Preview of Secretary's Trip to Japan

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
En Route to Tokyo, Japan
October 2, 2013

MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. This is a background briefing for – with attribution to a senior State Department official who will be previewing our trip to Tokyo, Japan, and specifically – as well, which part of that is the 2+2 meeting which Secretary Hagel, of course, will be a part of. And with that, I will turn it over to the senior State Department official who will be briefing you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you very much. So the context here is that Secretary Kerry, since taking office, has been deeply engaged in caring for the rebalance to Asia policy. He’s made two significant visits to the region. He has met frequently with many of the foreign ministers from Asia and specifically with the Japanese Foreign Minister at multilateral meetings. He has spoken to the Foreign Minister of Japan and others by telephone. He had a number of encounters with Asian foreign ministers last week at the UN General Assembly.

QUESTION: Can you speak up a little?


QUESTION: Thanks. Can you hold it a little closer?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. All right. So I mean, overall the totality of this trip and specifically the first stop represents the continued effort to diversify the engagement of the U.S. in the Asia Pacific region. I think also by way of context, I flagged that from day one a central pillar of rebalancing for the Obama Administration has been strengthening our relationships with close partners and allies, and Japan, of course, is at the top of the list. Our bilateral relationship with Japan is excellent and is getting better, and it covers a spectrum of security issues, economic issues, cooperation in global fora and institution building and also strengthening our people-to-people, educational, cultural, and other ties. The meeting that Secretary Kerry will be participating in tomorrow in Tokyo first and foremost is called informally –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) It’s Thursday, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The day after we land. The secret of avoiding jet lag is to teleport yourself mentally into the new time zone. (Laughter.) Okay. So to be more precise, the principal meeting that Secretary Kerry is participating in in his first full day in Tokyo will be what we affectionately call the 2+2, which is to say the Secretaries of State and Defense meeting with their two counterparts, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defense in Japan. And this is a tradition, and it’s also very important because of the unique character of our alliance and of Japan’s national security structure.

This is the first time that the 2+2 meeting has been held in Tokyo, and the focus will be on how as a practical matter we can help modernize our alliance and follow through on the joint vision that has been articulated between the President and the Prime Minister. So I think that in the context of the 2+2, which is a working lunch followed by a two-on-two bilateral session. You can look to the two sets of ministers to reach agreement on a joint statement that would constitute a framework for taking up the U.S.-Japan defense guidelines and working over the next year or more to update and to renovate and revise those guidelines.

Now I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the ministerial meeting, and I will leave it to the ministers themselves to announce the results of their consultations. But the thing that I would be on the lookout for in terms of the prospects for a decision to revise guidelines for alliance cooperation are those issues that are clearly new challenges for the alliance as compared to where things stood 15 years ago when the guidelines were last revised and updated. So I would look to them – I’d look to what they may decide to do in terms of enhanced cooperation on missile defense, for example, mindful of the increased threat from North Korea.

I would look to ways in which they begin integrating cooperation in space and cooperation in cyber, two of the frontiers that were not nearly as prominent 15 years ago as they will be over the next decade and beyond. I would look to what they’re able to decide and commit in terms of enhanced information security, which is a high priority for both governments, where they will enhance training and exercise, and what kind of steps they will take to upgrade alliance cooperation in those areas. I would look to what they will announce in terms of enhanced capability and acquisitions as part of the push to improve U.S.-Japan interoperability, which is key to creating more synergies in the alliance and with respect to joint operations.

I would look to what they, again, can announce in terms of commitment to improved coordination on regional areas such as humanitarian assistance, such as disaster relief, such as capacity building with third countries, and importantly on maritime security. And last but not least, I would look to what they decide and what commitments they make in following through on the U.S.-Japan base realignment program, something that they have been working intensively on, and specifically where they point in terms of expectations for progress on Okinawa with regard to the Futenma realignment facility.

There are two other very important meetings that Secretary Kerry will participate in on October the 3rd in Tokyo. He, along with Secretary Hagel, will pay a call on Prime Minister Abe. The Secretary was received by Prime Minister Abe the last time he visited Japan back in April. They had a very good and a very substantive meeting. The Secretary and – I know Secretary of Defense Hagel looks forward to another exchange with the Prime Minister, and Secretary Kerry will also have a separate working dinner with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Kishida. In both the meeting with the Prime Minister and the meeting with the Foreign Minister, you can expect the Secretary to delve into the two other sets of important issues beyond our security relationship and alliance: first, economic issues and, second, our global cooperation.

So in terms of economics, I think the Secretary will want to get an update on the Japanese domestic economic reform program, so-called Abenomics, as well as to discuss the status of the TPP negotiations. Japan has been a late arrival, but a major contributor to the TPP negotiations. They bring a great deal both in terms of the size of their market and the sophistication of their economy, but also they bring a lot as a strong and cooperative partner in the TPP negotiations. So that’s one important topic of discussion.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The scale of Japan’s economy. The other set of issues that I expect the Secretary will discuss with both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister are global and regional issues: in the region first and foremost, the challenge posed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear capability and a nuclear missile program; the issues of conduct and the territorial dispute in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea; and with respect to global issues, I’m sure that they will discuss Syria, and the Secretary will be prepared to provide an update on recent diplomacy and on Iran and how the U.S. and Japan can continue to cooperate in the effort to elicit constructive response by Iran to the P-5+1 proposals.

Both ministers and both leaders will go onto APEC in Bali, but we’ll have a chance to discuss that further. The last thing, just as a scheduling note I would mention, is that the Secretary of State and Defense will begin their day paying respects to the Japanese people and to Japanese veterans at a national cemetery, Chidorigafuchi I think it’s called, which is a secular cemetery marking Japan’s lost veterans. This is symbolic of the transformational healing process that has turned the U.S. and Japan from the bitterest of enemies during the Second World War to the closest of friends today.

So let me stop there.

MODERATOR: So since you guys are so small, I mean, we could go around to see who has questions.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: No. I’m sorry. Small and mighty is the group. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Small in number.

MODERATOR: Small in number. Anne, you want to –

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], you mentioned Okinawa and Futenma. Where does that stand, and do you expect an announcement of any sort that really advances that process which has been stalled for a long time?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The meetings that the Secretary will – and the Secretary of Defense will have are meetings on strategy, not meetings on specific tactics and benchmarks. So when it comes to the issue of the Futenma relocation and in Okinawa, you should expect them to articulate their goals and their guiding principles. Right now in terms of next steps, the action rests with the Japanese side. One important event on the schedule relating to the realignment will be the signing of the updated Guam International Agreement. This will codify the adjustments that the U.S. and Japan have made to the original agreement under which Japan and the U.S. cooperate in a set of measures to allow relocation of some of the Marines currently stationed on Okinawa to facilities in Guam where they will continue to be directly involved in support of the defense of Japan and the regional mission of peace and stability.

QUESTION: What exactly is the Guam agreement? I mean, what – there’s been all sorts of reports in the Japanese media about things that would open up a harbor in Okinawa to merchant or fishing vessels, that kind of thing. I mean, is that the kind of thing that this does. It sounds like it’s much – it sounds like it’s a broader thing than that, but I’m just –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The original Guam agreement was – Guam International Agreement was a complex funding arrangement that allowed for construction on Guam of facilities that would accommodate Marines transferred from Okinawa to there. And the Japanese are making a significant financial contribution. The terms of that contribution and the areas in which that money can be applied as well as some of the specifics about the projects have been revised, and the new agreement will allow and codify those adjustments. In connection with the signing, we will provide more details about the specifics of the agreement itself.

QUESTION: It does get into specifics about (inaudible) Japanese can do in places (inaudible) in Okinawa (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it will include specifics in terms of funding, how the funds that have been allocated can be used, and where there will be adjustments and enhancements in terms of construction in Guam specific to the relocation of Marines from Okinawa.

MODERATOR: And we’ll have a fact sheet for you guys, too, that lays out the specifics.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Could you talk a little bit more about North Korea? You mentioned that, and we’ve been hearing from officials that we need to break the cycle of broken promises. How can you proceed with the Japanese in doing that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the strong agreement between the U.S. and Japan as well as between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea on the principle that we don’t want talks for talks’ sake, that we do want real negotiations, that the purpose of negotiations is to chart a direct path to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and that North Korea is bound both by the UN Security Council resolutions and by its own commitments in the Six-Party process. So Japan and the U.S. are of one mind on the importance of North Korea committing to follow through on its obligations and demonstrating through its actions that there is more to talks than just empty promises.

The Secretary will confer with the Foreign Minister on what that means in terms of specific steps. Japan and the U.S. along with the Republic of Korea have consulted bilaterally and trilaterally, and we will compare notes on the recent actions by China, including their decision to impose an export ban in an effort to prevent North Korea from obtaining materiel that could facilitate its WMD program, and we will also explore what more we need in terms of both cooperation from China in – on the pressure track and what we would consider a credible threshold for North Korea on the diplomatic track.

QUESTION: I was wondering whether you can expand on what you see, whether you think that the dispute between Japan and China regarding the South – East China Sea as getting better and what else – what the U.S. can do to maybe – I mean, I guess would you just have a listening ear on this one, or would you have some sort of ideas to try to ease those tensions?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you. Well, there are a couple of issues involved in the problem of the Senkakus . While the U.S. doesn’t have a position on the sovereignty question per se, Japan is a close friend and treaty ally of the United States, and under the terms of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty, we have certain responsibilities and obligations in connection with territory administered by Japan. And since the time of Okinawa reversion in 1972, the U.S. has recognized and accepted Japan’s administrative control of these islands. So that’s where we stand. Now, all that said, China is an important partner, a significant regional player, China is the second largest economy in the world, and China has an important bilateral relationship not only with the United States, but with Japan as well.

The Secretary, as has the President, has made clear directly to the Chinese that we place a great premium on China’s behavior and China’s restraint in areas of disputed sovereignty. We take note of the diplomatic dialogue at multiple levels between Tokyo and Beijing and welcome that. Japan agrees with us that this matter should be dealt with on a diplomatic basis in a peaceful manner. We have consistently expressed concern about actions that could lead to an incident that could be disruptive, and we have repeated our strong view that unilateral action to alter the status quo is highly problematic and inconsistent with a diplomatic approach.

So we think that sustained and high-level U.S. diplomatic efforts both in the way that we talk to our friends and our partners in the region, including China and Japan, as well as the firm statement of U.S. principles in public fora have a constructive effect on the situation, and we will continue to call for calm, deliberate, peaceful approaches consistent with the interests we have in good relations between Japan and China, two of the world’s three largest economies.

QUESTION: Thanks, [Senior State Department Official]. So just one quick thing, just a fact-checking thing if maybe you guys could check on it: Kyodo News says that there was a 2+2 meeting in Japan in 1996. You were saying this was going to bet the first one in Japan, so just whenever you guys have a chance, if you could check that for us.

And then you were talking about unilateral actions being difficult on the whole maritime dispute, and of course the Chinese feel that the Japanese side a year ago took a unilateral action by acting to purchase those islands. We’re on the one-year anniversary. As you know, it caused a major rift in Sino-Japanese relations to the point protests against Japanese businesses all over China. So I want to ask: What are you doing – what is the U.S. doing to try to mend that relationship, which in terms of trade and economic cooperation has really ground to a halt, and as you know, there have been very little ties between the two countries in the last year, I mean, very little high-level contact. And why not on this trip? Why aren’t we going to China to sit down with the Chinese and talk to them about many issues, including improving their relationship with Japan?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I wouldn't agree with the assertion that there’s been very little contact between Japan and Korea. It’s true that there has been – excuse me, between Japan and China. It’s true that there has been an interruption in high-level, leader-level engagement, and I would note that President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Abe had a conversation in St. Petersburg at the G-20. I would also note that there’s been no lack of willingness on the Japanese side to reach out and to hold political-level dialogue. But ministers and vice ministers, a range of diplomats do communicate, and importantly economic trade, commercial people-to-people ties between Japan and China continue to flourish.

Now, it clearly over time could have a chilling effect on the economic relationship if there is a sustained political chill. That’s not in China’s interest or in Japan’s interest. It’s not in the region’s interest, and it’s not in ours, and we have made that clear. Now, as I said earlier, the U.S. has not been shy in expressing our views quietly but firmly through our multiple diplomatic channels, and that includes by the Secretary of State as well as affirming the principles that we call on countries to respect in our public statements.

The Secretary doesn’t need to go to China on this trip. He has had extensive meetings over the last week with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and undoubtedly, we’ll have opportunities to see his Chinese counterparts in Bali. This is a trip to our long-time ally, Japan, to make the kind of progress that I described on the alliance, bilateral issues, and regional cooperation. But we certainly agree that the best interests of the region and the global economy rest in reconciliation, diplomacy, and renewed progress in the Sino-Japanese relationship.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) make a trip to China (inaudible) Secretary Kerry (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. He – in April, Secretary Kerry has already been.

MODERATOR: All right. Do you have anything else?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

PRN: 2013/T15-01