Staff writer

YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa Pref. — The U.S. 7th Fleet will remain both a key instrument of American foreign policy and an integral part of the defense cooperation framework with Japan, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley said Tuesday on the fleet’s flagship USS Blue Ridge.

Foley made the remarks as guest speaker at a change-of-command ceremony for the navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet. In that ceremony, Vice Adm. Walter Doran assumed command from Vice Adm. Robert Natter, who has been at the helm since September 1996.

In the second high-profile event at the Navy’s premier overseas base in as many days, Foley described the U.S.-Japanese relationship as twin pillars of stability in the Asia-Pacific region and detailed the role the U.S. Navy plays in keeping the regional peace.

“Recent and current events in the region and around the world have underscored the importance of a strong U.S.-Japan relationship,” Foley said. “The foundation of our partnership has been the U.S.-Japan security alliance, which for over four decades has been the cornerstone of American engagement in East Asia and the key to stability and prosperity in the Pacific region.”

He said recent changes have made this alliance an even more effective one, referring to last September’s revision of the guidelines for U.S.-Japanese defense cooperation.

“The end results of these changes will be a more sophisticated security architecture that both protects and advances U.S. interests in this region,” Foley said. “One of the most visible and versatile elements of American military power in the world rests beneath our feet and before our eyes here at Yokosuka,” he said, in part referring to the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser Chancellorsville, which arrived the day before and were berthed across from the flagship.

Foley, 69, said this was his second look at the Kitty Hawk this week after being flown out to the carrier Monday in an F-14 fighter.

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