Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, performs a ceremonial inspection of JS Kashima (TV 3508) sailors June 3 during their port visit to Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Kolmel)

PEARL HARBOR - In a speech to a group of newly commissioned Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) officers June 3, Adm. Harry Harris Jr. stressed the importance of regional relationships in maintaining security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific while also commending them for their collective service.

Harris, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, spoke with junior officers aboard JS Kashima (TV 3508), which arrived in Hawaii with JS Asagiri (TV 3516) and JS Setoyuki (TV 3518) during their overseas training cruise.

"The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has played a crucial role in this region of the world for decades, working to ensure maritime security," Harris said. "That security has enabled the prosperity that your nation, one of the largest economies in the world, has enjoyed for decades."

For many of the newly commissioned officers, this cruise represents their first overseas deployment, and Harris took the time to also offer some personal advice from his 37-year career. To that end, he stressed the significance of relationship building, particularly in the Pacific, and how those relationships will serve them well into the future.

"I do want to share some important personal advice as you start out, and that's to build personal relationships with those from other navies in this region of the world because although forces can surge, trust and cooperation can't be surged," Harris said. "The mutual trust and cooperation you build with your contemporaries now is important."

In context, Harris implored and challenged the junior officers to work closely with their regional partner navies. While he highlighted the already strong alliance between the U.S. and Japanese navies, he placed a special emphasis on working closer with the Republic of Korea Navy. He explained that despite Japan and Korea's historical differences, their geography, their common ally in the United States and their common regional concerns make them "natural allies."

"If there is ever a time when the … nations of Asia must unify to overcome crisis, you'll need that trust and cooperation, and if you don't already have them, it may very well be too late," he said.

He also told those gathered that while the U.S. Navy may be the strongest in the region, the biggest threat to sustaining that strength is complacency.

"We can't afford to think that we're 'too good,'" Harris said. "We have to continue to prepare, invest in our friends and allies, and invest in ourselves."

Before speaking to the junior officers of the crew, Harris toured Kashima, participated in a ceremonial inspection of troops on the ship's flight deck and met with JMSDF Rear Adm. Hideki Yuasa, commander of the Japan Training Squadron.

While in port, Kashima will host dignitaries, senior military officers and a reception. The crew of Asagiri and Setoyuki will host children from the Hawaii Japanese School. The visiting sailors will hold wreath-laying ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Makiki Cemetery and the Ehime Maru Memorial.

Additionally, the newly commissioned officers will continue their education by participating in study tours of USS Port Royal (CG 73), USS Chafee (DDG 90), the Pacific Aviation Museum and the Battleship Missouri Museum. There will also be a joint concert between members of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band and the Japan Training Squadron Band June 5 at the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

The three ships are scheduled to depart Pearl Harbor June 6 and continue on a 156-day, 30,000 nautical mile cruise that will take them to 13 countries and 15 ports to include a voyage through the Panama Canal.

The cruise only highlights the JMSDF's wider efforts in support of security and stability in the region to include taking a key role in this year's Pacific Partnership mission aboard the Osumi-class landing ship JS Kunisaki (LST 4003) and participating in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise later this month.

Adm. Harris speaks with junior officers aboard Kashima. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Kolmel)