July 20, 2010 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. â€“The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command headquarters was the site of a U.S.-Japanese joint staff conference July 11 - 16 designed to bring together members of both nationsâ€™ joint staffs to discuss issues of mutual importance and further strengthen the historic alliance.
The conference, held annually since 1992, comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United States-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
The Japanese officers received briefings from various U.S. organizations, including USNORTHCOM, a tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and a visit with the 100th Missile Brigade at Schriever Air Force Base.
Japan Ground Self Defense Force Maj. Gen. Koichi Isobe, Japan Joint Staff Director for Defense Plans and Policy, said the conference is an excellent opportunity to discuss important issues for the Japan-U.S. alliance with the Joint Staff and other key players on the U.S. side, including USNORTHCOM.
â€œThe fact that we are holding the discussions here at NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters will also enable us to learn about NORTHCOMâ€™s mission and responsibilities in regard to homeland security and disaster relief,â€ he said. â€œThe JSDF has similar responsibilities so weâ€™re very much looking forward to hearing the NORTHCOM briefing.â€
Air Force Lt. Col. Leslie Maher, Joint Staff J5, Northeast Asia Division, said the conference gives both nationsâ€™ militaries a better understanding of their capabilities and expectations for ensuring regional security and stability.
â€œThe idea was that as we did more bilateral coordination with the Japanese and developed bilateral plans, we needed to see how each otherâ€™s decision-making matrix worked,â€ she said. â€œSo what the conference was designed to do was to go through notional scenarios that escalate from peacetime to various levels of crisis intensity in order to discuss and determine how we should cooperate and react bilaterally in order to de-escalate the situation. This gives us the opportunity to discuss issues at zero ground speed so we can understand how we must respond and cooperate in a crisis.â€
These annual conferences are important because the alliance between the U.S. and Japan is a key factor in the stability of Asia, Maher explained. With that much riding on the alliance, itâ€™s important to keep those relationships strong.
â€œAfter fifty years of mutual cooperation to ensure peace in Northeast Asia, the security alliance has never been stronger,â€ according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeff Newell, Joint Staff Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs for Asia.
â€œThe military-to-military relationship has never been healthier,â€ he said. â€œAnd it is important that we continue to align our visions for the future, because the U.S.-Japan security alliance is a foundation of peace and stability in Northeast Asia.â€
Isobe said the allianceâ€™s strength not only benefits Japan, but the entire East Asia region.
â€œThe defense of Japan consists of two elements,â€ he explained. â€œItâ€™s the capability provided by the Self Defense Force and the capability provided by the U.S.-Japan security relationship and alliance. Because of that, we have a very strong relationship that provides peace and stability, not just for Japan, but for the entire region as well.â€
Maher agreed, noting the strong partnership between the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force as an example.
â€œThe navy-to-navy relationship between us and Japan, for instance, is probably one of our strongest bilateral relationships,â€ Maher added. â€œThis relationship has facilitated frank, military-to-military discussions and sharing of information, which has contributed greatly to maritime peace and security in Northeast Asia.â€
With the allianceâ€™s 50th anniversary, Maher said the emphasis of this conference is on themes that will prepare the alliance for the future, such as space, cyberspace and missile defense.
â€œThatâ€™s why this seminar is more important than those in the past,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re trying to set us up for the next 50 years.â€
â€œNot only do we want to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mutual security treaty, but we also want to talk about the next 50 years and what the alliance relationship should look like,â€ Isobe agreed.