Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper hosted Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono on August 29, at Andersen Air Force Base on the Island of Guam. The meeting came as the world recognizes and commemorates the end of World War II.
“Seventy-five years ago this week, the United States and Japan laid down their arms against each other and entered into a durable friendship that has led to tremendous prosperity for our people, and all the peoples of the Indo-Pacific,” Esper said.
From enemies then to partners today, as a large portion of the cost to move 5,000 Marines to Guam is being funded by Japan. Esper thanked the Japanese defense minister for their contribution and for hosting American service members.
Prior to meeting, Esper toured Camp Blaz on Guam where the Marines will be based.
Esper and Kono specifically discussed the behavior of China and the Chinese Communist Party. Esper shared his thoughts and perspective on China:
“Today, I look forward to discussing with you China’s malign behavior in the region under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, including the intimidation and coercion of its neighbors, and its continued aggression in the East and South China Seas. We remain steadfast in our opposition to Beijing’s destabilizing activities in the region, which include attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands,” said Esper.
Under the U.S.-Japan Treaty, the United States is obligated to defend the islands.
It has been six months since Kono and Esper last met face-to-face.
In that time the world has drastically changed, not only because of the Corona Virus, “But because there are some attempts to change the status quo by force and coercion, and some countries are trying to apply cutting-edge technology to military use. We need to be very carefully monitoring the situation and we need to build the posture to prevent any attempt to change the status quo,” noted Minister Kono.
Both of the Ministers restated their commitment to maintain a rules-based order in the East and South China Seas. This includes more broadly across the region and around the world.
Secretary Esper welcomed Japan’s efforts to strengthen cooperation with other like minded partners, which include members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), India, Australia, and trilaterally with the United States and the Republic of Korea.
Secretary Esper reiterated the commitment of the United States on the full implementation of President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Joint Statement at the 2018 Singapore Summit. It also includes the complete elimination of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, their means of production, and their means of delivery.
Secretary Esper and Minister Kono agreed to continue efforts to support interoperability and to enhance Alliance capabilities. In particular, integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) and for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) functions.
They also discussed shared development programs to include the co-development of the SM-23A ground-based interceptor missile.
Esper also thanked Kono for the participation of two Japanese maritime self-defense force ships in the Rim of the Pacific exercise that is underway, just off the coast of Hawaii.
They are in agreement on the importance of secure networks and of strengthening information security to protect advanced defense technologies.
They are committed to the agreed upon realignment plan that will move U.S. forces from Okinawa to Guam and other initiatives, including construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility.
The Secretary also noted the importance of Japan completing the required steps to complete the purchase of Mageshima to support field carrier landing practice.
Both Secretary Esper and Minister Kono recognize the importance of local community engagement in ensuring stable stationing of U.S. forces in Japan.
Secretary Esper expressed his commitment for maintaining the highest standards of safety for all U.S. personnel, while emphasizing the necessity of training to maintain readiness.
Both nations note that North Korea remains a concern and they are committed to the “final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, to include all [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs,” Esper said.