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7th Fleet Commemorates U.S.-Japan Partnership aboard USS Essex
SASEBO, Japan – Senior Navy and civil officials from the U.S. and Japan attended a reception aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) June 4 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.

Attendees included Vice Adm. John Bird, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet; Vice Adm. Koji Kato, commandant, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), Sasebo district; and Sasebo Mayor Norio Tomonaga. Throughout the evening, leaders from both countries spoke about the importance of the U.S.-Japan partnership.

“Certainly, there is no better example of the strength of our alliance than the very close working relationship between the JMSDF (Kaijo Jieitai) and the United States Navy,” said Bird. “Not a day goes by when we’re not operating, exercising and working together in defense of Japan and the safety and security of this region.”

Essex’s honor guard began the ceremony with a presentation of the colors, as the 7th Fleet Band played both nations’ anthems. After listening to a series of speakers, more than 400 Japanese and American guests spent the rest of the evening rekindling old relationships and forging new ones, as they dined on a buffet served by Essex’s culinary specialists and took in music by the 7th Fleet Band. The reception ended with a fireworks display over the Sasebo basin.

Sasebo was an ideal location to host the event due to the unique relationship between the base and the local community, said Kato.

“Here in Sasebo, an ideal posture has been demonstrated, where the U.S. forces, Kaijo Jieitai and the local community co-exist in a very natural fashion,” said Kato.

The opportunity to host the event aboard Essex was an honor, said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex’s commanding officer.

"The reception was a great opportunity to demonstrate the pride and professionalism of Essex and her crew to our Japanese guests and the 7th Fleet commanders,” Hart said. “It was great to be able to host such a grand event for the Sasebo community and military leaders who are such gracious hosts and have always provided us such tremendous support."

For Essex Sailors who have spent a significant amount of time in the region, the reception was just one of many experiences that have contributed to a flourishing U.S.-Japan relationship, said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Baker, Essex’s assistant air operations officer and reception coordinator.

“Having an event like this, where we can bring together military and civilian leaders, certainly enhances our camaraderie,” he said. “The mutual respect and understanding that we have for each other is always evident when we have an opportunity to come together like this.”

Kato said he is looking forward to future cooperation between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF and hopes that Sasebo plays a key role in the U.S.-Japan relationship.

“While we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the alliance, I do hope that in our series of navy events, Sasebo will become a stepping stone to further fortify this alliance for the next 50 years,” he said.

The reception was one of many celebrations held so far this year throughout Japan to observe the 50th anniversary of the treaty, which was signed Jan. 19, 1960. The treaty states that the U.S. and Japan will assume the obligation of developing and maintaining forces to be used in the event of an armed attack on Japanese territories. It also reiterates Japan’s renunciation of the threat or use of force as a means to settle international disputes.

Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan.
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