have moved U.S. Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Futen­ma off the Japan­ese island of Oki­nawa. Gates said he believes “a num­ber of domes­tic issues” also were fac­tors, but that as the secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship between the two nations moves for­ward, it must remain strong.

“By the same token,” he added, “I think we have to be sen­si­tive to some of the con­cerns that have been expressed by the Japan­ese in terms of train­ing and noise and some of those things, and we will be work­ing with the Japan­ese to see if there are ways to mit­i­gate that.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)