By Keiitsu Okada
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell held a press conference at the U.S. military’s Misawa Air Base (Misawa City) on July 13. With reference to China and North Korea, he noted that the “U.S.-Japan alliance needs to change constantly to adapt to the regional situation.” He also indicated his intent to engage in discussions on a wide range of matters with Japan, including a possible increase in Japan’s base-hosting burden in the future.
Stilwell is visiting Japan as part of his first overseas trip since his appointment.
Japan has increased its defense outlays and implemented a series of laws that enable integrated operations with the U.S. military, but U.S. President Donald Trump has recently commented that he is not happy about the Japan-U.S. security treaty, calling it “unfair.”
Stilwell noted that the “alliance needs to adapt to new threats” and did not comment on President Trump’s statement that the bilateral alliance is one-sided.
Stilwell worked at Misawa Air Base as commander as well as in other capacities for a total of six years and so it very familiar with Japan’s national security. “It is important for our two countries to focus on their shared interests, and I would like to work for the mutual benefit of both countries,” he said. He noted that he will seek to trod a realistic path that will not harm the Japan-U.S. relationship.
Looking back on the 1990s when he was stationed in Misawa for the first time, he noted that “while the Soviet threat has disappeared, it has become necessary to deal with rising powers and North Korea’s negative behavior of developing nuclear weapons.” He pointed out that China and North Korea have emerged as new threats.
He stressed that the Misawa Air Base remains important for the U.S. military’s rapid forward deployment in the event of an emergency.
Senior U.S. diplomat hopes friendship continues between Misawa City and the U.S. base there
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell visited the Misawa City Office on July 13 and met with incumbent Mayor Yoshinori Kohiyama as well as former Misawa Mayor Kazumasa Taneichi, with whom he had developed ties when he was commander at Misawa base from August 2008 to July 2010. [After the meeting], Stilwell told the press that “I’ve communicated to the two mayors that whenever I talk about the Japan-U.S. alliance, I always tell [my counterparts] to ‘look at the relationship between Misawa Air Base and Misawa City.’” He expressed his hope that this friendship will continue.
The meeting was not open to the public except the opening segment. When Stilwell met former Mayor Taneichi, he said in Japanese “Ohisashiburi. Genki desu [It’s been a while. I’m doing well].” After the meeting, he said to the press that the “U.S. and Japanese cultures mix together well here, and I am grateful for the understanding of the local people.”
Mayor Kohiyama gave him a publication issued last year by the “Misawa International Club,” an international friendship association, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Japan-U.S. exchange [in Misawa]. Former Mayor Taneichi, who sent a congratulatory message when Stilwell assumed his new State Department post, recalled that when he was mayor and Stilwell was stationed in Misawa, they switched roles and served as a “one-day Commander” and “one-day Misawa Mayor,” respectively. “He was such a friendly commander,” Taneichi recalled. The former mayor added that he is concerned about Stilwell “as he may face difficulties given the harsh nature of the current international situation.”
At the press conference held at the Misawa base on July 13, Stilwell emphasized that “This has been a strong reminder that the Japan-U.S. alliance serves as the cornerstone of the region.” Asked about the Iranian situation and [the role of] the Misawa base in that regard, he answered that “I cannot answer questions that I do not have answers to. I cannot answer your question.”