The Enduring Importance of our Security Alliance

Ambassador John V. Roos
Waseda University Organization for Japan-U.S. Studies (WOJUSS) event
Waseda University, Tokyo

January 29, 2010

Waseda University President Katsuhiko Shirai introduced the Ambassador.

Thank you very much President Shirai for that warm welcome and I also want to thank you for your remarks with respect to the importance of educational exchanges between Japan and the United States. While my topic today is the security alliance, cultural and educational exchanges between our two countries is something that I feel very, very deeply about and intend to and already have spent a significant amount of time as the Ambassador to Japan focused on that issue. I also want to thank Waseda University Organization for Japan-U.S. Studies for hosting this event here today. I'd also like to express my real appreciation to all of you, and particularly the students who are here, for taking time out of your day to hear my thoughts on what I believe to be is an incredibly important and timely topic.

Waseda, as you know - I don't have to tell you, has a long and renowned history. Six post-WWII prime ministers come from this university. The university also hosted Ambassador Edwin Reischauer, President Bill Clinton, and in the not too distant past, Ambassador Tom Foley, among other luminaries who have had the opportunity to stand at this podium. So I want to tell you that I am truly honored and deeply humbled to be standing before you today. As you all know, this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States of America, my country, and your country, Japan. It is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the alliance that President Eisenhower in 1960 described as "indestructible" and that Secretary Clinton just described last week as "indispensable." More importantly, it is a time to take stock of current challenges and to look ahead to ways we can create a more durable and forward-looking alliance and to ensure that the next 50 years will be as safe and secure for this region as the last 50 years have been. Make no mistake about it: The stakes are high. Just as the alliance served as the anchor of peace throughout the Cold War, our partnership is critical to weathering the historic changes that are facing this area of the world. Last December, I spoke at the Japan Institute of International Affairs where I focused on the multifaceted nature of our partnership and how we can broaden it even further. For example, given that we are two of the most innovative countries in the world, if not the two most innovative countries in the world, I spoke about the important work we can and will do together to find solutions to climate change and our need for energy security. I further discussed how our two countries are in a unique position to lead the efforts toward mutual goals of nuclear disarmament and to confront the growing problem of nuclear proliferation. There is a great opportunity to expand the already deep ties and significant work our two countries do together, and last week our two governments committed to do this in this anniversary year. But such efforts will rely first and foremost on the strong foundational base of our strategic alliance. In this uncertain and rapidly changing world, what the countries in this region seek most is the constant of a robust U.S.-Japan security partnership. So today I would like to take a step back and focus my comments on the core of our security relationship as well as give some context to the current debate surrounding our bases in Okinawa. I chose Waseda as the forum for this speech because of the university's long standing concern for stability and progress in Asia. It is also the young people of our two countries (you in this audience) who will be most impacted by the decisions of our leaders that we make today, so it is very important that you be part of this discussion.

As we look back, our two countries can take pride in the fact that the U.S.-Japan Alliance has provided a half-century of peace in East Asia, allowing Japan and the entire region to reach unprecedented levels of security and prosperity. When our two nations entered into this alliance, the coming half-century of peace and prosperity was far from assured. In 1960 we were at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Tensions across the 38th parallel and Taiwan Strait were high, with regular exchanges of fire across boundaries that no party viewed as satisfactory or permanent.

Yet for the next 50 years, conflict did not erupt. Our security partnership, a primary component of which is the United States' forces in Japan, helped deter a renewal of full-scale hostilities on the Korean Peninsula and across the Taiwan Strait, while containing Soviet efforts to project power into the Pacific. With this shield, Japan invented the model for rapid economic growth that was soon copied by others in this region. With rising incomes came a flourishing of democracy in South Korea and Taiwan. The United States worked hand-in-hand with Japan and other democratic allies around the world to build a set of international rules and norms that ushered in the most vibrant period of commerce and innovation human history has ever seen. The success of this system ultimately enabled us to bring an end to the Cold War.

In my first few years - months, hasn't been a few years, sometimes it seems like a few years - but in my first few months as Ambassador, a number of people, including some in government, have questioned the need for the present level and/or mix of the U.S. bases in Japan, even though poll numbers show that the alliance enjoys more popular support than ever before (85% approval rating in the last poll). I just returned from the United States where I heard similar statements being made by many in my own country. Some have pointed to the recent troop adjustments in Europe as a reason to make major adjustments here in Japan. But the end of the Cold War has in no way diminished the importance of our forward deployed forces and our security posture to maintain peace and stability in this area of the world. Even in Europe, in the context of a mutual security architecture, NATO, that has significantly diminished the possibility of cross border conflict, our allies look to us to maintain 80,000 troops and tactical nuclear weapons, to help ensure stability. Of greater concern is the continued level of risk that remains in this region despite the end of the Cold War. With China's dramatic and well-funded military modernization and North Korea's missile and nuclear program, arguably, Japan's security situation is just as complicated as it was when the Berlin Wall fell 21 years ago.

North Korea obviously remains the most immediate concern. North Korea is the most militarized state in the world, with over a million soldiers under arms, it remains a conventional threat. Over the past several years, North Korea has focused on developing a wide range of capabilities including ballistic missiles. North Korea, as you know, has also proliferated, using its weapons technology to earn cash from dangerous regimes throughout the world. Even as we prepare to meet these military threats, the possibility of regime collapse, particularly in the context of leadership succession, is a growing concern. A North Korea that falls into internal disarray would pose monumental security challenges to this region. We have all worked hard to use diplomacy to steer North Korea into the community of nations, and we will continue to do so. Our diplomatic efforts, however, rest in part on the credibility of our ability to deter North Korea from using other means to achieve its objectives.

China is perhaps the best example of the complexities we face in the world today. There is no doubt that the economies of the United States, Japan, and China are increasingly interdependent. The United States relies on Japanese and Chinese capital. China could not succeed without U.S. and Japanese technology. And Japan and China depend on U.S. markets and we depend on China's markets. The interplay among our three countries has emerged as a driver in the global economy. China's leadership is also very important to solving global problems from climate change to North Korea's nuclear program. President Obama has emphasized that the U.S. seeks a positive cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China, and the world is counting on Beijing to work with the United States, Japan, and the international community to address some of the key issues of our day. Recently, for example, China has worked with us as a partner in stabilizing the international financial system, and in protecting vital sea lanes from piracy. Given Japan's and the United States' overlapping interests as allies, we believe that Japan's active bilateral engagement with China is a positive and complements our own. The relations among and between our three countries are not, as some would suggest, a zero sum game.

Yet, even as the United States and Japan work with China as a partner, we have questions about China's accelerating military modernization, especially in areas like cyber warfare, anti-satellite weapons, and the rapid modernization of its nuclear, submarine, and strategic forces. The build-up of military capabilities across from Taiwan over the past decade has the potential to erode the long-standing cross-strait military balance which is so essential to peace and prosperity. Many countries in the region share our concerns about China's recent efforts to limit freedom of navigation in international waters beyond territorial limits. As major maritime trading partners, freedom of navigation is essential to the futures of both the United States and Japan.

So while I want to be careful not to overstate these concerns, among these types of uncertainties in this region the deterrent effect of a robust U.S.-Japan Alliance is crucial to ensuring that the dramatic changes in the security environment do not negatively affect this region's future peace and prosperity. The purpose of maintaining a credible deterrent capability is to make the price of using force greater than any potential political or economic gains that could be obtained through the use of force. This is vitally important here in East Asia, which has four of the five largest armed forces in the world. The cost of a military conflict in this region is beyond imagination. In addition to the human toll, even a short conflict would set the global economy back years, if not longer. This is why there has been some concerns expressed these past several weeks about the perceived tensions in our alliance by leaders and editorialists from Singapore to Taiwan to Seoul. Our Alliance is the critical stabilizing force in this area of the world.

The fundamental role of U.S. forces in Japan is to make those who would consider the use of force in this region understand that that option is off the table. The forward deployment of U.S. forces puts us in a position to react immediately to emerging threats, and serves as a tangible symbol of our commitment. The 49,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in Japan are our front line forces.

Why does the United States undertake obligations to Japan and other nations that have to be paid in national treasure and possibly the blood of its citizens? As President Obama said in his remarks at his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, "The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest - because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity."

The current mix of U.S. forces in Japan is based on our assessment of the military capabilities we need to achieve this goal of stability and deterrence in this crucial part of the world.

The U.S. Air Force, for example, deploys top line aircraft for air superiority, counterstrike, and intelligence collection. The presence of our naval forces in Yokosuka and Sasebo would enable us to react in a matter of days rather than weeks to any situation that may arise. Our naval forces also work on a daily basis with their Japanese counterparts to track the growing foreign submarine presence in the waters around Japan. Our Army would provide logistical support in the event of a conflict in this area, as well as integrating with the Navy, Air Force, and Japanese Self Defense Forces to provide ballistic missile defense for Japan.

The Marine Corps presence in Okinawa, which I am sure you have all been hearing about, is perhaps the least understood by the general public, but in reality is among the most critical of the forces we deploy in both peacetime and in the unlikely event of conflict. So let me be a little more detailed here and a little technical, because I think it is important for all of us to understand. The III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa brings together the core capabilities of all of our other services into a rapidly deployable self-contained fighting force known as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The Marines combine air, ground, and logistical forces together, so that in any contingency or emergency there would be no need to wait for complicated logistical and airlift support from other services. The short range helicopters assigned to the Marines in Okinawa would be able to rapidly move our ground combat and support units on Okinawa across the island chain that links Northeast and Southeast Asia to wherever they would be required. For heavier or longer-range operations, the Marines would be supported by our naval fleet in Sasebo, just a few days sailing time away, which could project both Marine ground and air power anywhere in the region. This mobility and forward presence is why the Marines in Okinawa are routinely our primary responder to major natural disasters in Asia, such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami, mudslides in the Philippines, or the recent typhoon in Taiwan. A little known fact is that the Marines, along with other U.S. forces, have led or participated in 12 significant humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions in the last five years alone, helping to save hundreds of thousands of lives in this region. The Marines in Okinawa would play a similar rapid response role in any armed conflict in the region, arriving first on the scene to secure critical facilities, conduct civilian evacuations, and provide forward land and air strike power.

If the Marines were moved entirely off of Japan, their mobility and effectiveness in the region would be impacted, and it could be perceived negatively with regard to the United States' commitment to this region. The next closest ground combat troops available are Army contingents based in Hawaii, and the distance that they would have to travel would delay U.S. responsiveness in regional contingencies.

In addition, the ability of the Marines and all our forces in Japan to conduct realistic training exercises ensures not only that they are ready to respond to any situation, but also serves as a visible deterrent. What we do here in Japan is carefully watched throughout the region. Whether it is F-15 air-to-air combat drills off of Kadena Air Force Base or visits by Ballistic Missile Defense-equipped Aegis destroyers to civilian ports on the Sea of Japan, publicly exercising our forces' capabilities to defend Japan makes it less likely that we will ever need to use them in a real conflict.

Of course, behind our forward-based forces in Japan is also the full weight of U.S. national military power, both conventional and nuclear. If, God forbid, a conflict were to erupt, our front line units would be stretched to maintain a sustained conflict without reinforcement. That is why we routinely bring military assets such as the F-22s to Japan to ensure that we could deploy the necessary resources as quickly as possible in the event the need ever arises.

Let me take a moment to address our nuclear posture. The nuclear deterrent we provide to Japan is obviously important given North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the existence of two major acknowledged nuclear powers in the region. As you know, President Obama is fully committed to the goal of totally eliminating nuclear weapons, and we must continue to work very hard to achieve that goal. Until we reach that objective, however, preserving an effective nuclear deterrent for ourselves, Japan, and our other allies remains an absolutely unshakable commitment of the United States.

Of course, our Alliance could not operate effectively without the shared responsibilities and partnership of Japan. Under the terms of the Mutual Security Treaty, we are required to provide the land, air, and naval forces necessary to defend Japan. In exchange, Japan is responsible for providing bases and areas for U.S. forces to protect Japan and to maintain peace and security in East Asia. This is the basic compact that has served our two nations - and the region - so well over the five decades. The presence of the U.S. personnel in Japan reassures the region of America's commitment to maintaining peace. We could not fulfill this role or our treaty commitments without the bases that Japan provides. At the same time, the U.S. recognizes that it must always seek measures to better structure our basing presence here. In this regard, the Realignment Roadmap Agreement we reached in 2006, which has been the subject of so much discussion, reflected in part a shared realization of the need to re-structure our forces to respond to the changing Japanese demographics over the past several decades. While we must maintain the necessary deterrent capability over the longer term, we must also reduce the footprint of our forces in heavily populated areas.

Nowhere is this truer than in Okinawa. Due to its strategic location, Okinawa suffered severely during the war. Since that time and for the same strategic reasons, it has hosted a much larger share of U.S. bases than the other parts of Japan. Unfortunately, given trends in the security environment, Okinawa is becoming not less but more important for the defense of Japan and maintenance of peace in the region. This is why, for example, the Japan Self-Defense Forces are reorienting their posture to focus on the Ryukyu Islands chain.

The U.S. is mindful, however, of Okinawa's historic experience, and recognizes the need to balance the concerns of the people of Okinawa against the island's strategic importance. The 2006 Roadmap sought to strike this balance as effectively as possible, by returning nearly 70% of our base land from the heavily populated area south of the Kadena Air Force Base, and moving some of our capabilities to the less populated areas in the north. The relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Camp Schwab, which involves moving 8,000 Marines to Guam, has been the most controversial part of the plan. This arrangement is certainly not perfect; no compromise ever is. But, what makes this issue especially difficult is that our two nations studied and debated virtually every conceivable alternative for more than a decade before deciding that the current plan is the best option to enable us to close Futenma as quickly as possible without degrading our ability to fulfill our treaty commitments. But I want you to know that I remain confident that we will work through the current issues and our alliance will be stronger for it.

Closing Futenma though is not the end of our work in our restructuring effort. We are also looking for many ways to address local concerns over such issues as noise and the environment, and we must continue to work hard together to address those issues. Much more can be done to make our bases in Japan environmentally friendly, including for example, by using the latest green technology on on-base construction.

Beyond that, I strongly believe we can do much more to help Okinawa realize the full economic benefits of its strategic location amidst this vibrant region. During my recent visit to Okinawa, I was struck by its potential to serve as a bridge between Japan, Asia, and the United States. In addition, the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology promises to be a truly world-class institution that will put the prefecture on the map for scientific and business sectors alike. With a young and growing population, open to foreign ideas and experiences, Okinawa is well-placed to thrive in this globalized economy. The United States and Japan can do much more and must be creative to help facilitate Okinawa's development.

In addition to providing bases, Japan's host nation support also directly supports our readiness financially. I honestly don't think it is appropriate to call host nation support a "sympathy budget." It is an important measure to share the cost the United States incurs to maintain in Japan some of the most advanced, and most expensive, military capabilities in the world. Japan's total host nation support costs are roughly $4.3 billion per year, all money that is recycled through Japan's economy in the form of rents, salaries, or services.

To put Japan's overall defense spending into perspective, Japan spends 0.85% of its GDP on defense. South Korea spends 2.7%, Australia 2.4%, China 4.3%, and Singapore 4.9%. The U.S. spends more than 4% of its GDP on defense. In the worldwide ranking of nations' defense spending as a percentage of GDP, Japan came in number 150 while its larger neighbors ranked in the top 30.

While the U.S. sees host nation support as an important contribution in terms of the overall cost of maintaining the alliance, we understand that many question how the money is being spent. That is why, in 2008, we agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of host nation support to ensure that the Japanese taxpayers benefit from the most efficient program possible. And we must continue to be vigilant stewards of Japan's investment in the American presence in this country.

Let me now turn to how we see the future of our strategic alliance unfolding. Our commitment to Japan will remain unchanged. At the same time, consistent with Japan's Constitution, we are eager to work with Japan to create a more equal and effective defense partnership, one in which shared risks and burdens translate into greater security. Given the severe fiscal challenges both of our countries face, it is essential that we increase coordination and avoid duplication as we seek to maintain the regional military balance in a rapidly changing strategic environment. For more than a decade, our countries have moved towards closer military-to-military cooperation, especially in the area of contingency or emergency planning. The co-location of United States and Japanese air defense personnel at Yokota, as well as that of the command element of U.S. and Japanese forces at Camp Zama, offer the chance to deepen our operational coordination even further. Equally as significant are our arrangements for increased bilateral training among our ground, air, and maritime forces. Of course, over the past decade ballistic missile defense cooperation has been the driver of our military-to-military cooperation and will remain a key area in the future. These steps, all reflected in the alliance transformation package, will increase the alliance's overall deterrent capabilities.

There is still much more that we can do together in the future to enhance cooperation, which will in turn provide greater deterrent value at a lower cost. Prime Minister Hatoyama recently spoke in Singapore about the idea of greater U.S.-Japan engagement with Southeast Asia in response to natural disasters. The United States Marine Corps and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces can serve together as first responders in regional humanitarian crises. When such crises occur, we can and should coordinate our responses as allies, as we are doing with the international community now in Haiti, where Japan is playing a significant and very valuable role in helping to address that terrible tragedy. In addition to supporting our friends in Southeast Asia as Prime Minister Hatoyama has proposed, we should also seek closer cooperation with partners in the region who share our values and objectives. In recent years, the U.S. and Japan have established trilateral dialogues with both Korea and Australia. These multilateral engagements can supplement our efforts to protect sea-lanes, which carry critical energy and food supplies, and defend against ballistic missiles and other threats.

The United States and Japan can do much more to extend our deterrence to space and cyber-space. Our two countries maintain a qualitative edge in satellite and computer technology. These technologies can be deployed in coordination in the field of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Given the proliferation of potential threats in this area, we just can't afford to duplicate our efforts.

Finally, our partnership can and should extend beyond this region. The flip side of the rise of new global powers is the weakening of state control in large swaths of the developing world. Due to the effects of climate change, population pressures, ethnic strife and the economic crisis, countries from the Philippines to Yemen are struggling to control what happens within their borders. Unfortunately, terrorists, pirates, and criminal organizations are a way of life and have thrived in this environment. In this inter-connected world, their ability to use places like Somalia, Yemen, and the border regions of Pakistan to disrupt commerce or carry out cross-border acts of violence makes them a threat to the entire community of nations. Protecting what is becoming known as the "global commons" is emerging as a key security objective. The Maritime Self-Defense Forces of Japan's deployment to the Horn of Africa and its leadership in supporting governance in Pakistan and Afghanistan are concrete manifestations of Japan's major contribution in this endeavor. Whether it is stopping Iran's dangerous nuclear program or supporting UN peacekeeping operations, Japan and the United States can be more effective when we work together to tackle common challenges.

In closing, today, I have focused my comments on the importance of our security alliance and the credible deterrence it provides. But we must always remember that the alliance I have talked about is important because it serves a larger purpose - not only peace and security, but also the advancement of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Ultimately our military power and objectives underpin these broader purposes. And our alliance, at its basic and most important level, succeeds because it is deeply rooted in history, our shared values, and our common view of the world.

Since the bitter conflict that our nations endured just 65 years ago, we have come a great distance together, and our people have benefitted immensely from our ever-deepening cultural, educational, and economic ties, broadening our partnership beyond our security agenda that I've talked about today. We can never forget that. And we have a great deal of work left to do in these other areas. There are many global challenges and regional challenges that still confront both our nations, and we must meet them together. In this year of the 50th anniversary of our alliance, we must remain firmly focused on the future and the work that must still be done, not only to maintain but to deepen our alliance. It is simply not acceptable for either of our countries to become complacent. Let me make one final point. Whenever issues have arisen between our two countries in the post-war period, we have always met those challenges in the spirit of cooperation, and our relationship has always emerged even stronger than before. In 1960, major turbulence accompanied the signing and ratification of the treaty we celebrate this year, and yet that treaty has become the cornerstone of our approach to regional security and economic prosperity. History demonstrates that our partnership has the strength and resiliency to meet any challenges that arise. As the United States Ambassador to Japan, I look forward to working with Japan's leaders to mark this anniversary year with a redoubling of our joint efforts to strengthen our core security partnership while broadening our cooperation across the range of global concerns. Through our enduring alliance and friendship, our nations will be even safer, the region and the world will be more secure, and we will continue to fulfill and build upon the vision of that historic treaty that was signed just 50 years ago.

Arigato gozaimasu.