During the question-and-answer period following his speech here today at the National Institute for Defense Studies, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey urged Japan and South Korea to collaborate more closely in the face of sustained North Korean provocation.
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke here near the end of a weeklong Asia trip that also included visits to South Korea and China.
He remarked to NIDS faculty and students that his visit to Japan's Air Defense Command headquarters yesterday left him "very impressed" at the integration of radars with aerial reconnaissance, sea platforms including "both sensors and shooters," and land-based Patriot missile battalions.
The chairman noted the U.S. military and Japanese Self Defense Forces have "a tremendous level" of air defense interoperability.
"We have an exquisite common operating picture, and we have a great deal of capability that is working together on both sides," he said. "I also have that same relationship on the Korean Peninsula between U.S. Forces Korea and the Republic of Korea forces. I have the same exquisite common picture of air defenses. We have many of the same capabilities working there, as well."
Dempsey noted, however, that "as I stand here today, with the North Korean threat very real, those two pictures are not combined."
The chairman has stated and re-stated throughout his travels this week that North Korea's long-established cycle of alternating military provocation and seeking accommodation has fundamentally shifted.
Instead, he maintains, Pyongyang and young leader Kim Jong Un have settled on sustained provocation. The regime launched a missile in December, conducted its third and largest nuclear test in February, and has issued a barrage of threats since.
"Since it is my professional military judgment that we are in a period of prolonged provocation by North Korea, not cyclic," Dempsey said, "I think ... we should see this as an opportunity to become interoperable, in particular in those domains where we see the threat evolving."
U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy emphasizes maintaining and increasing bilateral, trilateral and multilateral approaches to resolving regional issues, Dempsey said.
He added that alliances and collaboration are important as the United States and its partners in the Asia-Pacific region face the need to sustain a high level of vigilance against the unpredictable North Korean threat.