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Deputy Defense Secretary Meets With Japanese Leaders

Aug. 22, 2014 | BY Cheryl Pellerin

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work today met with Japanese government leaders here to discuss efforts to modernize the U.S.-Japan alliance, review progress on realigning U.S. forces in Japan, and to discuss bilateral efforts to enhance alliance force posture and capabilities.

Work met with Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Ryota Takeda and Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi. He also met with service component commanders and U.S. service members.

Tomorrow morning, Work is slated for a breakfast meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and a tour aboard the USS Shiloh, a U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser on station at Yokosuka Naval Base, before heading back to Washington.

Work’s Aug. 17-23 trip to Hawaii, Guam, South Korea and Japan was his first official visit to the Asia-Pacific region.

After their meeting this afternoon, Work and Takeda held a joint press conference to discuss major efforts underway to improve the alliance and its contributions to the region.

Work and the Japanese ministers discussed efforts to modernize the U.S.-Japan Alliance through the revision of the Guidelines for Defense Cooperation; progress on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, particularly in Okinawa; and bilateral efforts to enhance alliance force posture and capabilities.

They also discussed the regional security environment, including the importance of deterring North Korean provocations by enhancing trilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea and increasing bilateral Ballistic Missile Defense cooperation. On this, the Ministers highlighted progress on deploying a second TPY-2 BMD radar system to Japan by the end of this year.

Work strongly welcomed Japan’s recent decision on Collective Self-Defense, which, when implemented, will enable a substantive revision to the bilateral Defense Guidelines and allow the Japan Self-Defense Forces to increase their role in the alliance and contribute more to regional and global security.

At the press conference, Work began his remarks with a personal message for the people of Japan.

“I want to express my deepest condolences and those of the American people to the families who lost their loved ones in the mudslide in Hiroshima,” he said of the rain-triggered mud flows that have killed more than 35 people, according to news reports. Many more people remain missing.

“Our thoughts go out to all those who have been impacted by this awful tragedy,” Work added.

The deputy defense secretary said he and Takeda agree that the U.S.-Japan alliance is strong. Work added that it is a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific and a critical part of the U.S. rebalance to the region.

“The Asia-Pacific rebalance, and particularly our alliances and partnerships in the region,” Work said, “are the highest priority” for President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

During the visits Work completed this week to Guam and South Korea, he said he saw first-hand the significant progress made to bolster U.S. force posture in the region.

In Guam, he also saw Japanese-funded projects that are helping the United States build infrastructure there to ease the relocation of Marines from Okinawa, and to continue to transform the island into an important strategic hub for the Asia-Pacific.

“In my meeting with Vice Minister Takeda,” Work said, “I emphasized the central role Japan plays in our rebalance and the significant progress we have made to transform our alliance and realign U.S. forces in Japan so together we can more effectively address emerging security challenges.”

One effort critical to U.S. plans to build a more balanced and effective alliance, the deputy secretary said, is for Japan to revise its bilateral defense guidelines.

Work strongly welcomed Japan’s recent cabinet decision permitting collective self-defense, adding that this should enable “an ambitious and substantive revision to the guidelines that allow Japan to play a larger role in our alliance and contribute more to regional and global security.”

The U.S. government welcomes the collective self-defense initiative started by the government of Japan, Work said. From the U.S. perspective, the rebalance to Asia is all about creating a safe, secure and prosperous Asia-Pacific region.

“The fact that the collective self-defense [initiative] has been debated and approved here in japan, leading to a relook at the guidelines, is what we believe will really provide security for the region for a long time,” he added.

“As I told the vice minister,” Work said, “I think 10 years from now people will look back to this very time and say this was one of the signature things that allowed peace and prosperity and a secure Asia-Pacific region to grow and thrive.”

The leaders also discussed progress made in realigning U.S. forces in Japan so the United States can establish a force posture that is geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable over the long term.

“I was undersecretary of the Navy between 2009 and 2013, and we had many challenges moving forward on the Futenma replacement facility,” Work said in response to a question.

“As I come into this job as the deputy secretary, I'm very excited and gratified at the progress that has been made,” he said. “The signing of the environmental impact statement, the signing of the landfill agreement and the recent starting of boring in the bay up near Honoka all are signs of tangible progress.

“Closely linked to that is the Marine buildup on Guam, which would allow us to relocate Marines off Okinawa,” Work continued. “Having related to the Futenma replacement facility and having just come from Guam, I can tell you that the momentum of construction and the move there is really starting to pick up. Overall, I’m extremely enthusiastic about the direction of things.”

Over the next several years, Work said, the United States will deploy to Japan several advanced capabilities to enhance the alliance’s posture and maintain regional deterrence, including the first overseas deployment of the Marine Corps’ F-35 fighter aircraft in 2017.

He also reported rapid progress in building the second TPY-2 radar site, which should be completed by the end of the year.

“We appreciate Japan’s strong support and close coordination during this process,” Work added.

TPY-2 stands for transportable radar surveillance and control model 2. This, according to the Missile Defense Agency, is a transportable, X-band, high-resolution, phased-array radar designed for ballistic missile defense. The TPY-2 can track all classes of ballistic missiles and identify small objects at long distances.

“The U.S. Navy is moving forward with plans to deploy two more ballistic missile defense ships to Yokosuka by 2017,” Work said, “greatly enhancing our alliance and capability.”

The deputy defense secretary said Japan has a new arms-export policy and that its legislature has passed a secrets protection act that should enhance defense industrial cooperation with the United States and other partner nations, especially Australia.

“This will lead to lower costs, better capabilities and enhanced operational cooperation that will promote security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Work said the United States appreciates Japan’s role as a contributor to peace and prosperity in the important Northeast Asia region and in the rest of the world, and the United States is steadfast in its commitment to Japan’s security.

Work added, “There’s another alliance that we very much value, and that is the alliance with South Korea.”

Both alliances help maintain peace and security in Northeast Asia and throughout the region, he said.

“The more we can exchange information among our three countries, the better it is for both of our alliances and for peace and prosperity in the region,” the deputy secretary explained.

“So we welcome all different types of ways to further this trilateral discussion,” Work said, “and we think ballistic missile defense is a very good place to start because of the common threat that we face, specifically from North Korea.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)