Basing the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (hereon referred to as GW) in Yokosuka, Japan, was never certain. Success required constant vigilance on the part of U.S. and Japanese policy leaders in order to navigate divergent conventional wisdoms, unfortunate incidents, and sharp political sensitivities. In the end, a high degree of trust built over decades based upon a shared sense of community in Yokosuka proved critical to GW’s eventual 2008 arrival. That USS RONALD REAGAN replaced GW in 2015 with little fanfare is a testament to those close and enduring relationships. Those relationships will be critical in overcoming future “bumps in the road.”
The GW experience in Yokosuka provides a worthy lesson as our nation looks around the world for new partners in today’s ‘great power competition.’ These partnerships will be critical as we confront together a revanchist Russia and a confidently aggressive China. The 2018 National Defense Strategy makes clear, steadfast allies, such as Japan, are critical in protecting a rules-based international order that is key to our shared prosperity. Gradual but sustained commitments amongst our leaders, outreach between communities, and physical military presence will be key to building important new partnerships across the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
CAPT Brent Sadler has served multiple tours in Japan, as Olmsted Scholar at Keio University, and as Flag Lieutenant to Commander Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan. Most recently, in 2014, he was a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow at the National Institute for Defense Studies. Building on that experience, during the latest revision to the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines, he served as a Special Representative for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Commander Indo-Pacific Command. His latest assignment overseas was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as the Senior Defense Official and Defense Attache. He is currently working on the Navy Staff at the Pentagon.
This paper serves as Issue No. 19 of the Sasakawa USA Forum, a platform for research and analysis related to Japan and U.S.-Japan relations in a bilateral, regional, and global context. In order to gain a more comprehensive view of U.S.-Japan relations, the Sasakawa USA Forum publishes research from experts outside of our organization. Click here for details on how to submit research for consideration.
Featured Image: NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Sept. 27, 2019) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) departs the dry dock to moor to a nearby waterside pier at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) in Newport News, Va. George Washington is undergoing refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at NNS. RCOH is a nearly four-year project performed only once during a carrier’s 50-year service life that includes refueling the ship’s two nuclear reactors, as well as significant repairs, upgrades, and modernization. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cory Daut)