A Lasting Partnership
OKINAWA, Japan -- In 2010, the U.S. and Japan celebrated a major milestone in marking the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, making this security alliance one of the world’s most enduring, earning the slogan — A Lasting Partnership. It is a partnership that has risen and met common security challenges such as containing the spread of communism during the Cold War, keeping terrorism from reaching our shores, and mitigating the threats of destructive missiles, among other challenges to the peace and stability of the region. Our partnership has also been swift and effective in mutually leveraging our strengths toward providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Japan, the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. This partnership is now in its 54th year and it is indeed a strong bond that continues to look forward in protecting our common interests. In doing so, we have worked diligently together towards improving our interoperability and developing new and better capabilities to mutually meet the challenges of the future while seeking transparency, peace, and stability.
When reflecting on the long record of regional stability and prosperity this partnership has provided to both countries and the world, there are sometimes impacts to local communities that host military bases. Some of these impacts might include aircraft noise, and rare incidents or accidents that have occurred in the context of a complicated historical backdrop. However, through dedicated cooperation and sincere dialogue, many bilateral measures have been implemented to decrease local concerns and create trust, support and a politically sustainable future.
Along with the positive and effective bilateral efforts addressing local concerns with official programs, the private and voluntary efforts made by American and Japanese individuals have also been instrumental in contributing to our remarkable and lasting partnership with host communities and between individuals. Listing all the official and private efforts which have and continue to contribute to a lasting partnership is a daunting task, but it is worth listing a few to reflect on the good it has provided. Some examples include, aircraft noise abatement programs in multiple communities; four distinct and robust training relocation programs thereby increasing safety, interoperability and readiness while decreasing noise; consolidation and land returns; humanitarian access agreements; establishment of flight patterns at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma aimed at maximizing safety; establishment of bilateral procedures for the response to off-base aircraft mishaps; MCAS Iwakuni Runway Relocation Project; dual-use of Misawa Air Base and MCAS Iwakuni; Partial lifting of restrictions of Hotel-Hotel water surface area; Reversion of Kadena RAPCON; additional annual bilateral exercises aimed at improving disaster relief capabilities; joint use of bases such as the Air Defense Command moving to Yokota Air Base and the Central Readiness Force moving into Camp Zama; thousands of community events each year such as beach clean-ups, volunteering at elderly homes and orphanages; teaching English at schools; Special Olympics; on-base college education; MOFA Orientation to Newcomers; sponsoring Speech Contests through the many Japan-American Societies and other venues; hosting flea markets; many annual friendship festivals, cherry blossom viewing, and air shows; The Oshima Island Youth Cultural Exchange Program; internships at hospitals and offices; sports exchanges and marathons; learning and opinion exchanges; donations in scholarships; Japanese support from fan clubs and support for base fence line clean-ups; and many, many more.
This month, another major effort will be bilaterally implemented which will contribute towards addressing a longstanding local concern in Okinawa and is in accordance with U.S. overseas basing policy of creating and maintaining a geographically dispersed, operationally ready, and politically sustainable presence. The transfer of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, a KC-130J Marine aviation unit, from MCAS Futenma in Okinawa prefecture to MCAS Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture will be implemented beginning July 2014. This transfer has been planned since 1996 and after many years of positive bilateral cooperation is on the cusp of being realized. The transfer of VMGR-152 is a Realignment milestone, and underscores the effectiveness of the U.S.-Japan partnership and bilateral cooperation in moving forward with implementing our mutual agreements with diligence.
The transfer also signifies a step closer toward a future that moves all of MCAS Futenma’s functions to a replacement facility, reducing the local impact and preserving the capabilities of our alliance. VMGR-152 will once again call Iwakuni home as it returns to its former base in a beautiful and historic area of Japan. It is a community that VMGR-152 is very familiar with and will continue to work hard through cooperation and outreach efforts as mentioned above, just as it has for years on Okinawa. Okinawa has been a valued and highly respected host to VMGR-152 for many years, and will continue to be appreciated as KC-130J aircraft will routinely return to Okinawa in support of the alliance through brief training and exercises and other missions.
This is indeed a lasting partnership. It is a living partnership in which ways to best manage our relationship and activities is done so in dialogue between both governments and adjusted through agreement as needed to fit current and future needs. Evidence of this partnership is found in the shared history of bilaterally rising to challenges, whether man-made or not, and also in the complicated task of realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan while maintaining capabilities. The pending transfer of VMGR-152 plays a significant role in managing this lasting partnership and is yet another indication of our effective and determined bilateral cooperation. For these reasons, as both nations look forward to the future, we should be confident this partnership will endure for years to come. In doing so, we will continue to forge a strong relationship based on shared-values and mutual respect for life and liberty.