The following was written by Capt. Lydia Robertson, PACOM’s chief of public affairs, who is travelling with Adm. Willard as he meets with senior military officials to discuss views on regional security and ways to further cooperation and partnership.
The Japan and United States alliance is a cornerstone to security in East Asia, and strengthening relationships in support of that alliance is a focus of Adm. Robert Willard, PACOM’s commander.
Earlier this week, on the first stop of one of his first regional trips as PACOM commander, Adm. Willard met with several counterparts in the Japan Self Defense Forces as well as government officials, reinforcing the commitment of the United States – and Pacific Command – to a continuing U.S. presence in the region.
“We consider ourselves to be an Asian nation in our own right with vast interests here and some very close alliances and strategic partnerships out here, and we look forward to strengthening those relationships over time,” Willard said, emphasizing he would seize opportunities to strengthen the alliance.
As the 50th anniversary of the alliance nears, Willard noted the importance of understanding how far the relationship has developed but also his role in strengthening the alliance.
“There are many ways to think about that when you consider this region of the world and the trends that are ongoing in the Asia-Pacific region: more multilateral engagement among countries and among militaries than bilateral, the teaming associated with areas of common interest, such as proliferation, terrorism, piracy, other illicit areas like counter-narcotics and so forth, search and rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance on the other side,” Willard said. “These are things that can be done in partnership with other nations, not necessarily alone or just in bilateral arrangements.”
The capabilities of the Japanese and U.S. militaries are significant and overall coordination between the two continues to evolve through continued exercises together.
“Every exercise is intended to be more joint. Every exercise that we conduct in coordination with one another is intended to test interoperability and overall coordination,” Willard said. “We have to constantly practice, constantly review concepts of operations, constantly exercise to get better in order to advance those capabilities. So I think that the synergy that can be gained through joint operations, the operations between Japan’s Self Defense Forces and United States forces, will only improve over time.”
In response to questions about the U.S. relationship with China, the admiral said managing the relationship will include enhanced military to military dialogue and other engagements. “We bear a responsibility to effectively engage with the Chinese and to understand one another better,” Willard said.
In a media roundtable with Japanese reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Adm. Willard discussed many issues, including working group efforts to advance the realignment initiative, the importance of the deterrent role of forward-deployed U.S. forces, and other topics.