Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Sasakawa Peace Foundation
May 17, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, I do really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the public’s understanding of the critical U.S.-Japan relationship. As we say in America, ‘this is juice worth the squeeze’ -- and I can't thank Sasakawa enough for their important work that they do.
My modus operandi today is to provide the foundation for our discussion with some prepared remarks so that I can take a few questions with the help of our esteemed moderator, Dr. Taniguchi.
While I was preparing my remarks, I asked my wife Bruni for some advice. She said, ‘there’s a first time for everything, so you might try being funny -- and brief -- or at the end of the day, just bring sake.’
Demo kyouwa osake wa arimasen [I’m sorry, but I didn’t bring any sake today]… however, I do promise to be brief.
This has been a quick and very productive trip to Japan. Yesterday, I had terrific discussions with Prime Minister Abe, Foreign Minister Kishida, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, Defense Minister Inada, Governor Koike, and of course, with my good friend Admiral Kawano -- it was great to see him in person and not just on one of our regular video teleconference calls.
I appreciate everything these leaders do to keep our alliance strong. During these meetings, I reiterated America’s steadfast and absolute commitment to the defense of Japan and expressed our appreciation for Japan’s continued support in hosting U.S. forces here in your country.
One of the key points discussed at these meetings was the U.S. policy that recognizes Japan’s administrative control over the Senkakus and the fact that we will defend these islands in accordance with Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security treaty. This policy was reaffirmed by President Trump during his meeting with Prime Minister Abe earlier in the year and again by U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis during his recent trip to Japan.
I think the senior leader engagements between Japan and the United States the last few months clearly demonstrate the commitment our two great nations have in maintaining regional -- as well as global -- peace and security. So before I head back to Hawaii today, I wanted to spend some time with this audience in particular to discuss the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Our alliance is rooted in shared interests and shared values… including the belief that all people have inalienable human rights that are worth protecting. Indeed, it’s not hyperbole to say that the entire world has benefited from the U.S.-Japan alliance. While our alliance helped stabilize the region after the Second World War, it also enabled the Japanese people to bring about an era of unprecedented economic growth. And for the last six decades, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have worked side by side with the Japan Self Defense Force to protect and advance peace and freedom.
And I’m pleased to report, that in my opinion, the U.S.-Japan alliance has never been stronger or more important. In a world crying out for leadership at the global level, the need for our alliance has never been stronger. Today, the ties that bind our countries together have never been stronger… and I submit that those ties have never been more necessary than they are today.
Just 3 days ago, North Korea launched yet another ballistic missile -- the 7th such firing this year. This latest provocation serves as yet another reminder that peace and stability are under assault from the Kim Jong-Un regime. The dangerous behavior by North Korea is not just a threat to the Korean Peninsula, it’s a threat to Japan, it’s a threat to China, it’s a threat to Russia -- let me say that again…it’s a threat to Russia -- it’s a threat to the United States, it’s a threat to the entire world. And it’s the reason why we call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea.
North Korea was the main topic during my discussions with Japanese leaders yesterday. It was also a topic I discussed with Vice President Pence when he visited Hawaii after his trip to Japan and other regional nations last month.
Right now, North Korea is a clear and dangerous threat to the U.S., to Japan and to South Korea. That’s a big reason why I continue to call for more trilateral cooperation between our three nations -- a partnership with a purpose if there ever was one.
North Korea distinguishes itself as the only nation this century to have tested nuclear weapons. As former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry once said, we have to deal with North Korea, ‘as it is, not as we wish it to be.’ Now I want all of you smart people in this room to stop and think about this. Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong-Un is a recipe for disaster. That is North Korea as it is.
I know there’s some debate about the miniaturization and other technological advancements made by Pyongyang. But no one should be soothed by the reports of rocket ‘failures’ in the press. Kim Jong-Un is not afraid to fail in public, and every test he makes is a success because it takes North Korea one step closer to being able to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile anywhere in the world.
So I’ve been saying this now for the last two years: I must assume that Kim Jong-Un’s claims are true -- his aspirations certainly are. So I take him at his word, and that should provide all of us a sense of urgency to address this problem now.
While also visiting Seoul last month, Vice President Pence called on the entire international community to isolate North Korea and demand that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. He called on North Korea to turn away from renewed hostility towards its neighbors like Japan, and to end the repression of its own people.
I firmly believe that the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia, China, Russia and every nation who considers itself to be a responsible contributor to international security, must publically and privately work together to bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.
Recent nuclear tests and missile launches demonstrate that North Korea is a liability for China, not an asset. President Trump and Secretary Tillerson are encouraging China to take appropriate actions to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.
While our political leaders and diplomats work to encourage China to use the levers it has to move North Korea towards a better path of peace and stability, PACOM continues to work with our allies and partners throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific to enhance regional security -- it’s in America’s interest to do so, for I believe our nation’s future security and economic prosperity are indelibly linked to this dynamic region.
A strong and prosperous Japan is essential to a strong and prosperous Indo-Asia-Pacific. This is one of the reasons why I believe that the Japan-U.S. alliance matters more today than ever before. The transformation of our relationship on both economic and security fronts, and the breadth and depth of our cooperation in terms of our defense relationship, are at historic levels.
Demonstrating this fact, President Trump made it a priority to immediately meet with Prime Minister Abe after entering office; both affirmed their strong determination to further the U.S.-Japan Alliance.
And after North Korea’s latest intermediate range ballistic missile test, the White House again reiterated America’s ironclad commitment to stand with South Korea and Japan.
Amid an increasingly challenging security environment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the U.S. continues to bolster our presence in the region. With an eye toward the future, we are working closely with the Japan Self-Defense Force to identify 21st century security requirements. The support of the Government of Japan is instrumental in ensuring that we meet our treaty obligations to defend Japan. This support is helping us to implement several force management initiatives to improve the capabilities of our force.
For example, consider this:
• The Navy has forward-deployed its newest airborne early warning and control aircraft, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, to Iwakuni. It’s also increasing the presence of ballistic missile defense-capable surface ships. These platforms enhance the capability of the Ronald Reagan Strike Group, which just got underway yesterday from Yokosuka.
• The Air Force is replacing their fleet of C-130Hs with the new C-130J Super Hercules at Yokota Air Base. In addition to the C-130J’s transportation role, it can also be used for in-flight refueling, ground fueling, weather reconnaissance, electronic warfare, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and vital paradrop operations.
• Just this month the Air Force deployed the RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone to Yokota. This platform gives us more situational awareness as we pay attention to regional challenges.
• And -- perhaps most notably -- the Marine Corps forward-deployed the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter squadron to Iwakuni.
The forward stationing and deployment of 5th generation airframes to the region continues to be a priority for me. Sending F-35s to Japan first demonstrates the United States’ unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan with the most capable and modern equipment in the U.S. inventory.
The F-35 is not just a new fighter, it’s a profoundly new capability. From the technology to the integrated training, it brings an unmatched combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability, to the fight.
And it isn’t just the U.S. flying fifth-generation aircraft; our allies and partners from around the world -- including Japan and Australia -- are training to fly the F-35, too.
I met with Japanese and Australian pilots training at Luke Air Force base while I was visiting Arizona last month. These aviators were extremely excited and proud to welcome this revolutionary platform into their inventories.
Flying with U.S. F-22s and fourth generation aircraft, an international force of F-35s will ensure air superiority against potential adversaries for years and years to come. Indeed, the beginning of a new era of air superiority began in Japan with our F-35s, F-18s, and E-2Ds at Iwakuni… but we didn’t and couldn’t accomplish this alone.
Fulfilling its treaty obligations, the Government of Japan invested $7 billion in this single installation over the last 20 years. $4.5 billion of this investment was recently committed to the base under Japan’s Defense Policy Review Initiative... supporting the relocation of the runway, enhancing aerial and seaport capabilities, improving fuel storage and distribution capabilities, and funding nearly 200 support programs.
Today, the Iwakuni Air Base, which houses the Marine Corps Air Station, is one of the most successful joint-use installations in Japan. U.S. aircraft and personnel working side-by-side with their counterparts from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force fly several airframes here including the mighty P-3 and your new P-1. Iwakuni is a model of cooperation that provides the Pacific theater a 1-1-9 emergency response capability.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no doubt in my mind that Japan’s increasingly joint self-defense forces improve our alliance’s ability to face any security challenge together. There simply is no challenge that we can’t overcome when we help each other to improve.
We truly appreciate Japan’s continued efforts to assume greater roles and responsibilities in the region. I also see the potential for more cooperation in the capabilities that come from the Multi Domain Battle concept. We should look at the new ways to provide for defense of far flung places. For example, ground forces defending ships at sea. And I’ve directed PACOM’s Army and Marine components to ensure our ground forces develop the capability to be able to sink ships from land. So I plan on learning more from the experts at Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Forces so that the U.S. can be a more effective joint force.
Another critical cooperative effort -- the Futenma Replacement Facility in Camp Schwab in Okinawa -- will enable the U.S. to fulfill its security obligations to Japan while also enabling the return of Futenma to Okinawa. Both governments remain strongly committed to the relocation. This transition will improve our ability to defend Japan’s sovereignty while reducing operations in the most heavily populated parts of the island and enabling significant land return to the people and government of Japan.
Okay, I’m about finished with my prepared remarks. It’s still early so I hope I didn't put anyone to sleep. I’ve kept my promise to be brief, so I hope no one started drinking sake without me.
Before we move to questions, I want to reiterate that no one should doubt the U.S. resolve to meet our treaty obligations to Japan. There are more than 50,000 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines assigned throughout Japan, each contributing to this obligation and to security throughout the region. We are prepared to defend against any aggressor that would threaten Japan’s sovereignty.
For more than six decades, the U.S.-Japan Alliance has been the cornerstone of peace, security, and stability in Northeast Asia and the foundation of U.S. engagement in the region. So I’ll conclude by reminding everyone that we just passed the 2-year anniversary of Prime Minister Abe’s address to Congress…where he called the Japan-U.S. alliance an alliance of hope. I think that’s exactly right.
Thanks to organizations like Sasakawa, more people understand that our alliance is a beacon for other nations to have the courage to overcome historical enmities. Now, we must all take action to deepen and expand multinational partnerships to meet global challenges like North Korea and ISIS.
We are stronger with each other. And together, the United States, Japan and our partners around the globe will continue to safeguard the rules-based security order that has underpinned peace and prosperity for decades. Thank you very much.