Yokota Air Base
12:15 P.M. JST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, Yokota! (Applause.) Thank you, General Martinez, Ambassador Hagerty, Minister Sato, General Maehara, General Nicholson, Admiral Sawyer, and to all the brave men and women of Japan Self-Defense Forces. Thank you for that warm welcome. Thank you to all that you do here at Yokota Air Base. And to the men and women in the uniform of the United States of America, thank you for being the cornerstone of the Pacific. (Applause.)
And to members of U.S. Armed Forces Japan, I bring greetings from someone who was here at Yokota not too long ago, a great champion of our military and our families, your Commander-in-Chief, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, when the President was here just a few months ago, he spoke words that really bear repeating today. He said, “We salute you, we honor you, and we stand proudly with the men and women who defend us.” And as I stand here today, I know I speak on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, and, frankly, all of the American people, when I say to our forces gathered here and to our great allies, we couldn’t be more proud or more grateful for your patriotism, your courage, and your selflessness. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.)
Each day, you prove that there’s no force on Earth more powerful than the courage and conviction of free men and women. You are from the rest of us, but you are the best of us — heroes all. And your service in this place, in the cause of freedom, speaks louder than anything that I could say today.
As the Old Book says, you “did not love your lives so much as to shrink” from this calling. And here you are, the Americans among you so far away from home, because the United States and Japan are bound together by a time-honored alliance, by an abiding oath of friendship, and we are bound together by an unshakeable commitment to freedom. (Applause.)
For nearly 60 years, the sons and daughters of our two nations have stood together in defense of our most cherished values. To this day, our alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Indo-Pacific. And as Prime Minister Abe and I agreed just yesterday, the bond between the United States and Japan has never been stronger than it is today. (Applause.)
This very base is proof of our steadfast fidelity to each other and our shared security. Yokota Air Base is a citadel of strength and a symbol to the world that we will ensure our peace and security through superiority and power. It boasts the headquarters of both U.S. Forces Japan and the Japan Air Defense Command. And you represent one of the greatest concentrations of our combined military might, anywhere in the world.
Yokota Air Base demonstrates in fact and in deed that the full range of the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the United States are dedicated to our common defense. And all across these lands and seas and skies, America’s matchless strength is on display every day. (Applause.)
Today, more than 50,000 members of the armed forces stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters in arms from Japan. The Seventh Fleet is anchored here, led by one of the most advanced aircraft carriers in the American arsenal, the USS Ronald Reagan, and an armada of 16 other mighty ships.
Another aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, sails in these seas with her strike group. And more than 50 American warships are stationed in this region, including our nuclear submarines, which chart a silent path beneath the waves, positioned to respond to dangers and threats with overwhelming force.
And the only permanently forward-deployed F-18 and F-35 fighter squadrons in the American arsenal soar in these skies, ready at a moment’s notice to fly and fight for freedom. (Applause.) To see this sight today is deeply inspiring to me. You are, in every sense, the embodiment of American strength, unbeatable by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
And every day, that strength grows — because in just the past year, I’m pleased to report to my fellow Americans the United States has taken decisive action to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still.
Early last year, your Commander-in-Chief signed the largest increase in military spending in 10 years. And today, I am proud to report to all the Americans gathered here that, thanks to the President’s leadership and bipartisan support in the United States Senate, Congress has reached a two-year budget deal that includes the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.) An $80 billion increase in our national defense, including the largest pay increase for military members in eight years. (Applause.)
And I’ll make you a promise: Under that Commander-in-Chief you saw here at Yokota three months ago, we’re going to continue to rebuild our military. We’re going to restore the arsenal of democracy. And we will once again give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and training you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe. That’s our solemn promise to each of you and your families. (Applause.)
But our commitment doesn’t stop there. Just last week, our administration released our Nuclear Posture Review. As we modernize our nuclear arsenal, you can be confident we’ll make our strategy more flexible, tailored to the threats that we face today, and we will have the nuclear might to deter any strategic attack on our nation, our people, or our allies around the world. (Applause.)
As President Trump has said, in his words, “Only when the good are strong will peace prevail.” And you are that strength. It’s because of you, and those who came before you, that peace has prevailed in the Indo-Pacific for more than three quarters of a century.
The steadying hand of American might has unleashed an unparalleled era of commerce and cooperation, lifting millions out of poverty, and showing the boundless power of freedom.
Yet, as I stand before you today, you know well that there are those who seek to reverse this progress and ultimately drive American influence from this region so they may tyrannize their citizens even more and threaten violence across the region and the wider world. And none fit this description better than the rogue regime in North Korea.
Sixty-eight years ago this June, North Korea sent its soldiers to advance against the free people of South Korea. But because of the American Armed Forces, they failed in their war of conquest. And today, America stands strong with the proud and free people of South Korea, and we always will. (Applause.)
But since that time, decades ago, the despots in Pyongyang have subjugated their own people, forcing them to live in what President Trump recently called a “prison state.” That regime has squandered the dreams of their good people, squelching freedom, and squeezing the very life out of one generation and another.
As we speak, an estimated 100,000 North Korean citizens labor in modern-day gulags. Those who dare raise their voices in dissent are imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered; their children and grandchildren routinely punished for their family’s sins against the state.
And while the regime’s leaders in Pyongyang have prospered, the average North Korean toils in poverty and want. In the 1990s alone, more than a million North Koreans perished from starvation and deprivation. And to this day, 70 percent of the entire nation — some 18 million people — need food aid to survive day to day. Most tragically, nearly 3 out of every 10 North Korean children under the age of 5 have been physically stunted by malnourishment. And they will bear that mark of deprivation for the rest of their lives.
The truth is, though, North Korea’s tyrants have never been content to merely subjugate their own people. As you know well here at Yokota, they still harbor the dream of conquering their neighbors to the south. And in recent years, North Korea has threatened Japan, the United States, and our allies across this region.
In the pursuit of their ends, North Korea has long supported international terrorism. For the past two decades, it’s devoted essentially every available resource and well to the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The American people, the people of Japan, and freedom-loving people across the wider world long for the day when peace and prosperity replace Pyongyang’s belligerence and brutality. Together with our allies and partners, we will continue to strive to peacefully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program and alleviate the suffering of its people.
But sadly, despite our efforts over the decades, every step of the way, North Korea has answered the overtures of the wider world and our two nations with willful deception, broken promises, and endless and escalating provocations. In fact, within less than 30 days last year, the regime launched two missiles here over Japanese territory, and conducted, in the same period of time, another nuclear test.
North Korea’s continued threats have stirred the United States of America to act, and we will continue to act with vigilance and resolve as our lodestar. (Applause.)
Working with Japan and our allies and partners, the United States has already brought unprecedented economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea. And as I announced yesterday, we will continue to intensify this maximum pressure campaign on North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all. But until that day arrives, let the world know, from here at Yokota Air Base and beyond: We are ready for any eventuality.
The United States of America will always seek peace. We will ever strive for a better future. But you, the instruments of American power, know — and let our adversaries know — all options are on the table. And the American Armed Forces and Self-Defense Forces of Japan will be ready to defend our people and our way of life.
To any who would threaten our people or our allies, know this: Under this Commander-in-Chief, with the greatest fighting force in the world, the United States is ready — ready to defend our homeland, defend our allies — anytime, anywhere.
Those who dare to threaten us would do well not to underestimate the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the United States. Our military power is unparalleled, our strength-of-arms is unsurpassed, and you know, and I know, our forces are ready and our nation is resolved. (Applause.)
As the Old Book says, a soldier does not bear the sword in vain. And let the world know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with a response that is rapid, overwhelming, and effective.
And so today, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, I urge you: Be vigilant, mind your mission, look after one another, and know that the American people, and the people of Japan, are counting on you — each and every one of you — every hour, every day.
You know, as I look out across this hangar, I see men and women, American and Japanese, who have answered the call to put on the uniform, to protect our families, and preserve our freedom. The burden you carry is a heavy one, full of uncertainty. The challenges that lie ahead will demand every ounce of your courage, but I have confidence that you will confront and overcome whatever trials may arise, just like those who came before you did in their time.
I think of one as I stand before you today, deeply humbled to see so many courageous Americans and our allies from Japan. The one I think of — it was a young man who left his home in Chicago, Illinois, and he sailed to this part of the world as a part of American forces.
That Second Lieutenant was part of the 45th Infantry Division. He landed on the shores of South Korea, only a few hundred miles from where we stand today. In the Battle of Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill, he helped seize the high ground and repulse more than 20 enemy counterattacks. And for his valor, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He’s been gone now almost as long as I had the chance to know him. But that medal sits on my desk, in the West Wing of the White House, and bears the name of Lieutenant Edward J. Pence, my dad. In just a few short hours, I’ll travel to the country that my father fought to defend.
And I stand before all of you today, who are part of that long line of men and women who sacrifice so much to advance freedom in the Indo-Pacific, and I have a heart full of gratitude.
When I go to South Korea, I’ll pay tribute to him, to all of his brothers and sisters in arms, many of whom gave the last full measure of devotion in that war and in times that have passed since.
But rest assured that I’ll also have a heart filled with gratitude to all of you. And like millions of Americans, I’ll breathe a prayer of thanks — thanks to you and to your families, who followed in his footsteps, who are standing a post in your time, to keep the lamp of liberty lit in this ancient land.
You know, for generations, the United States has stood guard over the Indo-Pacific, together with our cherished ally, Japan. And we always will. Today, as in ages past, our commitment is unwavering, your courage is inspiring, and the spirit of our peoples is unconquerable.
In the name of the heroes who came before, and with confidence in all of you, and with confidence in God’s continued blessing and protection on your work for freedom here and across this region, I know freedom will prevail. You will do your duty. We will protect our peoples. We will defend our freedom. And together, we will forge a future of security, prosperity, and peace for both of our nations for generations to come.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless all who wear the uniform of the United States and Japan. And God bless those United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
12:37 P.M. JST