09 Apr 15. In Yokota yesterday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reported progress in talks with Japanese officials on the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines for Defense Cooperation and on a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Speaking with reporters who are traveling with Carter on his first official trip as defense secretary to Northeast Asia, the secretary discussed the purpose of his visit to Japan and progress made on longstanding issues.
“The purpose of my visit was to prepare the way for … the so-called ‘2+2′ meeting, which is the meeting of foreign ministers and Secretary of State John Kerry and also the defense ministers, which occurs later this month,” Carter said.
The 2+2 meeting itself is a preparatory meeting in advance of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit here to meet with President Barack Obama.
U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines
“I had the opportunity to make progress and to discuss two very important things, Carter said, referring to the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines for Defense Cooperation and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP.
In October, the United States and Japan jointly released an interim report of ongoing revisions of the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines, according to the U.S. State Department’s website.
The revised guidelines, expected to be finalized by the end of the year, will establish an expanded and more flexible framework for alliance cooperation to ensure the peace and security of Japan under any circumstances, from peacetime to contingencies, the website said, and to promote a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific.
“This is an historic moment for the U.S.-Japan relationship,” Carter said. “Japan is … changing its security posture in important and truly historic ways and we, accordingly, are changing our relationship to evolve with them.”
The secretary said the update of the guidelines is significant because it opens new possibilities for the United States and Japan to work together in Northeast Asia.
“We can work in new domains like space and cyberspace, and we can cooperate in new ways, both regionally and globally,” he added.
Carter said the agreement has many dimensions and represents a modernization of the alliance.
Lasting Security Relationship
“To me it shows how lasting a security relationship with the United States is,” the secretary added. “We’ve had it [with Japan] for many decades and of course it’s been instrumental in keeping peace and stability in this part of the world.”
Such stability has led to the uplifting of many people economically and politically in the region, Carter said. “And that hasn’t happened automatically,” he added. “It’s happened because of the United States’ military role out here.”
Carter said the TPP is an important part of the U.S.-Japan relationship and relationships among many countries in the region.
The treaty, he said, “reinforces that the strategic approach to this part of the world is not just a military matter. It’s economic and political as well [and] it’s extremely important.”
Missile Defense Preparations
In response to a question about North Korea’s firing of two short-range surface-to-air missiles off its west coast earlier today, Carter called it a reminder of how tense things are on the Korean Peninsula.
“That’s the reason I’m going to talk to our own commanders and troops, and very importantly to the government of South Korea, which like Japan is a longstanding, very staunch ally out here,” he said.
The show of North Korean aggression, Carter added, “reinforces the missile-defense preparations we’ve long had on the Korean Peninsula and have here.”
More broadly than missiles, Carter said the missile launch is a reminder of how dangerous things are on the Korean Peninsula, and how a highly ready force in support of a strong ally is needed to keep the peace.
“That’s what we’ll be talking about and visiting with the South Korean government about over the next couple of days,” Carter said, “the health of our alliance and the importance of our alliance to peace and security on the peninsula.”
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