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Gates, Ishiba Discuss Future of Japanese-American Alliance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, Nov. 8, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba met here today to discuss the Japanese-American alliance and broader aspects of the Mutual Cooperation and Security Treaty between the United States and Japan.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates conducts a news conference with Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba in Tokyo, Nov. 8, 2007. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Japan is the last stop in a six-day trip for the secretary that also included visits to China and South Korea. Before arriving at the Defense Ministry, Gates met with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

While the meeting at the Defense Ministry lasted just over an hour, the men were able to cover a large bit of ground. Even though the current Japanese government has been in office just over a month, the men running it are among the original architects of the transformation of the Japanese-American alliance, a senior defense official traveling with Gates said on background.

Gates and Ishiba spoke about regional defense matters and global responsibilities. “We were able to discuss the future of the alliance,” Ishiba said during a news conference following the meeting.

Both men noted they discussed missile defense cooperation, realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, and military roles, missions and capabilities.

The men also discussed North Korea, as well as Japan’s contributions to the war on terror, including the mission in Afghanistan, Gates said.

“The United States and Japan have a complex security agenda, an agenda that is critically important to ensuring that our two militaries are able to achieve our common strategic objectives, within the bilateral alliance, regionally and on a global scale as well,” Gates said.

Ishiba discussed Japanese support to Operation Enduring Freedom, specifically oil tanker support to coalition vessels in the Indian Ocean. The refueling support was cancelled when the Japanese Diet, the country’s legislature, could not extend legislative authorization for the mission. “The supply activity leads into the Japanese national interest,” Ishiba said through a translator. “It leads to the Japanese responsibility that we have to play in the international community.”

The minister said the mission in the Indian Ocean, which provided around 7 percent of the fuel for coalition vessels participating in Operation Enduring Freedom – is not directly related to the obligations of the U.S.-Japan treaty. “Nevertheless, it is very important for the alliance relationship,” he said. The government has introduced legislation to reauthorize the mission.

The United States is grateful for Japan’s contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, Gates said. “I think it’s important to remember that this is not a bilateral matter between the United States and Japan, but Japan’s contribution to a broad international coalition that is involved in trying to bring freedom and keep freedom in Afghanistan.”

While the United States is grateful to Japan for the refueling mission, U.S. officials would like to see Japan take a role on the international stage commensurate with its “role as one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest democracies,” Gates said. “There are a number of international peacekeeping activities where we believe Japan could play a constructive role.”

The U.S. position is that all countries that benefit from the international system take responsibility for defending it, a senior defense official said. “That’s not peculiar to Japan, and we welcome very much what Japan has done,” the official said.

In Afghanistan, Japan has contributed money for economic development, reconstruction assistance and demobilization of Afghan irregular security forces.

“Japan has contributed a lot, and we recognize that, and we look forward to it continuing,” the official said. “The Japanese are not doing OEF for us. This is part of the global coalition for a lot of beneficiaries, and it’s ultimately in Japan’s national interests to do so.”

In a question-and-answer session at the news conference, Japanese reporters asked Gates if the United States was considering military action against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. The secretary said U.S. leaders have stated that Iran is a diplomatic problem that will be addressed diplomatically and in concert with other nations.

Ishiba said other nations of the world must “walk in lockstep” with the United States to pressure Iran into changing its nuclear policy. “Countries should work in unison and play their prospective roles,” Ishiba said. “This is the desired solution, and this is the roadmap for the peaceful solution to this issue.”

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Robert M. Gates

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