Thank you to CSIS and the Japan Institute of International Affairs, for hosting what is now the twenty-seventh annual U.S.-Japan Security Summit.
Last year, we marked the 60th anniversary of our two countries signing the Treaty of Cooperation and Mutual Defense. Over these six decades, the U.S.-Japan Alliance has been the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. There is no doubt that it will continue to be for generations to come.
When President Biden outlined his vision for America’s place in the world during his speech at the State Department on February 4, the role the U.S.-Japan Alliance will play couldn’t be more clear:
Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy – we will strengthen our alliances and engagement with the world, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but those of today and tomorrow. Leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our key allies and partners once again.
In just the first seven days of this administration, President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Suga, and Secretary Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Motegi mere hours after being sworn in. From this alone we can recognize the importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance to the United States.
The President stressed the importance of diplomacy rooted in defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity – all fundamental values we share with Japan. He also made clear that we will directly take on the challenges posed to our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our competitors. We will compete with China from a position of strength by working with our allies and partners and through meaningful participation in the multilateral arena.
And few security relationships are as consequential as the U.S.-Japan Alliance. Japan hosts approximately 55,000 U.S. service members, the largest contingent of U.S. forces anywhere outside the United States. The U.S. 7th Fleet is headquartered in Yokosuka, which serves as the home port of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier.
On February 24, Foreign Minister Motegi and U.S. Embassy Tokyo Chargé d’Affaires Young signed a one-year extension of the current U.S.-Japan Host Nation Support agreement. We will continue negotiations on a new multi-year agreement, focusing on strengthening the Alliance to meet the security challenges of today and the future.
Our commitment to Japan’s security is absolute. The United States affirms the Senkaku Islands are covered by Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, and we remain opposed to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea. We stand firmly behind this commitment.
The Biden-Harris Administration is strengthening America’s relationships not only with our allies, but the relationships among them. None are more important than Japan and the Republic of Korea. We will explore opportunities to expand our cooperation in new areas such as tackling COVID-19 and addressing climate change, and are working together to reinvigorate trilateral cooperation on the North Korea challenge.
On February 18, the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea held our first trilateral meeting under this Administration to exchange views on shared challenges and discuss the ongoing U.S.-DPRK policy review. We also stressed the importance of continued close coordination and expressed our continued commitment to denuclearization and peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and Japan are also working closely together with India and Australia through the Quad. Secretary Blinken and the other Quad foreign ministers met on February 18 and committed to meeting at least annually at the ministerial level, and on a regular basis at senior and working levels, to strengthen cooperation on advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
In closing, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the unbreakable bond of the American and Japanese people. We’re only days away from the tenth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In the face of great tragedy, our two countries carried out unparalleled search, rescue, and recovery efforts. At the peak of Operation Tomodachi, the Department of Defense had 24,000 personnel, 190 aircraft, and 24 Navy ships supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts – evidence of our enduring commitment and bond with the people of Japan.
We are proud to have stood together in the aftermath of that tragic disaster. The United States and Japan will continue to stand strong, together, in the face of any adversity to come.