The United States and Japan need to maintain a strong security alliance to quickly respond to any threat in the Asia-Pacific region, the new commander of U.S. Forces Japan said Tuesday.
“Because of the clear threats to peace and security in this region, we must maintain the highest levels of readiness to respond at a moment’s notice to any threat, any crisis or any humanitarian disaster,” Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider said at a ceremony held at Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo.
Schneider succeeded Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, who during his tenure faced challenges such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, as well as China’s maritime assertiveness.
Schneider manages about 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan and coordinates with the country’s Self-Defense Forces. The two countries are expected to deepen their security cooperation under Tokyo’s new 10-year defense policy guidelines.
The new commander called the U.S.-Japan alliance “the cornerstone of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific,” adding that “it will continue to serve that role in the future.”
Schneider also said Japan is “a special place” as he looked back on his childhood in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, where his father was stationed, and his young days at Misawa Air Base in the country’s northeastern prefecture of Aomori, which “shaped” his career and “opened doors” for him as a fighter pilot positioned there.
Before assuming command, Schneider served as the chief of staff of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. He is a command pilot, with more than 3,800 flight hours and 530 combat hours flown during operations such as Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Among the more than 500 attendees at the ceremony was Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, who worked closely with Schneider as his immediate superior over the past nine months. He praised his former subordinate’s leadership skills and “incredible ability” to solve problems.