By DoD News
By Terri Moon Cronk
The U.S. alliance with Japan has never been stronger, Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Monday told reporters traveling with him on an around-the-world trip.
The secretary began his trip by speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, and he spoke with reporters while en route to Japan.
He said his trip’s purpose is to thank deployed service members and meet with various regional partners on priorities such as the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and the lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The alliance with Japan has taken a number of advances in recent years, Carter told reporters. “I’d particularly point to defense guidelines,” he added, “and the scope they provide for the Japanese armed forces, which are extremely capable, … to operate in a wider range of ways for security, both within the alliance and for the region as a whole.”
The alliance is long-lasting, but it has continued to change, evolve be relevant to new circumstances, Carter said. “One needs [to] look no further than North Korea to understand the importance of that,” he said. “And again, the health of the alliance has never been better.”
Carter said he would visit with some Japanese forces in Yokosuka and visit with American forces stationed there.
“This is, first and foremost, an effort for me to visit with U.S. forces deployed around the world as the holiday season approaches,” the secretary said, adding he would thank them and tell them how proud, supportive and appreciative Americans are of them and their families.
“Also, I have an opportunity to visit with a number of important places where they’re deployed and describe to them and talk to our partners in those places about the strategic importance of our presence around the world,” Carter said.
A subject he plans to discuss, as he did at the security forum, is the strategic transition the United States has embarked on, Carter said, “from the era of very strong preoccupation of necessity with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a full-spectrum requirement now.”
The secretary added that strategic transition is evident in the Asia-Pacific region, “where we, are as part of the rebalance, [are] emphasizing first in our own military some of our most advanced capabilities.”
The secretary said he also plans to discuss the transformation of alliance relationships and the ways countries are working together — not only the United States with its allies and partners, but also countries in the region working together and working with the United States “in a principled and inclusive network in a region that is extremely important to America’s future economically and in other ways, and that has no formal security structure.” Such a structure requires that all Asia-Pacific powers organize to stay secure, he added.
U.S. leadership is good for the Asia-Pacific region’s future, Carter said, because peace is critical for continued regional prosperity.