Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, highlighted on Wednesday the importance of increasing defense capabilities in Japan amid rapid changes in the surrounding security environment.
Martinez, who is due to step down shortly, stressed that he was surprised at “the speed at which changes have occurred” around Japan, citing China’s “aggression” and “expansion” in the South China Sea and North Korea’s “advanced” ballistic missile technologies.
The U.S. military presence is “a deterrent against those countries who leverage coercion and intimidation to influence other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” according to Martinez.
The lieutenant general said he understands that U.S. “training and operations have impacts on local communities,” apparently referring to a series of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft and rising protests against U.S. military exercises among Japanese citizens.
The commander, however, added that such training and operations “serve vital purpose” for both Japan and the United States.
Asked about his stance on the controversial plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base from a densely populated area of Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district of Nago, both in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, Martinez said that the plan is the “bilaterally agreed solution” and will “decrease the activity around Futenma while still allowing the United States to maintain security operations.”Speech