Pacom Chief Sees Regional Peace, Prosperity
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2011 Prospects for continued peace, economic growth and advancing security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region remain promising, Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard said today.
Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos and others are briefed on the tsunami and earthquake humanitarian relief efforts during a visit to the USS Ronald Reagan, April 4, 2011. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Shawn J. Stewart
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, testified here before the House Armed Services Committee about the U.S. defense posture in the region and the humanitarian and disaster assistance provided to Japan since the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear emergency.
“This vast region that covers half the earth is unique in its size, diversity and importance to the future of every other nation in the world,” Willard said, noting “the great population’s economies and militaries along with more than $5 trillion of seaborne commerce per year.”
In a region that will “continue to be of utmost importance to the United States,” the command’s role, the admiral said, “is to oversee its security and to help to keep the peace both in our nations’ interest and in the interests of our five treaty allies and many regional partners.” The U.S. has defense treaties with Thailand, Australia, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.
The security environment across the Asia-Pacific region is never static, Willard said, and is characterized “by a dynamic range of 36 nations whose varying personalities and influence more or less affect the neighborhood.”
Each of four subregions -- Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania -- “contains unique challenges and challengers that test our collective commitment to security and peace,” he said.
Challengers, Willard said, include North Korea; transnational extremist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamal Islamia and the Abu Sayyaf group; and uncertainties created by a rapidly expanding and assertive Chinese military.
These are balanced, the admiral said, by multilateral organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, the East Asia Summit and bonds between the United States, its allies and partners, which “deter the challengers and provide forums for advancing the collective security of the Asia Pacific region.”
Every day, U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and civilians work to advance security in the Asia-Pacific region, Willard said.
Japan has experienced “an unprecedented confluence of earthquake, tsunami and consequent nuclear accidents,” Willard said. Yet, “in the midst of tragedy, the people of northern Honshu have demonstrated remarkable courage and resolve,” the admiral said.
The Japanese people’s ability “to endure, to assist one another through hardship, to clean up their communities and recover their lives should be an inspiration for us all,” he added.
Willard said the U.S. Pacific Command remains fully committed to support response efforts provided by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.
“Worthy of special recognition is Gen. Ryoichi Oriki, Japan’s chief of the joint staff, for his exceptional leadership of nearly 100,000 Japanese service members who are engaged in this effort,” Willard said.
The admiral said he established a joint support force in Japan that’s providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as support for the Japanese personnel spearheading the Fukushima nuclear accident response.
A second Pacom joint task force planned and conducted the voluntary departure of U.S. service member families from Japan, he added.
“The level of cooperation and collaboration between the service men and women of the United States and Japan has been remarkable,” Willard said, “and the job they’re doing together is inspiring.”
Pacom’s ability to “quickly and effectively support their work is testimony to the maturity and strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance,” he added.
“No doubt Japan will emerge from this terrible combination of disasters a stronger nation. Our hopes and prayers continue to go out to the Japanese people,” the admiral said.