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Former head of US Pacific Command Touts Alliance; Harris sees China and the world through a ‘dark lens’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Retired Admiral Harry Harris

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held talks with US President Joe Biden and addressed a joint session of the US Congress during his state visit to the United States, inaugurating a new phase of the Japan-US alliance that will address a number of issues in the field of cooperation. world. Harry Harris, a retired US Navy admiral and former commander of the US Pacific Command (now the US Indo-Pacific Command), said during a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun that the alliance is “stronger than ever.” The following comes from the interview.

Harkening back to my military background, I view the world through a dark lens. I see the challenges facing the United States and our allies through that dark lens. So when I look across the Indo-Pacific, I see a revisionist China, a revanchist Russia and a very aggressive North Korea with nuclear ambitions. I worry about the growing alignment between North Korea, China, Russia and Iran.

The world is more dangerous now than at any time since World War II. We see that today in Russia about Ukraine. We see China’s bullying of Taiwan and the Philippines. There are more nuclear powers and more countries with nuclear ambitions.

It is the first time in nine years that a sitting Japanese prime minister has paid a state visit to the United States. It is both groundbreaking and historic. The US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, stability and prosperity. This is an important visit taking place at a very important time, not just for the United States and Japan, and not just for the Indo-Pacific region, but for the entire world.

And I have been involved in the US-Japan alliance for my entire 40-year military career, through 2018. Prime Minister Kishida’s commitment to doubling Japan’s defense budget is significant. Japan is getting on the map in a big way. I believe our alliance is now stronger than ever.

The relationship between the U.S. military in Japan, which is there to defend Japan, and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces has always been close. But there are important ways to improve coordination. That’s because the Self-Defense Forces are now far more capable than ever before. And Japan has taken a leadership role in bigger ways than in the past.

The need for coordination [in the event of conflict] is bigger now than it has been for a long time. It is important to have that preparation before you need it.

I am happy that Prime Minister Kishida and President Biden are meeting, as is the Philippine President [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.]

China is waging what we call gray zone warfare in the South China Sea. They use forces that are not purely military in nature, such as the Chinese coast guard. The Japanese Coast Guard and the American Coast Guard should be able to assist the Philippines in this regard. What happens in the South China Sea matters to Japan. Because if you look at all the stuff that Japan gets from the Middle East and South Asia, all that stuff goes through the waters bordering the Philippines.

[As the U.S. presidential election is scheduled for November] You see political divisions emerging in Washington. I think our opponents do a happy dance when they see things like that happening. But that’s the nature of democracy. I do not think so [it makes the United States] weaker.

It is our determination [to continue exercising leadership]. The US-Japan alliance has grown stronger and we have two new members in NATO: Sweden and Finland. This is a team sport [to defend Ukraine and the rest of the world]. I think we’re doing well.

Retired Admiral Harry Harris, 67, was born in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. His father served in the United States Army and his mother was Japanese. He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1978 and served in a number of operations as a naval flight officer. His graduate education included Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to South Korea.

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