Remarks by the Vice President Aboard USS Ronald Reagan
Yokosuka Naval Base
Yokosuka City, Japan
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Lieutenant General Martinez, Major General Chiarotti, Vice Admiral Aucoin, Vice Admiral Doman, Rear Admiral Williams, Rear Admiral Carter, Rear Admiral Inoue, Rear Admiral Shimo, Captain Donnelly, Chargé Hyland, Ambassador Sasae, Director-General Mori, members of United States Forces of Japan, the Japan Self-Defense Forces, it is my high honor and distinct privilege to join you here today on America’s flagship -- the USS Ronald Reagan -- where every day, all of you prove it can be done. (Applause.)
You all look sharp out there, but at ease. It's so good to be with you today.
I bring greetings from the President of the United States of America, your Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
I spoke to the President this morning, just before I boarded the ship. He said to tell you that he’s proud of you. And he said to me, “I wish I could be where you are.” And I know he meant it, from the bottom of his heart.
The President sent me here today to thank you -- to thank you for your service -- all of you, American and Japanese, who have stood up, who’ve stepped forward to protect our countries, our values, and our very way of life.
You are the sons and daughters of freedom, willing to defend it with your life -- so that your families, your fellow countrymen, and future generations may continue to call themselves free. Give yourselves a round of applause. All of America is proud of you. (Applause.)
The Good Book tells us, “if you owe debts pay debts, if honor, then honor, if respect, then respect.” I stand before you today, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, to pay a debt of gratitude to each of you and to express the well-deserved respect of the President of the United States and the American people for all of you who wear the uniform of this country.
Our prayers for you, for your families, your safety rise every day into the heart of heaven. In a word, you are the best of us -- heroes all. And you are here, the Americans among you so far away from home, because the United States of America and Japan are bound by history, a time-honored treaty, and the abiding oath of friendship.
The United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Asia Pacific. And let me be clear: Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands unwavering in our alliance and unyielding in our resolve to defend all that we have built together over these generations. (Applause.)
Our bond with Japan is strong and growing stronger by the day. In February, only weeks after he took his oath of office, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Abe to the White House, where they reaffirmed in their words “their strong determination to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance.”
You here, on the deck of this great ship, are the physical manifestation of that alliance, and I have to tell you it is deeply inspiring to stand before you today, and see what I see gathered here on this deck. Every American would be inspired and proud if they had this view, and I know I am. (Applause.)
As the President and the Prime Minister made clear, the United States will strengthen its presence in the Asia Pacific, Japan will assume a larger role and responsibility in our alliance in the years ahead, and both of our nations will continue to expand our cooperation for our common defense.
Under President Trump, the United States’ commitment to Article 5 of our Security Treaty is unwavering. And our treaty covers all of the territories administered by Japan, including the Senkaku Islands.
It’s fitting that today I deliver this message aboard this great ship, a majestic ship, the USS Ronald Reagan, here at Yokosuka Naval Base. Her steel deck literally signifies the ironclad alliance our country enjoys with Japan and our enduring commitment to the Asia Pacific. (Applause.)
And we are standing on a ship named after my second favorite President. Our 40th President, Ronald Reagan, was a great President who powerfully reminded us that peace only comes through strength. You are that strength.
Today, over 50,000 U.S. troops and a further 50,000 civilians and family members are stationed here in Japan. And the United States will continue to deploy more of our most advanced military assets to the region in the years ahead.
Beyond this noble ship and the carrier strike group that it leads, by the year 2020, this ocean will boast 60 percent of our Navy’s fleet. And the skies above already have F-35 Joint Strike Fighters flying for freedom. (Applause.)
And you can rest assured, the full range of the United States military capability is dedicated to the protection of Japan. Japan, you are our friend -- you are our ally -- and on that foundation, we will face the future together.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States once again will stand with our allies and stand up to our enemies. (Applause.)
And I can assure you President Trump will unfailingly support the brave men and women in uniform who defend our freedom every single day.
We’re the proud parents of a United States Marine, stationed as we speak at a naval air station in the South of the United States. And I have to tell you, as the parent of someone in the service, it is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who is so dedicated to the men and women of our armed forces, their families, and our veterans.
I can tell you from my heart: President Donald Trump will be the best friend America’s Armed Forces will ever have. (Applause.)
The President and I will honor your commitment and secure America’s safety through historic investments in our national defense.
Just as President Ronald Reagan restored the armed forces in his day, so too President Donald Trump will make the strongest fighting force in the world even stronger still.
Just look at what President Trump has already accomplished. In his first 100 days, President Trump has taken decisive action to end the era of budget cuts for America’s military. (Applause.)
President Trump has submitted a budget which will rebuild our military and restore the arsenal of democracy with the largest increase in defense spending since the days the namesake of this ship sat in the Oval Office. (Applause.)
And in just the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new President in the decisive action that he took in Syria and Afghanistan. The enemies of our freedom and this alliance would do well not to test the resolve of this President -- or the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and our allies. (Applause.)
Make no mistake: Under President Donald Trump, the United States will be strong -- stronger than ever before. For as history attests, when America is strong, the world is safe. (Applause.)
A strong America -- militarily, economically, and diplomatically -- is vitally important to this region and all who call it home. It was through the bravery of our servicemembers and the spirit of our people, that America established the foundation of peace and freedom that endures in the Asia Pacific to this very day.
And under President Trump, the United States will continue to defend prosperity and ensure security on these seas, and between our lands.
Today, as in ages past, American leadership lights the way. The United States stands with all our allies and our partners in the region to keep the peace, enrich our people, and advance the common good.
Together, we will defend the rules-based order upon which the region’s progress, past and future, depends. We will protect the freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and we will ensure the unimpeded flow of lawful commerce on the Seven Seas. (Applause.)
And we will uphold international rules and norms, promote peaceful diplomatic dialogue to address issues of regional and international concern, and we will defend human rights -- because the dignity and worth of every person is an eternal value of the United States of America.
Under President Trump, the United States will faithfully defend all that we hold dear -- for we know that if we falter, the light of truth and freedom in the world could swiftly be extinguished.
We gather here today, on this deck, and in this place, as storm clouds gather on the horizon. On Monday, I traveled to the frontlines of freedom, where the vibrancy of a free South Korea meets directly the repression of North Korea. At the Demilitarization Zone, I met with the brave men and women who watch over that land, day and night.
They know what you who stand in the gap in this region already know -- North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia Pacific.
For more than a generation, North Korea’s leaders have sought to develop nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles on which to deliver them. They have impoverished their people and embittered the region in their pursuit of this dangerous goal. For more than two decades, from the Agreed Framework of 1994, the Six-Party Talks from year 2003 to ’09, to the strategic patience of the recent past, the United States and our allies have worked to tirelessly to peacefully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program and alleviate the suffering of its people.
But at every step of the way, North Korea answered our overtures with willful deception, with broken promises, and nuclear and missile tests -- including a failed missile test they attempted just this past Sunday.
As President Trump has made clear to the world, the era of strategic patience is over. (Applause.)
At the President’s direction, the policy of the United States will be to continue to work diligently with Japan, our allies across the region, China, and the wider world to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the regime in North Korea, and we will do so until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
But as all of you know, readiness is the key. And you, the instruments of American policy, should know -- all options are on the table. History will attest, the soldier “does not bear the sword in vain.”
And those who would challenge our resolve or our readiness should know: We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response. (Applause.)
The United States of America will always seek peace, but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.
Rest assured, under President Trump’s leadership, the United States will continue to protect our people and our allies and to strengthen the bonds between us -- today, tomorrow, and every day that follows.
As I look out across this deck, I see men and women -- American and Japanese -- who have answered the call to duty. And you have my deepest respect. In these challenging times, it is you -- through your voluntary service and your sacrifice -- who guard the flame of freedom, undimmed and undiminished, to give to generations to come.
The President and I have absolute faith that you will accomplish this mission and freedom will prevail because you follow in the footsteps also of those who defended freedom in the Asia Pacific in the past. I stand before you deeply humbled to be among so many in uniform because my own life’s journey did not take me into the uniform of the United States. But it took my father.
Sixty-five years ago, a young Edward J. Pence left his home, in Illinois, put on the uniform and crossed this vast Pacific on which you serve. Like so many of his countrymen, that second lieutenant in the 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army landed on the shores of South Korea, in the midst of a battle for freedom, a rifle in hand, resolved to defend that freedom with his life.
Just two days ago, I stood at the Demilitarized Zone, and looked out across the landscape -- the very landscape where my father had fought, in the Battle for Old Baldy and the battle on Pork Chop Hill. It was a deeply emotional experience for me. There, alongside his brothers-in-arms, American and Korean, my dad had helped seize the high ground, repulsing more than 20 enemy counterattacks. And they seized the high ground of freedom, which prevails in South Korea to this day. (Applause.)
Sixty-four years ago last week, my dad was -- had a medal pinned on his chest for his valor on the field of battle. But like most of our nation’s heroes, my dad never talked much about his time in combat. I believe that he carried in his heart something that you understand in ways that I perhaps never will.
My dad never thought of himself as a hero. He often would say that the heroes were the ones that didn’t get to come home. He lost friends -- young shining faces filled with promise -- who gave the last full measure of devotion for your sake, and for mine to defend our freedom and to plant freedom in that ancient land. And they succeeded.
So now it’s our turn in this generation. And more to the point, it’s your turn. Today, we best honor the sacrifices of those who have gone before by defending the freedom they fought and bled and died to secure.
And on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, this we know you will do.
As President Ronald Reagan said in his time, “we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have.” (Applause.)
For generations, the United States has stood guard over the Asia Pacific, protecting freedom through our strength of will and strength of arms.
With our friends and with our allies, with Japan and so many others, we have ushered in an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity on these seas and between our lands.
Our choice today is the same as in ages past: Security through strength, or an uncertain future of weakness and faltering will. Let me assure you, under President Donald Trump, the United States has again chosen the way of strength. (Applause.)
Under President Trump, the United States has chosen prosperity and security and an unwavering commitment to the Asia Pacific.
And in the name of the generations that came before, together with our allies, with confidence in all of you, and in the Commander-in-Chief who leads you, I know we will together go forth to meet the glorious future that awaits, a future of freedom for ourselves and our posterity.
Thank you. Godspeed on the USS Reagan’s imminent deployment. God bless you. God bless Japan. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)