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Sophia University (Tokyo, Japan)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Tokyo, Japan, Friday, November 09, 2007

Good morning.  Thank you, ino-sensei, for your warm introduction and this opportunity to be part of Sophia University’s lecture series. 


As a historian and former university president, I am particularly gratified to be here with you in this center of learning -- where ideas are valued, open debate is encouraged, and scholars may pursue knowledge.  In fact, since becoming U.S. Secretary of Defense 11 months ago, I have spoken to students at four different universities, including three graduation ceremonies.   I have reached out to students because I believe in challenging them – our future leaders – to reach their full potential as responsible citizens of their country and of the world.  


I was particularly impressed that Sophia University has more than 500 international students enrolled from more than 50 countries, as well as partnerships with 125 colleges and universities overseas.   


This university, in this country, at this time, is a particularly appropriate setting to discuss the security challenges we face together in Asia – challenges that require vibrant and growing partnerships amongst nations of shared values and interests.


On September 4, 1951, President Harry Truman spoke at the opening of the San Francisco conference on the peace treaty with Japan.  At the time, a bitter war was raging on the Korean Peninsula and the free world was reconciling itself to a long struggle against Communist expansion.  In the week prior, the U.S. had signed mutual defense treaties with three other Pacific nations – Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.  Truman said something then that I think holds as true today, as we think about meeting Asia’s challenges together in the 21st Century.  He said:


            “In the Pacific, as in other parts of the world, social and economic progress is impossible unless there is a shield which protects men from the paralysis of fear.  But our great goal, our major purpose, is not just to build bigger and stronger shields.  What we want to do is advance … the great constructive tasks of human progress.”


America’s commitment to Asia in the decades since has been sustained through multiple administrations of both political parties.  The result has been strategic, political and economic stability that has improved the lives of billions of people.  And that commitment is no less strong today, regardless of the challenges we face in the Middle East and elsewhere.


Periodically, we see speculation casting doubt on the future of the United States in Asia, sometimes prompted by changes in U.S. political leadership, or the re-positioning of U.S. military forces.  In fact, far from neglecting Asia, we are more engaged than ever before.  We have forged, reshaped or renewed security partnerships throughout the Pacific Rim.


In recent years, our security arrangements with Japan have evolved from their Cold War orientation – reflecting both the transformed threat environment and Japan’s ability and willingness to play a larger role in its own defense.  We have been realigning and repositioning forces here, while cooperating in new areas such as missile defense and sharing new roles and missions with the Japanese Self Defense Force.


Earlier this week, I visited the Republic of Korea for a successful annual Security Consultative Meeting.  We are working with South Korea to establish a new vision and force posture that goes beyond the current security situation on the Peninsula and meets the future global needs of both nations.  We are preparing for a historic transition in 2012, when the Republic of Korea military will take wartime command in the defense of their own country, and U.S. forces will assume a supporting role. 


America’s pivotal alliance with Australia is based on a long history of standing together against aggression through multiple conflicts over the past Century.  A newer and welcome development is that Australia is taking a larger regional and global role – with their leadership role in East Timor and their deployments in recent years to the Middle East and Central Asia.


Our relationship with India – the world’s largest democracy – has evolved from an uneasy coexistence during the Cold War to a growing partnership today.  Since the 2005 summit between President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh, we have expanded our cooperation in a number of areas, including military to military exchanges.


And then there are nations like Mongolia, once part of the Communist bloc, and now a strong partner in the war on terrorism. Mongolia is also making contribution to global security by supporting UN peace operations and the NATO mission in Kosovo. 


Beyond strengthening our traditional alliances and forging new ties, the United States is reinforcing its own capacity in the region.  We are investing in new capabilities and infrastructure – gains that will be critical to raising the region’s overall ability to respond to security challenges, natural disasters, and potential crises.


In an address to the Japan National Press Club last month, Ambassador Schieffer noted that after the Second World War, Asia’s security architecture mostly reflected a “hub and spoke” model, with the U.S. as the “hub” and the spokes representing a series of bilateral alliances with other countries that did not necessarily cooperate much with each other.  The U.S. alliance system has been the cornerstone of peace and security in Asia for more than a generation.  These alliances are enduring and indispensable.  But we would like to see more engagement and cooperation among our allies and security partners – more multilateral ties rather than hubs and spokes.  The trilateral dialogue between the United States, Japan and Australia is a good example.


The major challenges facing the region – such as North Korea and nuclear proliferation –cannot be overcome by one, or even two countries, no matter how wealthy and powerful.  They require multiple nations of shared interests to come together to deal with a number of key challenges – areas where each partner can bring its unique capabilities to bear for the common good.


Terrorism and violent extremism are a threat to the very fabric of international society, and Asia is not immune.  This city suffered a poison gas attack in its transit system in 1995.  Then there were the Bali bombings and activities by Islamist groups in the Philippines and Indonesia.  It is a long distance from New York’s World Trade Center to a Tokyo subway station, but the threat posed by radical groups with violent ideologies is the same. The terrorists have learned to exploit the strengths of modern societies – our technology and infrastructure – and in the case of democracies, our freedoms and our openness as well.


During my visit to Singapore on June 1, I challenged regional leaders to play an even bigger role integrating Central Asia into the Asian security architecture.  There are several areas – such as infrastructure development, capacity building, and security assistance – where East and South Asia can do more. 


As we’ve learned on more than one occasion, instability or failed states halfway around the world can have serious implications at home. In no region is this truer than in the Middle East – not just with regard to Iraq, but with the behavior and ambitions of Iran and the operations of terrorist and militia groups.  It is worth remembering that Japan imports 80% of its oil from the Gulf to power its economy.   


The proliferation of dangerous weapons and materials to terrorists and others is another major threat. The United States knows that we cannot block the flow of these weapons on our own, which is why we work with partners to improve physical security, interdict shipments, and employ sanctions when necessary. The Proliferation Security Initiative is the cornerstone of this effort and it is showing results in Asia.


Maintaining a reliable deterrent against attacks from ballistic missiles is a critical objective of our national security strategy.  Building this capability and countering this threat is of special significance to the people of Japan, given the direct danger to your homeland posed by North Korea’s weapons programs.  As a defensive measure, we are working together to create a network that both deters aggression and provides protection in the case of a missile launch.


We also recognize the importance of maintaining free and secure maritime routes and infrastructure. The Container Security Initiative is one element of our strategy.   President Bush also approved the 2005 National Strategy for Maritime Security to help prevent piracy and other hostile and illegal acts within the maritime domain. 


 Calamities such as the 2004 tsunami, the devastating earthquake in Central Asia, and the typhoons that ravage this part of the world demonstrate the need for a regional approach to humanitarian crises. The U.S. is committed to assisting Asian nations in their time of need, and we are working with partners to prepare and fine-tune our collective response before disaster strikes. We are also preparing for other non-traditional security threats that result from infectious diseases such as pandemics, avian influenza, and SARS.


Although there has not been a single major conflict in Asia for more than three decades, the Northeast corner of the Pacific remains one of the last places on earth with the potential for a nuclear confrontation.   We are working with China, Russia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea through the Six-Party-Talks to pressure North Korea to forgo their nuclear ambitions. These talks have had a stabilizing effect on the region in the aftermath of the North’s missile and nuclear tests of 2006.  We now have a mechanism in place to forge cooperation on the long standing problem of North Korea’s behavior and nuclear ambitions.


These challenges are taking place in a context being shaped by the rise and re-emergence of China and Russia – two nations at strategic crossroads taking on a more assertive role in world affairs. 


I have just come from China, where I met with senior officials who confirmed their desire to cooperate more in order to address common security challenges.   I do not see China as a strategic adversary.  It is a competitor in some respects and partner in others.  While we candidly acknowledge our differences, it is important to strengthen communications and to engage the Chinese on all facets of our relationship to build mutual understanding and confidence.


We continue to raise with China the need for greater transparency and candor into their strategic military motivations, decision making, and key capabilities.  In particular, we remain concerned over the pace and scope of China's military build-up.  This concern is responsible and appropriate.  A lack of transparency carries the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and naturally prompts others to take actions as a hedge against uncertainty.


Russia is another relationship where we must overcome a measure of distrust and doubt.  When Secretary Rice and I visited Moscow last month, we made some progress towards setting up a regular dialogue to deal with a range of issues that have divided us -- including Russia’s concerns regarding missile defense.   Our proposal to pursue a partnership with Russia in this area was real and sincere.  We look for Russia to be equally innovative and forthcoming.


I recall during the 1970s that many people discounted the value of holding strategic talks with the former Soviet Union because these meetings often did not lead directly, or immediately, to new arms control breakthroughs.  It turned out that maintaining that dialogue helped each side better understand the other’s intentions, and laid the groundwork for gains that ultimately brought the Cold War to a close.  The situation we face with Russia and China is nothing close to the old superpower conflict, but the lessons from that period with regard to keeping open lines of communication still apply today.


I would like to close with some thoughts on the future direction of our relationship with Japan.


It has been just over 55 years since Japan was invited to take “her rightful place of equality and honor among the free nations of the world.”   At the time, President Truman expressed his confidence that “the people of Japan…are ready and willing to play their full part in meeting the common menace.” 


Japan became a stalwart ally and anchor of democracy and prosperity in Asia through some of the most difficult days of the Cold War.  Our friendship held fast through the inevitable turbulences along the way– from political turmoil to sometimes nasty trade disputes.  


I recall well the build up to the first Gulf War with Iraq in 1991.  Japan contributed significant financial support, but no military forces.  At the time, Japan was criticized by some for what was called “checkbook diplomacy.”  Since then Japan has found more direct ways to contribute to international security.   We’ve seen the support Japan has provided to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as they rebuild nations torn apart by war, dictatorship and sectarian division.


When my colleague, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at this university in 2005, she said “Japanese leadership in advancing freedom is good for the Pacific community, and it is good for the world.”   Japan has the opportunity – and an obligation – to take on a role that reflects its political, economic, and military capacity.  That is why the U.S. strongly supports Japan’s becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.  And that is why we hope – and expect – Japan will choose to accept more global security responsibilities in the years ahead.


We must continue to ask each other as partners in this alliance:  What should Japan and the U.S. do together, and with others, to secure our mutual interests?   Do we have the proper capabilities, individually and collectively, to address future challenges and uncertainties?  Have we the proper mechanisms and infrastructure to meet our common objectives?     These questions underlie the alliance transformation effort we have undertaken over the last few years.  But we need to deepen our discussion and more importantly, be prepared to act on our findings and make the investments now that will better prepare us for the future.


As you can see from the range of issues I’ve mentioned, the security landscape of the present and foreseeable future will be complex.  Your generation will face many challenges – but it will also have undreamt of opportunities, perhaps seen yesterday, barely visible today.  What will remain constant is the partnership of shared interests and values between our two nations. 


A living example of that friendship, as many of you probably know, has been the cherry tree.  In 1912, Japan gave the U.S. over 3,000 cherry trees – including 12 different varieties – as a symbol of friendship and goodwill.  The wives of the American President and the Japanese Ambassador planted the first two trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington.  The remaining trees were planted in a ring just across the Potomac River.   What is less well known is that seventy years and two World Wars later, the United States had an opportunity to reciprocate the gesture, when we provided cuttings from our trees to replace those destroyed by a flood in Japan.


Next spring, from my office at the Pentagon, I will be able to see the trees from my window.  Every day, people from around the world visit Washington to view thousands of pink and white flowers in bloom.  And the first two trees – planted almost a century ago – still stand today, a living symbol of the enduring ties between our countries. 


Thank you. I look forward to your comments and questions.