Carter: U.S., Japan Both ‘Thinking Big’ on Strategy
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
TOKYO, Jul. 21, 2012 Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told reporters here today that as the United States rebalances its defense strategy toward the Asia-Pacific, “our central and anchoring” ally, Japan, also is beginning a strategic shift.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, right, addresses Japanese media in Tokyo, July 21, 2012. Japan is Carter's third stop during a 10-day Asia Pacific trip to meet with partners in Hawaii, Guam, Thailand, India and South Korea. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The deputy secretary, who arrived here July 20 as part of a 10-day Asia-Pacific tour, has met with Japanese government leaders including Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe. Carter said those meetings left him feeling Japan’s government leaders are expanding their strategic thinking “both functionally and geographically.”
The deputy secretary spoke here during a press briefing with a number of regional media representatives. He said U.S. leaders welcome Japan’s growing strategic interests, and will “work with the government of Japan and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to realize that vision.”
“We’re both, in a sense, thinking big and thinking strategically at the same time,” he added. “That has great potential.”
Carter noted his visit to Asia-Pacific nations, which will also include stops in Thailand, India and South Korea, follows similar trips by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
Those visits, Carter noted, focused on articulating the new strategy, which the president announced in January. His own presence here, he added, is aimed at getting the gears turning.
“They sent me here because my job as the chief management officer of the Department of Defense is to implement that vision,” the deputy secretary said. “I came to this region to meet with our friends and partners and allies -- [and] to meet with and assess our own forces throughout the region -- with an eye to carrying out that turning of the strategic corner.”
Carter said while growth is slowing in the United States’ defense budget, the necessary resources are available to fund the new Asia-Pacific focus.
“All of the capacity that has been tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last 10 years is capacity that we can focus now on the Asia-Pacific region, and that’s a tremendous amount of capability,” he said.
Within the existing defense budget, Carter added, “We are shifting the weight of our innovation and investment from counterinsurgency-type warfare to the kinds of capabilities that are most relevant to the Asia-Pacific theater.”
He noted putting the strategy in place is “just a matter of making it happen, and deciding which specific things to do.”
Defense leaders are determined to make those decisions in consultation with U.S. friends and allies, the deputy secretary said.
Carter said Japan is America’s central regional ally and has been for many decades.
“Naturally I come here first, to Tokyo,” he said.
The U.S. and Japan, he added, have “tremendous momentum in many, many areas: joint planning, technology sharing, [and] joint exercises and training.”
Carter traveled to Japan from Guam. He noted that Guam, an island U.S. territory, offers important training opportunities for both U.S. and Japanese forces.
“In both of our countries, it becomes more and more difficult to do the kind of training that requires access to wide areas of territory,” he said. “And that is possible in Guam, so that’s a great opportunity for both of us.”
Carter added that Guam is also important to both nations as a consequence of the “2+2” agreement U.S. and Japanese defense and diplomatic leaders signed in April.
Under that agreement, nearly 5,000 U.S. Marines currently stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa will transfer to Guam, while the United States will return to Japan much of the land in Okinawa those forces now use.
“The 2+2 agreement with respect to the movement of Marines to Guam was a great milestone,” Carter said. “From my point of view I’m very optimistic that there’s momentum on both sides to implement the agreement. I think that’s the way forward.”
The U.S. and Japan have long debated how to relocate many of the Marines on Guam, Carter said, noting the issue was settled “by the 2+2 agreement and I think that is a very good thing.”
Carter added that Guam represents more than just a new site for the rotational deployment of Marines.
“There’s a large Air Force base, there’s a large Navy base; Japanese forces have been to each and exercised from each, and those are important capabilities irrespective of the Marine Corps issue,” he said.
Carter has also taken part on discussions with the new commander of U.S. Forces Japan, Air Force Lt. Gen. Salvatore A. Angelella, who took command July 20. The deputy secretary told reporters the general “will be a great partner for the government of Japan.”
In every way, the deputy secretary said, there is a lot of forward progress in the U.S.-Japanese alliance.
“It’s a great time to be here, [and a] great time of new purpose and new horizons,” Carter said.