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Asia Trip by State, Defense Secretaries Highlights Importance of Indo-Pacific

March 12, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III emphasized the importance of the Indo-Pacific region by becoming the first cabinet-level members of the Biden administration to travel to Japan and South Korea.

In a call with reporters, Ambassador Sung Y. Kim, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the outreach shows that diplomacy is back at the center of U.S. foreign policy. 

U.S. and Japanese fighters escort a U.S. strategic bomber.
Bomber Escort
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., six F-16 Fighting Falcons and four Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2s, from Misawa Air Base, Japan, fly in formation off the coast of Northern Japan as part of a combined, continuous bomber presence and bomber task force mission, Feb. 3, 2020. U.S. Strategic Command's bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions around the world.
Photo By: Courtesy photo by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force
VIRIN: 200204-F-XX000-0003

"We are working to strengthen America's relationships with our allies as well as the relationships among them," he said. "And none are more important than Japan and the Republic of Korea."

The two secretaries will meet with leaders in both countries to discuss a wide range of regional and global concerns. The rise of China and the problems of dealing with North Korea are among the issues they will discuss, Kim said. They will also discuss ways to battle COVID-19 and the steps that must be taken to combat climate change. 

A soldier dumps water over his head to cool down.
Water Break
Army Staff Sgt. Heekyu Chang, assigned to the 75th Medical Company, 65th Medical Brigade, uses water from the arm submersion tank to cool down during a 12-mile road march for the Eighth Army Best Medic Competition at Navajo Range, South Korea, on July 17, 2020.
Photo By: Army Spc. Natianna Strachen
VIRIN: 200716-A-RM286-1124

In Tokyo, Blinken and Austin will participate in the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee – the so-called "Two-plus-Two" meeting — with Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.

In Seoul, they will attend the U.S.-South Korea foreign and defense ministerial hosted by Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and National Defense Minister Suh Wook.

"The American, Japanese and Korean people share deeply rooted values of defending freedom, championing economic and social opportunity and inclusion, upholding human rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity," Kim said. "Our cooperation with both Tokyo and Seoul to promote these universal values is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific."

An airman finishes servicing an A-10 while in the snow.
Winter Wonderland
Snowfall covers the flightline as an airman with the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit performs maintenance on an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Jan. 6, 2021. The 25th AMU operated under frigid conditions to ensure the A-10 flying mission remained ready to “Fight Tonight.”
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan
VIRIN: 210106-F-PB738-1486

From a defense standpoint, the alliances with South Korea and Japan are a force multiplier, said David Helvey, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs. The trip illustrates "the United States's commitment to a rules-based international order that places all nations on a level playing field and holds them responsible for preserving the principles that underpin it," Helvey said.

The Indo-Pacific is the Defense Department's priority theater, and U.S. military capabilities there are dedicated to "upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and pursue economic opportunity, resolve disputes without coercion and have the freedom to navigate and fly consistent with international rules and norms," he said.

U.S. and Japanese soldiers get the word that their jump from a C-130 is in 10 minutes.
10 Minutes
Two U.S. Army jumpmasters signal 10 minutes until jump time for the 43 U.S. and Japanese jumpers aboard a C-130J Super Hercules flying above the Camp Narashino training area, Japan, Jan. 12, 2020. The aircraft was one of three used in the Japanese forces annual New Year's jump which dates back to the 1960s and became a public event in the 1970s.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Taylor A. Workman
VIRIN: 200112-F-RU502-0120

"At a time when the region is facing mounting pressure from the People's Republic of China, and the continued threat from North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, this trip sends an important signal of resolve to work with allies, partners and like-minded nations to promote a peaceful, stable and resilient order that benefits us all," Helvey said.

After Seoul, Austin will travel on to India where he will meet with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and others in New Delhi. They will discuss ways to better cooperate in the major defense partnership the U.S. has with India. These will include enhanced information sharing, regional security cooperation, defense trade and the effects of new domains.