Chairman’s Message: Reflections on the 2016 Annual Security Forum

Admiral Dennis Blair
June 1, 2016

Joy Asico (’s been several weeks since our annual Sasakawa USA Security Forum was held in May, and we were pleased this year to welcome more than twenty-five distinguished speakers who are experts in a variety of security-related fields pertinent to the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Several of the observations of the speakers struck me as important. I was impressed to hear current military leaders emphasize the importance, from a security perspective, of the United States ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Adm. Scott Swift, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, who spoke during a panel on U.S.-Japan Maritime Cooperation, pointed out that the trade agreement has great potential for improving stability throughout the Pacific as a mechanism to draw economies together. (Read Adm. Swift’s full comments here.)

An afternoon panel with Suzanne Spaulding of the Department of Homeland Security and Yasu Taniwaki of Japan’s National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity raised important points. The United States and Japan are both under unrelenting cyber-attack, both from criminals and from adversary governments. It is essential for them to cooperate in securing their networks, and identifying and punishing attackers. In addition, both Japan and the United States share the vision of an open and free worldwide internet. They need to lead the campaign in international fora to defend that vision of the internet against other countries that seek to control it for restricted national purposes.

We heard a report from John Hamre, Rich Armitage and Ryozo Kato, co-chairs of the Alliance Commission, sponsored by our sister organization in Tokyo, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The Commission’s report, “The U.S.-Japan Alliance to 2030: Power and Principle” lays out a renewed vision for the alliance through 2030, a period as difficult as any the Alliance has faced, with challenges posed from a rising China and an aggrieved Russia, in addition to global issues such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and climate change. The United States and Japan will have to build up their own power, and use it wisely and firmly, to preserve a world order that favors their values. (Read the joint Sasakawa-CSIS U.S.-Japan Commission on the Future of the Alliance in English here or in Japanese here).

Both the Alliance Commission report and the remarks of several of our distinguished Japanese guests at the Forum foreshadowed a more equal US-Japan relationship, with Japan playing a more active role than in the past. Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Japanese Minister of Defense Satoshi Morimoto both cited the security bills passed last year authorizing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense in limited circumstances. Minister Ishiba also underscored the need for updating the alliance in other ways, including changing the status of US forces in Japan to tenants on Japanese bases (Read his statement in Japanese here or the unofficial English translation here).

The subject of the U.S. presidential elections later this year came up in several of the panels, and was the primary subject of the final panel discussion among Michele Flournoy, Michael Green and Fred Bergsten. Although presidential candidates have criticized long-standing American policies and more recent initiatives like TPP, these experienced officials believed that the importance and strength of the Alliance would reassert itself in a new administration, as it has in the past. References to the election campaign from many Japanese speakers were a reminder that events in the United States are watched closely around the world, and that the comments and decisions made in this country have far-reaching impact.

This year’s Forum, our third annual edition, proved once again to be the leading venue in the United States for high-level discussion on U.S.-Japan security issues. I would like to thank all those who contributed to furthering this important dialogue and invite anyone who was unable to attend to watch the conference below, where it is available in its entirety.

For more information on the Sasakawa USA Annual Security Forum, visit the event page here. View media coverage of the event here, and a summary of topics covered here.



This event was livestreamed in both English and with simultaneous interpretation into Japanese. View both versions below. Each playlist is divided into two videos: Part 1 for morning sessions and Part 2 for afternoon sessions.

English audio playlist:

Japanese audio playlist (日本語で聞く):




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