FUKUOKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. John M. Bird, called the U.S. alliance with Japan "vital to the peace and security of the region", and cautioned not to take the region's security for granted.
At a May 1 press conference aboard the 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in Fukuoka, Bird called 2010 a "very special year for our two countries" because it marks the 50th anniversary of the alliance.
"It's a year in which we can reflect on just how significant and how valuable the alliance has been in terms of bringing security and stability and ultimately prosperity to so many different people throughout this region," he said. "The alliance has secured extraordinary benefits for the entire Asia-Pacific region and made possible the unparalleled progress of the past five decades."
The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan was signed in Washington Jan. 19, 1960, following a pledge by President Dwight Eisenhower to establish an "indestructible partnership" based on "equality and mutual understanding." The alliance serves as the basis for the U.S. Navy's partnership with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF).
"I view the security in this part of the world as good, but having said that, I never take it for granted and know that it can change very quickly and dramatically," Bird said. "That is why the the 7th Fleet and the JMSDF must maintain constant vigilance and always do our duty and perform to the best of our capabilities."
The visit by USS Blue Ridge to the port of Hakata in Fukuoka was the flagship's first in 29 years. Bird hosted a reception on board for local community leaders and elected officials, and the 7th Fleet Band performed public concerts and marched in a local parade.
Asked why U.S. Navy ships often visit civilian ports around Japan rather than just military bases, Bird said it was an important for Sailors to see the nation that they defend.
"It gives our men and women a chance to see a country that they have sworn to defend, and it gives the people of Japan who don't ordinarily see the U.S. Navy the chance to meet us," he said. "It's also an outward sign to those who may observe the commitment of the U.S. to the defense of Japan."
Bird said that the alliance and the U.S. Navy's partnership with the JMSDF would be even more important in its second 50 years.
"As I look at the Western Pacific now and into the future, I am convinced that the alliance will become even more critical and even more important," he said. "Together, 7th Fleet and the JMSDF must continually work in this very strong alliance to ensure security and stability on the high seas, and throughout the region."
For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/.