Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, welcomed his visiting Japanese counterpart to the Pentagon on Thursday as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen military ties between both countries, according to a Pentagon news release.
The meeting between Gen. Dempsey and Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, chief of joint staff for Japan Self Defense Forces, will discuss ways to "further enhance the nations' strategic and personal partnership in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond."
"Our partnership with Japan is historic, … very long and very enduring. We've committed to each other that we will continue to improve and build on that partnership and make it even stronger," the news release quoted Dempsey as saying after the meeting.
Dempsey said he first met Iwasaki, then chief of the air forces, during a visit to Tokyo in October, and added that the two men have since become "counterparts, peers and friends."
"We came to an agreement to further cooperation with US forces to deepen our understanding as we did in the past," Iwasaki said in response.
Dempsey and Iwasaki stressed that they will seek avenues to expand an already solid military-to-military relationship in other domains, including cyberspace, land, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as aviation and maritime systems continue to evolve.
"We're not limiting ourselves to discussion about the maritime domain. I think our relationship expands far beyond that, and, in fact, we've served together all across the world," Dempsey said.
Further, Dempsey said he and Iwasaki compared notes on topics from family to joint operations, including the significance of the US deployment of tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft to Japan and associated safety measures.
"The Osprey is our next generation of tactical airlift, and so very important to our modernization efforts in our future," Dempsey said. "We … want very much to assure the people of Okinawa, and Japanese people in general, that it will be safe to operate. We will continue to work hard to build confidence in the system -- confidence that we have here."
The United States plans to deploy MV-22 Ospreys at its Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa to replace aging CH-46 helicopters. Twelve Ospreys arrived in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi prefecture, last month for test flights before being deployed in Okinawa. Marines also plan to conduct flight training on several courses in other parts of Japan.
The deployment plan faced stiff opposition from residents of Okinawa, and prefectural officials supported by heads of local bodies joined the protests. Osprey accidents, including a fatal crash in Morocco and another in the US state of Florida this year, have heightened public concerns in Japan, a staunch U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific, which hosts around 50,000 U.S. soldiers on its soil.
Earlier this month, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta assured Japan's Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto that no flights would be conducted in Japan until the aircraft's safety is confirmed. He also promised to swiftly provide an official report on the Osprey accidents. Nonetheless, he indicated there would be no change in plans to begin the deployment in Okinawa in October.
by RTT Staff Writer
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