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May 26, 2023

Yomiuri International Economic Society

Imperial Hotel

Tokyo, Japan

May 16, 2023


The Status of US-Japan Security Ties


Thank you, Kitamura-san, for that generous introduction.


Thank you, also, Yamaguchi-san for the opportunity to speak to such a distinguished group.  It is wonderful to be with you all today.  This is my first to Tokyo since my army days when I was stationed at Camp Zama in 2004.  I have wanted to return since then.


During the pandemic, while Kitamura-san and I were still serving as National Security Advisors, we met at Yokota but we were unable to leave the base due to the public health situation.  I am honored to return to this beautiful city and country.


It is an important time for us to gather in Tokyo.  In several of days the leaders of the seven most powerful democracies will gather in Hiroshima for the meeting of the G7.


The leaders have a full agenda – the Russia Ukraine war, now raging into its second year, and the troubled global economy, reeling from the aftereffects of the pandemic and difficulties caused by the war in Europe top the list.


Most importantly, especially to you here in Japan, they must consider the increasingly aggressive and coercive behavior of China, both in the region and throughout the world.  It is against this backdrop that we gather today for this meeting.


Our timing could not be better to discuss the state of the U.S.-Japan Alliance.  Given the rise of Communist China, the US – Japan alliance is critical not only to our own nations’ safety but to achieving what Abe-san called a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”


I often tell people that America has a “special relationship” with Great Britain and that France is our “oldest” ally but in light of the challenge we face in the Indo-Pacific, Japan is our most important ally.


I believe our alliance is the strongest it’s ever been, and yet we can make it even stronger.


Because strength is the most powerful deterrent to aggression by our adversaries, let me discuss steps our two nations can take to protect our way of life.


First, we must increase our military capabilities.  I commend Prime Minister Kishida and his government for issuing three strong policy documents last December – an updated National Security Strategy, a National Defense strategy, and the defense build-up program.


I took note that the new National Defense Strategy appropriately identifies China as a matter of “highest priority,” a “serious concern” and “an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge for Japan and the international community.”


The Strategy also described North Korea as an even more grave and imminent threat … than ever before.”  I agree with these assessments.


I also welcome Japan’s decision to deploy long-range counterstrike missiles and to increase the defense budget to two percent of GDP.  Remember, as with NATO, two percent is the minimum floor not the ceiling for required defense outlays.


Japan already has one of the most capable militaries in the Pacific.  An increased budget and an arsenal of new ships, planes, and missiles will only further fortify your armed forces.


This bold budget move by Prime Minister Kishida sends a clear signal to Beijing, Pyongyang and Moscow.  A Japan that is ready and able to meet the evolving threats to its security is good for this country and strengthens our alliance.


The Beijing-Moscow-Pyongyang-Tehran axis is growing more aggressive, so even more must be done in Tokyo and Washington.  For example, Japan makes the best diesel electric submarine in the world.  It has a long ship life (just like the long life of the Honda Accord I drove all through high school and college!).


The platform is critical to deterring PLA Navy aggression and could tip the scale for victory should a war break out.  But Japan retires its submarines too quickly.  It does so far faster than other navies.  By extending Japanese submarines’ ship life, even by five years, the MSDF could go from a fleet of 22 to 28 submarines with dispatch.  I cannot over emphasize the importance of Japan undertaking such a program.


Second, Japan should upgrade the 132 F-15s that are scheduled to be scrapped to make room for 105 F-35s due to be delivered from 2024 to 2038.  Doing so would increase Japan’s fighter fleet – which is now intended to remain at its current level at about 330 aircraft – by about a third.


Considering the challenges we are discussing here today, including China’s rapidly growing military capabilities and the threat to Taiwan, a well-armed and modernized fleet of fighters would be an enormous asset, not only to Japan, but to the alliance as well.  We must be prepared to fight tomorrow with updated proven platforms as well as in a decade with fifth and sixth generation aircraft.


Experts say that the upgraded F-15JSI (Japan Super Interceptor) will be competitive with China’s J16, as well as an effective defense against Xian H6 bombers.


Unfortunately, only 68 of Japan’s 200 F-15s are scheduled to get the JSI modernization.  Industry experts tell me that it is possible to upgrade all of Japan’s F-15s, and that with the recent budget increase, there is enough funding to do so.  I urge Japan’s leadership to consider this project seriously.


Third, Japan and the US can do more to support of democratic Taiwan.  Taiwan is the geopolitical lynchpin in the Pacific.  Japan knows better than any other country the significance of Taiwan’s location to the defense of our region.


Taiwan is also a beacon of the rule of law and democracy.  Taiwan gives lie to the CCP claim that Chinese people can only be governed by an authoritarian hand from the Imperial center.


As your new National Security Strategy states, “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait are indispensable for peace, stability and prosperity of the international community.”


And as Abe-san said, “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-U.S. alliance.”


There is much that we can do together to support Taiwan and our assistance can take many forms, examples of which include –


  • naval and air force training exercises with ROC forces,
  • resilience and civil defense training for the ROC population, and
  • freedom of navigation patrols by the US and Japan in the Taiwan strait and SCS,


Such undertakings will send a strong message to Chairman Xi and will give us the best chance of deterring a PRC attack against Taiwan.


Fourth, America and Japan must continue to lead our partners by implementing the strategic framework that ensures the Indo-Pacific region remains, free and open.  This vision was espoused by late Prime Minister Abe.


President Trump adopted and expanded Abe-san’s concept.  Through the implementation of the Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework.  Since then and including under the Biden and Kishida Administrations, our two countries have worked to counter China’s coercive and aggressive behavior.


Other nations in the region have followed our lead – most recently South Korea announced its strategy; ASEAN, Australia, the UK, Canada, India, and the Philippines have all adopted their own Indo-Pacific strategies and policies.  Together, Japan and the United States have led the region and the world in responding to the CCP’s threat to the IndoPacific.


Fifth, the US and Japan must shore up our respective cybersecurity capabilities.  Cyber will be the new high ground in any conflict with the PRC.


Through the CCP’s Made in China 2025 policy, Chairman Xi intends for China to achieve domination of both the global economy and technology fields in two years from now.  He has committed 1.4 trillion dollars toward developing industries like robotics, advanced information technology, electric vehicles, as well as critical technologies including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems.


Chinese apps, such as TikTok and WeChat, which collect our data and send it back to China, make our populace vulnerable to invasion of privacy but also to manipulation by the CCP.


I was pleased to see Japan’s new National Security Strategy state that improving cybersecurity capability is a top priority.  However, many tech and national security experts are concerned that Japan is overlooking security issues related to digital competition policy.


We are also grappling with these issues in the US – specifically how to regulate the digital landscape while maintaining high standards of cybersecurity.


The US Congress is considering legislation that would, if enacted, weaken our tech companies and give an advantage to Chinese companies that seek to displace the United States as the global tech leader.

Such legislation contains provisions that would require changes to the way that our mobile devices download apps – changes that actually make our citizens more vulnerable malware and exploitation by our adversaries.


I know Japan is grappling with these same issues.  My friend Kitamura-san has written excellent articles to highlight this danger.  I urge Japan to consider very carefully the policies it undertakes in the digital space.  It is very difficult to close the cyber door to China once it is opened.


In closing, we have much to be proud of regarding the state of the US-Japan alliance.  Thanks to strong and courageous leadership – both from Abe-san and from Prime Minister Kishida – Japan is playing an increasingly important role not only in the Indo-Pacific region, but in the world.  Japan’s leadership will be showcased this week in Hiroshima.  Through both Republican and Democratic Administrations, the US has stood by Japan.


A stronger Japan means a closer Alliance between our two great countries.  There is more we can do to deepen our cooperation and demonstrate strength to our adversaries.  The dictators must understand that together America and Japan will protect our freedom, prosperity, sovereignty, and our way of life!


May God bless Japan. And, may God bless the United States of America.


Thank you.