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General Dempsey's Remarks at the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo, April 2013

Published April 26, 2013

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey gave these remarks at the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo on April 26, 2013. He spoke at the Yokota Air Base the day before.

Excerpt from Dempsey's remarks:

"In Asia, for example, defense spending across the region rose nearly five per cent last year. But by and large, defense dollars are down throughout the world, and that's no exception in America. Together, these trends have led many, including some of you perhaps in this institute, to question whether the United States can remain a global leader and a reliable partner. I assure you that we can and I know that we must. Let me tell you why.

First, you can have confidence in the strength and sustainability of America's military. Now true, we are facing the steepest, but not the deepest drawdown since the Korean War. We're also facing readiness shortfalls this year that we'll need to recover from next year. But, and I have said this before, we're only one deal away from regaining some budget certainty. And just as in baseball, a great hit can wipe out a bad error.
This is also not our first drawdown. I have served during three similar periods in my past. Each time we made some mistakes, and each time, we emerged stronger as a military and as a nation.
We're also managing this transition from a position of strength. Our capability is ours without rival, and we're on the leading edge on most every area, including cyber. We have a global presence, including hundreds of ships on the high seas. We can project power at will, witness our recent B-2 mission to South Korea intended to assure our allies and deter North Korea.
Like the Japanese Self Defense Forces, our decisive advantage is our people. You can't tell them that they're not strong after 12 years, our men and women in uniform have proven their resilience, their courage, and demonstrated their mettle. They're smart, dynamic leaders who give us all confidence in our future.
Second, you can also have confidence in our alliances. This is my fourth trip to Asia as Chairman and I can report our alliances are strong and getting stronger. We can't—or we cannot—and do not underestimate their value. As we know from baseball, talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.
As you may know, the U.S. has more alliances in this region than anywhere else in the world. Our deep partnership with Japan as well as with the Republic of Korea, with Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the foundation of our Asia-Pacific strategy. They underpin a growing network of increasingly important trilateral and multilateral relationships and forums. When you ally with the United States, you ally with the region.
Allies provide, what I call, the 3 C's: capacity, capability, and karaoke. (Laughter.) No, actually, not karaoke. The last one should be credibility. Although you're also quite good, I've heard, as a class at karaoke. I'm a bit of a singer myself, as you may know and perhaps you've seen me on YouTube.
Capacity, capability, and credibility are the combining forces, the aikido [the way of combining forces] of our relationship. It's what gives us the agility to respond and to everything from a natural disaster to a dangerous dictator. The U.S.- Japanese relationship exemplifies aikido. We routinely train and we deploy together. We built in interoperability in F-16s today and F-35s tomorrow. And we're committed to upholding every article of our mutual defense treaty.
During this visit to Japan, which is my third as Chairman, General Iwasaki and I affirmed then reaffirmed our alliance. Among the many issues we discussed was the renewed imperative for cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea. As I discussed with General Jung in Seoul this weekend, we may be entering a prolonged period of provocation from Pyongyang. Given the missile threat and Kim Jong-Un's reckless rhetoric, we have no choice but to improve our defenses and accelerate our cooperation.
I raised this issue as well in Beijing, where I was warmly welcomed by my counterpart General Fang and other senior Chinese leaders. I carried a message of assurance there as well. They should now understand that we can build a relationship with them without compromising on the trust we have with our enduring allies. Cooperation, not confrontation, is our strategy of choice for China, and quite frankly, for the region.
Which brings me to the question of our Asia-Pacific strategy or the so-called rebalancing. I can understand why some may wonder if this strategy is still feasible, not just due to less money but also due to the unrelenting pull of the Middle East. I can assure you that our rebalancing is still on. It's a strategic imperative born of this region's emergence as a socio-economic center of gravity in the world. All the trend lines are headed this way so watch out.
Likewise, we're taking a comprehensive approach. We're prioritizing trade and commerce, diplomacy and development. We see our presence and partnerships as reinforcing the relationship between prosperity and security. You simply can't have one without the other. And you can't do security part-time. Admittedly, our presence has been episodic somewhat over the last decade. Our absence can be destabilizing. In contrast, our routine presence is stabilizing. Therefore, you can expect us to pay more attention and to engage more often in this region. And not just in Northeast Asia, but in Southeast Asia and across the region. Our engagement will be as much, if not more, about people than things. True, some of our best-quality equipment will come out this way from time to time. Just last week, for example, our first littoral combat ship, the USS Freedom, arrived in Singapore for its first regional deployment. But more importantly, our best people will be here all the time. That said, we can and will move capability around the world quickly, if needed. We rapidly upgraded our missile defenses in recent weeks. Our cooperative response to the North Korean threat is a clear demonstration of our will, the strength of our alliance, and our commitment to the region—a region on the rise and ripe with opportunity."

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