(Note: Secretary Perry presented the following remarks to members of the Japan
Society on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 1995.)
Forty-nine years ago this month, as a young soldier, I landed at Naha port, in
Okinawa. I and my fellow soldiers were part of the 1541st Engineer Base Survey
Company, which was a small part of the Army of Occupation of Japan.
I shall never forget the scene of devastation that I saw when our LST landed.
Not a building was intact in the entire city of Naha, or any other part of
Southern Okinawa, where the last great battle of the Pacific War took place.
The island was stripped bare of almost all vegetation and livestock. People
were living in caves. And over 160,000 combatants and civilians had been
Last week in Hawaii we commemorated the sacrifices of that war, and celebrated
the 50 years of peace that followed it. Last week I also met with Japanese
Defense Minister Eto. As we discussed ways to strengthen our alliance, I was
struck by how far we have come. Fifty years ago our troops were locked in
combat. Today they stand side by side as a compelling testament to the wisdom
of our leaders, to the power of our national interests, and to the commitment
of Americans and Japanese alike.
In World War II, over 50 million died, and tens of millions more were maimed,
orphaned, or made homeless. A future world war truly risks the annihilation of
humanity. So today, as during the Cold War, reducing that risk must be the
first priority of national security planning.
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Thankfully, now that the Cold War has ended, the threat of worldwide nuclear
conflict is greatly diminished. But as this threat has receded, the threat of
regional conflicts has grown. These regional conflicts can be enormously
costly in blood and treasure, as demonstrated by the Korean War, Vietnam and
DESERT STORM. Today, medium sized countries -- North Korea, Iraq, Iran driven by virulent nationalism and armed with modern weapons, can cause
enormous damage to their neighbors. And, to compound the threat, these nations
are seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Because of this changed security environment, it is important to rethink our
regional strategies, both in the context of keeping the threat of a global
nuclear confrontation at a minimum, and in preventing regional conflicts. Our
strategy in the Pacific since the end of the Second World War has been to keep
a strong military presence in the region and to maintain firm alliances with
our friends. This strategy has been successful, allowing us to defeat
aggression, deter war, and guarantee the peace.
But some critics argue that our military presence and security alliances are
relics of the Cold War. The most extreme among them say that we should pull
back our forces from the region, terminate our agreements that provide security
for our allies, and allow normal balance-of-power politics to fill the security
vacuum. This is a seductive line of thought; but it has dangerous
For years, the U.S. provided a secure environment which allowed the Asian
Pacific nations to build their economies rather than their national defense
structures. Our military presence helped foster phenomenal economic growth by
providing a foundation of peace and stability. This allowed economic growth
that benefited the region, but also benefited the United States. If we were to
withdraw our military forces from the region, this would all change. Countries
will be forced to rethink their needs, with building up defense structures at
or near the top of the list. Rapid growth of military structures, plus
historic animosities, would be a volatile mix that could quickly destabilize
the region, destroying the foundations of economic prosperity, and dramatically
increasing the risk of regional conflict.
This scenario would have serious consequences for U.S. interests. Five of our
states border the Pacific, and Hawaii is right in the middle of the region.
Over seven million Americans trace their ancestry to the region, which gives
all of us a growing interest in the Asian Pacific. And the economic effects of
withdrawal would be devastating to the U.S. economy. East Asia is the world's
most dynamic economic region. Already, more than 50 percent of U.S. trade is
with Asia. And that trade has helped generate three million U.S. jobs. For
all intents and purposes, our economy has become interdependent with those of
East Asia. Thus our vital interests dictate that we will be increasing rather
than decreasing our connection with East Asia.
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A less extreme argument of critics is that we should reduce the need for our
presence by the creation of multilateral security structures. In fact, we
attach high priority to multilateral security dialogues, which we view as
confidence building measures, and not as replacements for our bilateral
alliances. But we do not seek multilateral security structures in this region.
Structures imply formal organizations, including shared commitments to a common
defense plan. During the Cold War we saw such a structure -- NATO -- come into
being in Europe. But the impetus for such a security structure was missing
from the Asia-Pacific region during the Cold War, and is still missing.
Instead, it is evident that protection of our interests must rely on U.S.
leadership. The best way to prevent or deter conflict is for the U.S. to
remain fully engaged in its leadership role by maintaining our forward
presence, reinforcing alliances, developing bilateral and multilateral
relationships, and by developing dialogues that promote confidence and security
The biggest challenge to this strategy that we face today is on the Korean
peninsula where North Korea is a clear security threat to the region. North
Korea spends 25 percent of its GNP on the military, compared to three percent
in the U.S. and South Korea, and one percent in Japan. It's army stands at one
million men, two-thirds of it within 100 kilometers of the DMZ. And it has
missiles deployed or under test that can target all of South Korea and Japan.
The good news is that our traditional alliance with South Korea remains strong,
and is getting stronger. We saw just how close our two countries have become,
when our Presidents unveiled the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National
Mall this past summer. The unveiling was testament to the roots of our
friendship, and to our long-standing commitment to freedom and democracy.
This commitment continues to be tested by North Korea. In 1993, North Korea
began threatening to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to reprocess
spent fuel rods from its nuclear reactor, and to vastly expand its dangerous
nuclear program. This would give it fuel for about five or six nuclear bombs
right away, and dozens more in the years to come. We took this threat so
seriously that even at the risk of war, we were prepared to use sanctions
against North Korea if they did not agree to stop the reprocessing. It was
U.S. leadership, and the resolve of our friends and allies, which forced North
Korea to back down and accept the Framework Agreement.
The Agreement goes a long way to keeping tensions on the Korean peninsula at
manageable levels because it takes nuclear weapons out of the security
equation. It also casts into bold relief another key security player in the
region -- namely China.
I happened to be visiting the Chinese Minister of Defense during the North
Korean nuclear crisis. As it turned out, this crisis would show me just how
compatible our interests are with China's. While I was there, I told the
Chinese leadership that we saw the North Korean nuclear program as a serious
danger to regional security. And they agreed. I told them that I
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thought the North Koreans were about to go ahead with reprocessing the nuclear
fuel, and I asked them to use their influence with the North Koreans. This was
on a Monday. On Tuesday, the North Koreans agreed to halt their program and in
the end they met our terms. It is not clear to me what specific influence the
Chinese had. What is clear to me is that on this and other important security
issues, China sees our two sets of interests as compatible.
That is why we need to constructively engage with China. We will not ignore
China's record on human rights, nor its sale and testing of dangerous weapons.
But we will also not try to isolate China over these issues. We cannot isolate
the world's largest population, one of the world's largest and fastest growing
economies, a strong military force in the region and the world, and a nation
that borders areas of instability where our interests are very much at stake.
There is a lot to gain from engaging with China. Through engagement we can
address a broad range of global and regional security concerns. Our
military-to-military contacts put us in touch with the highest levels of the
PLA, who have great influence in China. And by working to improve relations
with China, we are also working to reduce tensions between the three great
powers on the Asian continent -- China, India and Pakistan.
The relationship between these three powers has long been one of fear and
mistrust. While India worries about the threat from Pakistan, it also keeps a
strong force because it feels threatened by China. And Pakistan keeps a strong
force as a deterrent against India's forces. What makes this tension truly
worrisome is the potential for nuclear weapons use in the event of a conflict.
Our relations with China are crucial in reducing tensions between these three
One recent concern that has been expressed in both China and the United
States, is our relationship with Taiwan. The administration is committed to
carrying out the Taiwan Relations Act, which helps Taiwan in its self defense.
At the same time, our actions will continue to be consistent with our "one
China" policy and the Shanghai communiqués.
But no relationship is more important to our East Asian security strategy than
our alliance with Japan. This alliance was crucial during the Cold War. And
now that the Cold War is over, and we are faced with new security challenges
everywhere, it remains the cornerstone of our strategy in the region.
A year ago, in light of the changing security picture, Japan and the U.S.
began a security dialogue to review the basis for our relationship. That
review is not quite finished yet, but one thing is certain -- both countries
recognize that our close partnership is vital to the economic and political
health of the region and the world.
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We are two of the world's most powerful democracies. We have the world's two
largest economies. And we share a common goal of seeing prosperity and freedom
flourish around the globe. And by working together, we have made real progress
towards achieving these goals. Our cooperative efforts have helped keep the
lid on regional conflicts, guaranteed freedom of the seas, reduced the risk of
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promoted democracy,
respect for human rights, and free markets.
Japanese-American cooperation has underpinned peace and stability throughout
the region. And the future security of the region depends on our continued
friendship and cooperation. At the summit in November both countries will have
provided for that future by committing in a security statement to even closer
bilateral cooperation; by working to expand our contributions to regional
security; and through mutual support for global security initiatives.
Japan is clearly committed to an even closer security relationship with the
U.S. It continues to support our forward presence in the region, both for its
own security, and the security of its neighbors. The most tangible measure of
this support is Japan's commitment to provide over 70 percent of the cost of
keeping our troops on its soil. This helps our readiness, because basing
troops overseas is very expensive, far more expensive than basing them at home.
And it serves the U.S. national interests, by keeping the region stable and
secure so that U.S. goods and ideas can flow freely.
But our presence is only one factor in keeping regional stability. Japan also
plays a key role in the security of the region. The Framework Agreement that
halted North Korea's nuclear program could not have been reached without
Japan's willingness to help provide North Korea with safe nuclear reactors.
Japan has also been an active player in regional security dialogues, helping
build foundations for confidence and cooperation in an area marked by a history
As Japan continues to contribute to regional security, it is also increasing
its role in global security initiatives. Just a few years ago, Japanese law
did not permit participation in peacekeeping operations. Today, Japan has a
very successful record of operations in Cambodia, Mozambique and Zaire. And
this winter, Japan's troops will join the nations that are keeping the peace on
the Golan Heights. The U.S. strongly supports Japan's global security
initiatives, and we stand ready to help it pursue these initiatives as desired
by the people of Japan. We also support Japan's bid for a U.N. Security
Council seat as another important step in Japan's evolving participation in
As President Clinton has said, our relationship with Japan is like a
three-legged stool with security, economic, and political legs. My job is to
keep the security leg strong. And I can say with confidence that our alliance
is as solid as ever. Both our countries are committed to keeping
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U.S. forces in the region for years to come. We have common perspectives on
creating the foundation for regional security. And we support Japan's
increased role in international security issues as good for Japan, and good for
Clearly, the Asian Pacific region is making tremendous advances towards a
permanent peace and stability. Old relationships are being strengthened and
new ones are being formed -- all in the interest of preventing conflict and
sowing the seeds of cooperation and trust. The U.S. will continue to help in
any way we can, but especially by continuing to prevent conflict by encouraging
dialogue and openness, and by providing a forward presence to deter aggression.
It is our presence that the countries of the region consider a critical
variable in the East Asia security equation as the most important factor in
guaranteeing stability and peace.
Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, once said, "Where liberty dwells, there
is my country." Liberty has found a home throughout the Asian and Pacific
regions. And the United States is pledged to being there to protect and secure
that liberty for all who desire its blessings.