By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 21, 2007 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today thanked the Japanese people and their government for their help in the war on terror. Marine Gen. Peter Pace spoke about Japanese help in the war on terror and bilateral defense issues during meetings with Japanese leaders here today.
Pace reviewed a Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force honor guard at the Ministry of Defense and met with Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Aso and Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma. The general's counterpart, Adm. Takashi Saito, chief of staff of the Japanese Joint Staff Office, hosted the chairman.
Pace said during a press roundtable that the U.S. military is appreciative of Japanese contributions in Iraq, Afghanistan and at sea.
Japanese engineers from the country's Ground Self-Defense Force help build many projects in southern Iraq's Muthanna province. Their contributions were key in helping the province convert to provincial Iraqi control last summer. It was the first Iraqi province to exercise complete self-rule.
Japanese Air Self-Defense Force pilots and crew are based in Kuwait in support of anti-terrorism efforts. Pace called that contribution "very important" to the missions there.
Finally, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force oilers are helping maintain the vessels of many countries in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. The chairman said that contribution "helps define stability and helps maintain the sea lanes" in that important part of the world.
The Japanese are reaching out to help their neighbors, the chairman said, and "that's what countering terrorism is all about. It's about helping citizens of various countries to have a better life today than they did yesterday and have them believe that tomorrow will be better than today."
The chairman said the Japanese contributions give people hope that they are on a better path.
Pace also thanked his Japanese hosts for their hospitality. The general and his family lived in Japan from 1994 to 1996. "To be able to come here again is a treat in many ways," he said.
Pace said his discussions with Japanese leaders were excellent and that he wanted to hear their thoughts on how to make the U.S.-Japan alliance work better in the future.
He said the agreement between the United States and Japan on force realignment in the country is one that both nations should be proud of. The agreement calls for more joint and combined facilities in Japan while reducing the footprint of U.S. forces in the nation. Specifically, the agreement calls for major changes on the island of Okinawa.
U.S. and Japanese representatives worked to find the balance between security needs and "the kind of impact that presence of forces -- whether they be Japanese or American -- have on local communities," Pace said.
"It's a very good agreement," he added. "From a military standpoint, I am anxious to do my part to make sure we carry out the agreements and get the forces arranged in such a way that we lessen the impact on individual communities while still providing for security in Japan and stability in the region."
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