U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
July 21, 2012
Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter
Media Roundtable with Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter, Tokyo, Japan
DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Great. Well good morning, and thanks for being here, really appreciate it. Let me begin with the purpose of my visit. Over the last several months, President Obama was in this region; the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton; my boss, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Panetta; and they were all explaining how we find ourselves in the United States at a time of great strategic transition with great importance for this part of the world.
We have been, of necessity -- we in the United States have been, of necessity -- focused on, for the past ten years, two wars of a very specific type in Iraq and, still, in Afghanistan, and also in combating terrorism in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001 on the United States. These were all important things to do. But that era is coming to an end. We are not fighting in Iraq any longer. We are very much still fighting in Afghanistan, but we have a plan, with all of our coalition partners, to transition the lead for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan forces, and that transition will occur in a couple of years. And so one can see the beginning of the wind-down of that war as well. And, of course, combating terrorism is something we will all be doing for many, many years to come, but we’ve had important advances in that.
And so my point is that, for the United States, we are transitioning our thinking and, very much, our activities in the Department of Defense to this new strategic era. And that strategic shift was what President Obama spoke about in January in his new strategic guidance to us, and it was that, that he and then Secretary Clinton and then Secretary Panetta were discussing with our friends and partners and allies here in this region -- because one of the central tenets of that new strategic guidance was that we should, as we put it, ‘rebalance,’ focus our energies and our resources on the Asia-Pacific theater. And that’s one of the important ingredients of the new strategy for this new strategic era for the United States.
They sent me here because my job as the chief management officer of the Department of Defense is to implement that vision, and so I came to this region to meet with our friends and partners and allies -- to meet with and assess our own forces throughout the region -- with an eye to carrying out that turning of the strategic corner.
As I said, and say, my job is to ensure that we don’t just “talk the talk,” but “walk the walk.” And we can do that because all of the capacity that has been tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last ten years is capacity that we can focus now on the Asia-Pacific region, and that’s a tremendous amount of capability. And secondly, even though our defense budget is not going to continue to grow -- it’s not actually being reduced, as you probably know; it is just not continuing to grow, as a consequence of our desire to deal with deficit issues in the United States -- but within that budget, we are shifting the weight of our innovation and investment from counterinsurgency-type warfare to the kinds of capabilities that are most relevant to the Asia-Pacific theater.
So for both of those reasons, we have abundant resources to make this rebalancing. So, it’s just a matter of making it happen, and deciding which specific things to do. And that’s something that we want to discuss with our friends and allies out here. And of course Japan is our central and anchoring alliance, and has been for many decades, and so naturally I come here first, to Tokyo.
I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with the foreign minister and with the defense minister, and also with senior officials in the Defense Ministry, and we had very good discussions on this whole wide range of strategic issues that are of importance to us both. And so I was able to get the opportunity of thinking by the Japanese government, and also some Japanese experts of great distinction with whom I met earlier this morning, and they were kind enough to share their perspectives -- also people whose views we esteem very much, and that was very useful and interesting as well.
With respect to the U.S.-Japan Alliance, I’ll just say a couple of things before opening up to your questions. The first is, as I said, that this is a very important era of strategic transition for the United States as one of the partners to the Alliance, and a number of Japanese officials have said that Japan, too, is undergoing a strategic transition and expansion of its thinking about strategic affairs, both functionally and geographically. And we welcome that, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the Government of Japan and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to realize that vision. And that’s a good thing, that we’re both, in a sense, thinking big and thinking strategically at the same time. That has great potential.
The second thing I’ll say is, I think that we have tremendous momentum in many, many areas: joint planning, technology sharing, joint exercises and training. I should say I just came from Guam on my way over here, which is a very important training area -- tremendous training opportunities for both our forces and Japanese forces to use. Very important training opportunities, because of course in both of our countries, it becomes more and more difficult to do the kind of training that requires access to wide areas of territory. And that is possible in Guam, so that’s a great opportunity for both of us.
While I’m mentioning Guam, I’ll also just say that the 2+2 agreement with respect to the movement of Marines to Guam was a great milestone, and from my point of view I’m very optimistic that there’s momentum on both sides to implement the 2+2 agreement. I think that’s the way forward. The logjam was broken by the 2+2 agreement, and I think that is a very good thing. We’re certainly doing our part, and, as I said, I’m optimistic about our ability to move forward on our part -- and I think the Japanese government likewise, on all of the aspects of the 2+2 agreement.
And meanwhile, in Guam, of course, much of what is happening on Guam doesn’t have anything to do with the Marine Corps. There’s a large Air Force base, there’s a large Navy base; Japanese forces have been to each and exercised from each, and those are important capabilities irrespective of the Marine Corps issue. Important as it is, it’s just a piece of the overall picture on Guam.
So in every way, I think there’s a lot of forward progress. It’s a great time to be here. It was a privilege to meet with the Government of Japan. A little bit later today, I’ll be talking to our U.S. forces here about our capabilities, our plans, our activities, as doing our part for the Alliance -- with our new commander, Sam Angenella, who’s beginning work right out here, and I think will be a great partner for the Government of Japan. So it’s a great time to be here, great time of new purpose and new horizons, and it’s a privilege for me to be here.