Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to address one of the oldest, largest and most active press clubs in the world – The Foreign Correspondents Club Japan. Please let me also thank our organizers and Catherine Makino for serving as our moderator today.

  I know there are issues and topics you would like to address and we will have time to do that during the question and answer period. But before opening up the session to see what’s on your minds, I’d like to briefly underscore a few points.

  First, the alliance between the United States and Japan continues to constitute the bedrock of Japan’s defense and remains the keystone to security and peace in the Asia-Pacific region. Second, the Defense Policy Review Initiative provides an important opportunity to strengthen the alliance and to prepare our security relationship for the challenges that lie ahead. Third, the forward deployment of U.S. military forces in Japan underpins the entire security relationship and commanders at all levels continue to focus attention, programs and resources in a way that helps minimize the incidences of inappropriate behavior by SOFA status personnel, and we believe our actions are making a difference. And last, the Host Nation Support agreement that facilitates the forward positioning of U.S. forces is a good agreement for both countries and it should continue to receive strong support in the years ahead.

  With respect to my first point, that the alliance between the United States and Japan continues to be relevant and important, as you look around the Asia-Pacific region, there is no shortage of challenges that Nations will need to address. From proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to terrorism, to international criminal activity, to disparities in wealth distribution, to growing economies and the need to address resource concerns, to environmental issues, to historical disputes over land, to health issues such as pandemic influenza, to vulnerability and response to natural disaster and much more, it will continue to be important that Nations who face these challenges in common look for ways to find common solutions.

  Despite the growth of other economies in the region and globally, for the foreseeable future the United States and Japan will continue to be the world’s two largest economies with democratic systems and shared values, and this basic fact means the alliance will continue to be a major factor in shaping Asia’s future and increasingly be a factor in the global equation.

  While some have described what might be called a post-Cold War drift in U.S.-Japan relations, my view is we have seen a definite strengthening of the relationship in the post 9-11 period through operations in OEF, OIF, the Six Party Talks process, the Tsunami of 2004 and more. Moreover, as was captured in a joint statement by the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and their Japanese counterparts in May of 2007, the U.S. and Japan are committed to promoting fundamental values such as basic human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the international community. The Secretaries and Ministers also highlighted strategic objectives that advance the interests of both countries to include: achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; further encouraging China to conduct itself as a responsible international stakeholder; strengthening APEC, supporting efforts made by ASEAN; strengthening trilateral cooperation among the U.S., Japan and Australia; building upon partnerships with India; ensuring Afghanistan’s successful economic reconstruction and political stabilization; contributing to building a united, democratic Iraq; bringing Iran into full compliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency requirements; and achieving broader Japan-NATO cooperation.

  These objectives highlight in a very real way the continued importance of our alliance both regionally and globally and our common pursuit of these objectives will make our alliance even stronger in the years ahead.

  As we look to future challenges and opportunities, I believe it is important to continue strong support for the Defense Policy Review Initiative. DPRI helps set the conditions for future success by strengthening the operational capability of the alliance, while decreasing the impact on local communities of the U.S. forces that are forward positioned in Japan.

  I know most of you are familiar with the specific elements of DPRI, so I won’t go through each of them here, but I do want to highlight that in many areas we have already made significant progress.

  Every day I look out the window from my office on Yokota Air Base to see a new headquarters for the Japan Air Self Defense force’s Air Defense Command being built before my eyes. This collocation of air headquarters will significantly strengthen our ability to coordinate and execute air and missile defense of Japan.

  Speaking of Yokota, a portion of the airspace around the facility has been made available to civilian air traffic thereby saving fuel and time for civilian airliners traversing the area.

  The USS George Washington has replaced the USS Kitty Hawk, so there is now a more capable aircraft carrier operating in the region.

  A U.S. X-Band radar system is now operating at the JASDF Shariki Base, where the U.S. shares X-Band radar data with the Japanese military.

  U.S. Patriot PAC-3 capabilities have been deployed to Japan within existing US facilities and areas at Kadena AB on Okinawa.

  There is more, but it is not my intent to provide a comprehensive review of DPRI, but rather, to highlight that progress is being made to the benefit of both Nations and while there are important hurdles still in front of us, we are moving forward.

  The third point I want to make is that commanders and supervisors at all levels understand the very damaging effect that unprofessional behavior can have on our tactical, operational and strategic position in Japan and while our efforts aren’t always visible, we continue to work this area hard.

  I have emphasized in the past that we take each case of criminal and unprofessional behavior seriously, that we continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities to investigate criminal activity and that we hold accountable any individuals who fail to live up to our high standards of conduct.

  Our high emphasis on crime prevention and the tremendous amount of time and resources we put into this issue are having a significant effect on minimizing the instances of inappropriate behavior by our personnel.

  However, despite all of our efforts, I believe there is often a misperception about the level of crime committed by U.S. Service members. Yet, because of the overseas screening processes we have in place, the education programs we employ, the liberty card and other programs and policies we implement to selectively restrict off-installation access, the constructive interaction we have with local businesses and community leaders, and much more, we are able to keep the off-base serious crime rate for U.S. Service members to approximately half the rate for the overall Japanese population.

  Because the crime rate in Japan is low relative to many other countries around the world, our ability to maintain a rate that is 50 percent less than the general population here is a strong indication that our actions are having an effect.

  This does not mean that we will never again have a serious crime committed in Japan by a U.S. service member. When we have almost 50,000 service members stationed or home-ported here, it is certainly possible that a small number will not respond to our training and education programs and will not adhere to our regulations and policies. When this very small number commit crimes, our continued commitment to the people of Japan is that we will work to quickly identify the offenders, to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials in their investigations, and to hold guilty persons accountable for their crimes.

  The U.S. Service members stationed in Japan are here to support our alliance. The vast majority of these Service members conduct themselves in accordance with the very high standards we have set for them and are very positive representatives of the American people.

  We work very hard to ensure we are doing all we can to minimize the instances of inappropriate behavior and will continue to work hard to prevent unwanted activity and vigorously prosecute those very few people who do not live up to our standards.

  Another important area where both governments will need to remain committed is the Host Nation Support agreement between Japan and the U.S. Special supplementary host nation support started in 1979 and makes the support we receive from Japan greater than that provided by any other U.S. ally. From the U.S. perspective, since the alliance cannot be reciprocal as with our other relationships, we consider continued Japanese support for this program to be an important balancing mechanism to offset the contributions the U.S. makes to the alliance.

  While there have been calls by some in Japan to reduce the level of Host Nation Support Japan provides, I strongly believe Japan receives a tremendous return on their HNS investment because in a contingency, the U.S. will not only employ the forces that are stationed in Japan, but will leverage the rest if the vast military capabilities we have at our disposal. For Japan to fund and field an equivalent level of defensive capability would cost many times the level of HNS they provide, hence, they are getting a great return for their money. Over the next three years, we’ve committed to conducting a comprehensive review of HNS with Japan and I am optimistic that we will achieve a satisfactory result for both sides.

  Those are the points I wanted to make as we begin today. I’d like to open the floor now to your questions.

Lt.Gen. Rice's Comment, 4 Nov.2008
(Foreign Correspondents Club Japan)