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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | Feb. 17, 2016

Japan Joint Staff 10th Anniversary Celebration

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

Japan Joint Staff 10th Anniversary

ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

TOKYO, Japan - 2016 February 17

As delivered


Now, it might seem odd to some that a U.S. Admiral from Tennessee is giving a speech to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Japan’s Joint Staff.  And if that was the sole purpose of my remarks today, then I would certainly agree. 

But I'm here this afternoon, not only to recognize the Japan Joint Staff’s anniversary – a momentous occasion in itself – but also to celebrate the powerful and enduring alliance between Japan and the United States.

The benefits of this alliance to Japan, the United States, and the entire Indo-Asia-Pacific have been extraordinary.  In fact, the Japan-U.S. alliance matters more today than ever before.  It remains the cornerstone of peace, stability, and prosperity throughout the region. We continue to work as partners to deter aggression, respond to natural disasters, combat terrorism, oppose proliferation, protect global sea lanes, and support an international rules-based system which gives every country a chance to prosper and better the lives of its citizens. 

America's commitment to the defense of Japan is absolute and we appreciate Japan’s continued support in hosting U.S. forces here. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s truly an honor for me to speak to you as we commemorate the past and look towards a bright future … a future full of significant challenges but even greater opportunity … a future where the U.S. and Japan continue to stand side-by-side in support of peace and security around the globe.

Our alliance is rooted in shared interests and shared values.  Japan and the United States both stand for the rule of law – where might doesn’t make right – and where all people have inalienable human rights that are worth protecting.

It’s not hyperbole to say that the entire world has benefited from our 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.

Japan’s focus on technology and manufacturing paved the way for other nations to modernize their economies and infrastructures.  Companies like Sony, Toyota, and Honda became household names across the globe, and Japanese innovation helped start a technology revolution that improved the lives for literally billions of people.

And for the last six decades, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have worked side-by-side in the defense of peace and freedom.  Today, the ties that bind our countries together have never been stronger … and I submit that those ties have never been more necessary, as we face shared security challenges together.

Last month’s nuclear detonation by North Korea and Pyongyang’s 8th space launch earlier this month are stark reminders that peace and stability are under constantly assault.  The provocative and dangerous behavior by North Korea’s leadership is not just a threat to the Korean Peninsula but to the whole region.

Just last week, I participated in a trilateral Chiefs of Defense dialogue between military leaders from Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.  I thank Admiral Kawano and General Lee for meeting with our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joe Dunford, to discuss information sharing and ways we can increase cooperation to address shared security concerns.  I am hopeful that this conference will jump start bilateral and trilateral military cooperation in important areas such as ballistic missile defense and the Proliferation Security Initiative ... as well as the more traditional areas like Search & Rescue and Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief.  I think that Admiral Kawano and General Lee exhibited true "hone buto" and I'm proud to work with them.

To all of you – thank you for using Japan’s power for good by assuming a greater role in the global security architecture. 

The world knows that the people of Japan stand for freedom and against those who resort to aggression and coercion to achieve their national objectives. 

And trust me, the world sees that your actions match your words.  Within the past decade, you established a national-security council and assisted in Afghanistan and Iraq. You conducted counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off Africa and commanded  C.T.F.-151.

You deployed peacekeepers to Timor Leste, South Sudan and Haiti. You conducted humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in Indonesia, Pakistan, New Zealand and in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. You helped in the multinational search for missing Malaysian airliner MH-370. 

You participated in important multilateral exercises like MALABAR with India.  And you continue to lead from the front in RIMPAC, the world’s largest maritime exercise. I know Admiral Swift looks forward to hosting you in Hawaii this summer.

The world sees that Japan’s joint forces support the international system of rules and norms and the international security architecture is made much stronger by your committed participation.

Unfortunately, there are other nations that do not see the same correlation between power and responsibility and they are undermining the international system to pursue selfish national interests.  Nations which have benefited the most from a free and open security environment are now actively trying to oppose it. 

To be clear, the United States will continue to stand with its allies in supporting the international system which has benefited so many against those who seek to undermine it.  The stakes are simply too high to allow a minority of nations to bully their less-capable neighbors.

In the case of North Korea, it's the only country in the world that has tested a nuclear device in the 21st century – not once, but with last month’s test, four times.  It’s also the only country in the world that routinely and openly threatens other nations with nuclear attack.  This is simply unacceptable and the U.S. will stand with Japan against any aggression.

Now, I realize that I have spent the past few minutes focused mainly on our alliance.  But I’d like to take the rest of my time to describe to those who may be unfamiliar, why achieving 10 years of jointness in Japan is such a big deal… and why so few militaries have been able to realize the same achievement.

Thirty years ago, the U.S. passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act which was the largest set of reforms and reorganization to the U.S. military since the National Security Act of 1947.  This legislation recognized that advanced militaries must operate as a joint force because the capability of the joint force is greater than the sum of its individual parts. 

Ten years ago, you also adapted – you reorganized and established the Japan Joint Staff incorporating over 50 years of lessons learned from its predecessor Joint Staff Council and Joint Staff Office.  You overcame the challenges which are inherent with “jointness” because you realized that the juice as they say, is very much worth the squeeze.  And the benefits have been realized. 

After the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the Self-Defense Force deployed more than 100,000 troops in under a week to provide disaster relief.  Our forces were able to coordinate almost seamlessly and provide an effective response. 

A year after that disaster, Defense Ministry official Motoyuki Nakanashi said, “…because we achieved a lot in response to the earthquake, in the future people’s expectations will be higher. That will be a challenge.” 

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Japan Joint Staff will meet that challenge.  I’m excited about the future of our joint forces as they face global security challenges together – side by side.  There simply is no challenge that we can’t overcome together.  As the U.S. continues its Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we will continue to maintain a robust military presence in Japan to meet our Alliance obligations, address future security challenges, and to enable greater cooperation and interoperability between our militaries. 

We will move together, jointly, to meet all challenges and take advantage of the significant opportunities the region provides.  And as we move forward as a joint force, let us continue to unlock the incredible opportunities available to us through multilateral cooperation.  The region is full of capable partners who are willing to contribute to the region’s security.  We should work towards inclusion – not exclusion – and begin realizing the benefits that can be achieved through greater cooperation throughout the region.

We are stronger together… and together, the United States, Japan and our partners around the globe will continue to safeguard the rules-based security architecture that has underpinned peace and prosperity.

Thank you.


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