Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, Mr. Glen S. Fukushima, Ambassador Ira Shapiro and Ms. Maya Seiden at the networking reception.
On December 3rd, the U.S.-Japan Council held a briefing sponsored by General Dynamics on the outlook on the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship, with an emphasis on the U.S.-Japan security alliance in the context of changing leadership in Asia and the results of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election. U.S.-Japan Council Board of Councilors Member Glen S. Fukushima, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, served as the moderator.
The briefing featured remarks by Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, the newly appointed Japanese Ambassador to the United States in one of his first official speaking engagements since his arrival in Washington, DC. Ambassador Sasae, who most recently served as the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, described several of his priorities as Ambassador including expanding cooperation in the maritime, space and cyber realms; taking necessary steps for the U.S.-Japan relationship to retain its role of as an essential stabilizer in the Asia Pacific region; continuing to build upon regional networks; and making progress on the realignment process in Japan including the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. “We need to step up our bilateral consultations while being fully responsive to the concerns of the people of Okinawa,” said Sasae during the briefing.
He also described his goal of continuing to strengthen the bonds between the people of Japan and the people of the United States. He credited the TOMODACHI Initiative and the U.S.-Japan Council with making great strides in this area. “Our foundation is on the grassroots level – students, politicians, practitioners of culture, thinkers, business leaders, and government all working toward enriching our friendship. The U.S.-Japan Council is fulfilling this void with their programming and outreach.”
The Council has been actively working on legislative exchange initiatives and Ambassador Sasae specifically mentioned his desire to bring greater balance to U.S.-Japan parliamentary exchange, as the number of Congressmen traveling to Tokyo is fewer than parliamentarians visiting Washington.
The Council also welcomed Admiral Samuel L. Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command and Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense. Both made remarks about the modernization of the U.S.-Japan security alliance and the rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific. They also both confidently affirmed that the U.S.-Japan relationship remains the cornerstone of the Asia Pacific region and will for decades to come.
Dr. Hicks described the implications of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance released 11 months ago by the Pentagon. The Guidance describes strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific, which has been evidenced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and Secretary Leon Panetta’s frequent visits to the region.
According to Dr. Hicks, Japan holds America’s most significant expeditionary capabilities, which are critical to our ability to respond to any crisis. At the same time, she addressed the sensitivities required in Okinawa. “Our presence in foreign lands requires active management, in cooperation with our host countries. The challenges faced when introducing the US Marine Corp’s Osprey aircraft into Okinawa highlights the urgency of moving forward with our realignment plan.” She continued, “Make no mistake, this realignment enhances our operational capabilities and flexibility including of the Marine Corps regional lay down. Securing a politically sustainable force posture in Japan and especially in Okinawa is essential to U.S. and Japanese interests and this realignment plan does just that.”
Dr. Hicks touched on how Japan’s decision to acquire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will increase interoperability and bilateral cooperation between our defense forces and the strides both countries have made on moving toward greater cooperation in ballistic missile defense. She also highlighted some of Japan’s contributions to the U.S.-Japan security alliance. Japan serves as one of the largest sources of overseas development assistance in Asia, has increased security cooperation and capacity-building efforts in Southeast Asia, and has participated in multilateral counter-piracy efforts south of Africa. “Japan’s global activities serve as an example of the types of engagement that support our shared interest and values and enhance the capabilities of countries throughout the region and the world,” said Dr. Hicks.
As the regional security environment continues to evolve, it is critical for Japan and the U.S. to work together to make sure our alliance evolves with it. This includes preparing to meet the full range of 21st Century security challenges. Dr. Hicks concluded her remarks by identifying some of these key challenges that the U.S. and Japan must address together in order to maintain a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific region including building a healthy, stable and reliable relationship with China and addressing North Korea’s actions that jeopardize security in the region.
Admiral Locklear provided a macro perspective on the U.S.-Japan defense relationship, also describing it as the cornerstone of our security posture in the Asia Pacific. “Only seven decades ago we were at war with each other. Today, we train together, we come to each other’s aid, we understand each other, we believe in each other and we share the same values of peace, justice, empathy, order, liberty and freedom, ” he said in his remarks. Admiral Locklear also described the alliance as sophisticated; requiring deep dedication on both sides of the Pacific to manage the myriad of details and complexities.
Finally he warmly welcomed Ambassador Sasae and shared his support for the work of the U.S.-Japan Council: “Your organization is a leader in expanding the inter-connectedness between our communities, across generations that will further the U.S.-Japan relationship’s way into the future.”
The briefing was followed by a networking reception also at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Washington, DC. Ambassador Sasae spoke again, this time more informally, welcoming guests and reasserting his dedication to the U.S.-Japan relationship. U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye then provided an update on Council activities and delivered a kanpai for a successful 2013 before introducing Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, a strong supporter of the TOMODACHI Initiative.
Deputy Secretary Nides focused on the importance of the U.S.-Japan economic relationship: “This alliance not only brings peace and friendship, but also opportunities for economic engagement and prosperity for all of us.” He then described how we must do more to harness economic power, citing what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “economic state-craft,” or the notion that countries are no longer judged by the size of their militaries, but by the size of their economies.
“I’ve been to Japan four times in the last year and a half. Every time I go to Japan, I’m stunned by the power and potential of this partnership. On every trip I discover new opportunities and on every trip I find a reason to come back,” he concluded after welcoming Ambassador Sasae to Washington.
Click here for photos from this event.