Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone

Press Conference
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone
Tokyo, Japan
February 17, 2009

FOREIGN MINISTER NAKASONE: (Via interpreter) A while ago, I had a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and myself, and I think we had a very good meeting, and let me discuss the content of that meeting. I told her that I welcomed the fact that she chose Japan as the destination for her first overseas trip as Secretary of State, because that is an indication that Secretary Clinton and the U.S. Administration attaches importance to Japan and the Japan-U.S. relations.

At the Senate hearings, the Secretary mentioned that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of U.S. policy and for the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region - that this alliance is indispensible for that. And I certainly agree that this is very important, the alliance is very important, so I couldn’t agree more, that being our relations. But also, globally, as we face various challenges, I believe we have to further step up Japan-U.S. alliance, and we agreed on that. In the meeting, as a foreign leader to be invited to the White House by the U.S. President, President Obama – as you conveyed to us, an invitation by President Obama to invite Prime Minister Aso on the 24th of February, that the Japanese Foreign Minister will be the first foreign leader to be invited – again, a reflection of the importance of Japan-U.S. relationship that we most welcome this.

Prime Minister Aso very gladly accepts this invitation and would like to visit the United States with the consent of (inaudible). And through Japan-U.S. cooperation, we would like to make the necessary preparations. This early bilateral summit meeting, I believe, will indicate to the entire world that the first and the second economic powers in the world will together address the financial and economic difficulties that are confronting the world.

We too see instabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, and Secretary Clinton expressed the U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan, including nuclear deterrents, and we welcome this. With regard to the realignment of U.S. forces, we agreed that we will steadily implement this realignment on the basis of a roadmap from the viewpoint of alleviating burdens on Okinawa and local communities while maintaining deterrents. The Guam Agreement we signed is a reflection of that firm commitment of the two countries vis-à-vis the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. We agreed to aim at building an affluent, stable, and open East Asian region, and in that, we shared the hope that China will play a constructive role in the international community.

With regard to the North Korean issue, we agreed on the importance of resolving, in a comprehensive manner, the abduction issue, nuclear, and missile and other pending issues. And we also agreed to further step up Japan-U.S. coordination and Japan, U.S., and South Korea coordination at the Six-Party Talks towards the realization of complete denuclearization of the peninsula. And we also agreed that our two countries will further step up our efforts with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan, because the stabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a challenge for the entire international community. I also proposed our preparedness to host a Pakistan support conference, and towards this realization, I meant that we agreed that we will step up cooperation between our two countries, as well as consult with other countries and institutions concerned.

Now, the international community today is faced with numerous difficulties and challenges such as climate change and energy, financial and global economic issues, nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, development and healthcare in Africa, global – other global challenges including UN Security Council reform as well as international situations such as the Middle East peace, counter piracy measures off Somalia, et cetera. And we agreed to further strengthen our partnership in addressing these issues.

As I mentioned, we had a very good meeting and we agreed to further step up the information exchange and policy coordination on strategically important challenges. And especially between I, myself, and Secretary Clinton, we agreed to get in touch and consult with each other at any time by phone and other means, even when there is no specific agenda or issue. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Secretary Clinton, please.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Nakasone. I first met the foreign minister 18 years ago, and so it was a great pleasure to renew our acquaintances in this new setting. And I thank you for your hospitality, and for the broad-ranging discussion that we had today.

The alliance between the United States and Japan is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. And working together to deal with the multitude of issues that affect not only Asia, but the entire world, is a high priority of the Obama Administration. I was very pleased to extend an invitation on behalf of President Obama to welcome Prime Minister Aso to Washington, D.C. on February 24th. This will be the first foreign leader visit that President Obama will be receiving at the White House.

We have just signed the Guam International Agreement on behalf of our two nations. This agreement reflects the commitment we have to modernize our military posture in the Pacific. It reinforces the core of our alliance, the mission to ensure the defense of Japan against attack and to deter any attack by all necessary means. It enshrines our two nations’ shared contributions in carrying out the realignment of our forces and the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam.

This is one more example of the strong and vibrant alliance that we enjoy. Mr. Nakasone and I ranged across the world. Of course, there are matters that we are concerned about on a bilateral basis. But equally, we are concerned about what we can do together to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of this time. We addressed the economic challenges facing our two countries and the world as a whole, which demand a coordinated global response. As the first and second largest economies in the world, we understand those responsibilities, and we also know the importance of making sure our economies work on behalf of our own citizens. So it is a great responsibility that both Japan and the United States assume. Japan has been a leader in laying the groundwork for a clean energy future, and we look forward to working together on a bilateral and multilateral basis on energy and climate change.

With respect to North Korea, we discussed the importance of very close coordination in our approach to the Six-Party Talks. We must advance our efforts to secure the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. The possible missile launch that North Korea is talking about would be very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward. I know the abductee issue is of great concern here in Japan, and I will be meeting with families later today to express my personal sympathy and our concern about what happened to those who were abducted.

I want to commend Japan because this nation has been a leader in promoting stability and prosperity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The minister shared with me in very particular detail the amount of work and the financial contributions that Japan has undertaken, and I pledged high-level U.S. participation in the Pakistan donors conference that will be held later. I also want to thank Japan and the Japanese people for your support in Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s been very important for our overall success of the coalition mission in Afghanistan. I also appreciate Japan’s dispatch of two naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to help fight this scourge of piracy.

There is so much that we discussed that it is hard to do it justice in this short review. But let me underscore how closely we will be working together. We’ve already discussed how we will have our ministries – the Foreign Ministry and the State Department – work on economic, climate change, clean energy, and other issues of great responsibility and importance.

I am delighted to be back in Japan. I looked at that old picture of us, Minister, and a lot of time has passed, 18 years since we first met in the United States. But I know that our enduring relationship on behalf of our two nations is as strong as ever. And it will be our responsibility to chart that course into the future. I’m looking forward to hearing from some of the young people in Japan when I later am privileged to be at Tokyo University, because everything we do is about their future, and we share a great hope for the kind of future that the young people of both Japan and the United States will have in a world of peace, progress, and prosperity. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We would like to entertain questions from the Japanese press first. Please, (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) A question for Secretary Clinton. The fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, and so on, I wonder how you appreciate Japan’s contribution, and what you would hope to get from Japan? And you also signed the relocation agreement, but Okinawa prefecture is seeking the correction or modification of the air station replacement facility.

And now, in the meeting you were having with Mr. Ozawa, I wonder if you can exchange views on the Futenma station – Air Station issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to Afghanistan, we greatly appreciate the work that the Japanese Government has already undertaken in supporting coalition efforts and in contributing to the improvement of life for the people of Afghanistan. I invited the minister to have someone work with us on our policy review of Afghanistan and Pakistan, because we want to have the benefit of the experience of the Japanese involvement as we go forward to determine the approach that we will be taking. I’m very pleased that we were able to sign the agreement concerning Guam. It embodies the understandings that exist between our two nations, and we intend to move forward to implement it.

MR. WOOD: Next question will be Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times.

QUESTION: Yes. Madame Secretary, Pakistan has reached an agreement with militants in the Northwest Territories that will halt government military offenses there in the hope of reaching peace, and I wonder if you have any concern that this might end up being a capitulation to a strategy that hasn’t worked in the past.

And Mr. Foreign Minister, I’d like to get your specific thoughts about what you’d like the U.S. to do on the abductees issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Paul, I think that the decision that was announced by the Government of Pakistan has to be thoroughly understood, and we’re in the process of pursuing that at this time. Obviously, we believe that the activity by the extremist elements in Pakistan poses a direct threat to the Government of Pakistan, as well as to the security of the United States, Afghanistan, and a number of other nations not only in the immediate region.

So before I comment on what its meaning might be, I want to be sure that we have as good an understanding of both the Pakistan Government’s intention and the actual agreed-upon language. And that I don’t have at this time, so I want to wait until we can provide that.

FOREIGN MINISTER NAKASONE: (Via interpreter) With regard to what sort of support we would get from the United States concerning the abduction issue, well, over the years – well, or President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been saying that they are very much concerned about this abduction issue, concerned by North Korea, and that they have expressed their deep sympathies.

Having had my meeting with Secretary Clinton – and of course, North Korean issues are not just abduction issues, but there is the nuclear issue, missile issue, as well as the abduction issue, but especially with regard to the abduction issue, she expressed that she will continue to support us strongly and help us.

Following this meeting, I understand the Secretary is going to meet with the families of the abductees. So, from this fact alone, you can see that the Secretary is very much concerned about this abduction issue. And it’s not just an issue for Japan and the United States, but we also need the cooperation of other countries, Republic of Korea, et cetera, for the earliest possible resolution of the problem.

I would like to receive third question from the Japanese press, (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) A question first for Foreign Minister Nakasone. From the experience of the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement under the Democratic Clinton Administration and the delisting of North Korea by the Bush Administration, there are people who are concerned here in Japan that the Obama Administration might become more easy on North Korea. And I wonder if that concern has been allayed.

Now, with regard to reconstruction contributions in Afghanistan, I wonder how you appreciate Japan’s support, and what you would expect of Japan, Secretary Clinton.

FOREIGN MINISTER NAKASONE: (Via interpreter) Well, let me first answer the question. As I have mentioned earlier, with regard to North Korea-related issues, the U.S. is very concerned. And also through the Six-Party Talks, we believe we need to work on the denuclearization of North Korea. And also, we have been – in fact, over the years, we have been addressing these issues, including denuclearization and missile and abduction issues.

Japan and U.S. should maintain close contacts and also through cooperation with South Korea, Russia, and China. And it is our intent to, through this cooperation, try to resolve these problems. We are not, therefore, concerned that the U.S. policy vis-à-vis North Korea is going to change in any significant way.

And also, with regard to abduction issue, as was mentioned, we can count on further cooperation by the United States. So we would count on that sort of cooperation, and make remaining close contacts and coordination with the United States.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me underscore the commitment that the United States has to the denuclearization of North Korea, and to the prevention of further proliferation by the North Koreans. This is a matter of great concern. We discussed it in-depth today. And the Six-Party Talks are the framework that we believe is best positioned to make progress on our goals with respect to North Korea.

The abductee issue is part of the Six-Party Talks, and we believe it should be, because it is more likely to yield to progress as part of a comprehensive engagement with North Korea. And I would underscore that the North Koreans should in no way be mistaken. President Obama, on his Inauguration, during his address, made it clear that the United States will reach out a hand to those with whom we have differences so long as they unclench their fists. But the decision as to whether North Korea will cooperate in the Six-Party Talks, end provocative language and actions, is up to them. And we are watching very closely.

I have said on several occasions that if North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear program, then there will be a reciprocal response, certainly from the United States: a chance to normalize relations, to enter into a peace treaty rather than an armistice, and to expect assistance for the people of North Korea. So it is truly up to the North Koreans. But in the meantime, those of us who are parties to the Six-Party Talks will be coordinating and working together to renew the vigorous outreach that we want to have in order to build on what has already occurred.

I want to express deeply the appreciation to Japan for the reconstruction assistance that has already been provided in Afghanistan. Schools have been built. Children are going to school that would not otherwise have been able to do so without the generosity of the Japanese people. There will be a new airline terminal opening up. And it is, again, a tangible sign of the willingness by the Japanese people to try to help the people of Afghanistan, and there are many other examples. So we are very, very grateful, Mr. Minister.

MR. WOOD: The next question will be from Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News Service.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, was it a mistake for the Bush Administration to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism? And what can you do now to pressure the North Korean Government on the Japanese abductee issue?

And Foreign Minister Nakasone, how responsible is the U.S. for the financial crisis that threw your own economy into the worst contraction in the last quarter in 35 years? And what do you want the U.S. to do to address the effects of the financial crisis on Japan, and is your own stimulus package insufficient? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: A lot of questions, Mr. Minister. (Laughter.)

I’m not going to go into an analysis of the past. We have inherited a set of challenges that we are going to address, and one of those is the fact that in the last eight years, the North Koreans have obtained the capacity to, as we expect from the information available to us, make nuclear weapons through its reprocessing of plutonium.

Now if we could turn the clock back, we would not have let that occur. It is, unfortunately, much easier to obtain the fissile material necessary through the reprocessing of plutonium than through the process of highly enriching uranium. But we are where we are. And what we are underscoring is the obligations that North Korea entered into in 2007. And we expect them to continue on that path. Now, we know that the work ahead of us is not easy. People have acted in good faith trying to determine the best way forward. We will be looking at where we are today and determining what is the best path to take now.

Our goal remains the same: a denuclearized North Korea with the kind of complete and verifiable inspections that will put to rest questions about whether or not they have the capacity to make nuclear weapons. In addition, we wish to end the proliferation that has emanated from North Korea. So those are our goals. They’re goals that we share with our Japanese friends, and it is what we will pursue in the Six-Party Talk framework.

FOREIGN MINISTER NAKASONE: (Via interpreter) Well, the question for me – I think there were two points – one is how we work on North Korea. And the second point was our views on U.S. stimulus policy, or package.

First, on North Korea: U.S. and North Korea relations unfortunately have failed to make progress. On the abduction issue, through the Japan-North Korea consultations on August the 12th, North Korea agreed to establish an authoritative committee on reinvestigation, that they will establish that committee early on and redo the investigation. And in response of that, Japan will lift sanctions –in other words, allow the resumption of charter flights, and also allow the resumption of people-to-people exchanges. So we entered into that mutual commitment.

In September we had a new cabinet. Yet I think if they wanted to see – make sure what the new administration’s policy will be on this matter, but Prime Minister Aso, as well as I, myself, in Diet queries have expressed that our policy will remain the same as in the past. Once North Korea resumes reinvestigation, we are ready to lift sanctions. So we have been making that point time and again.

For more than 30 years, they have not met their families. The abductees and the families are waiting for the earliest return of the abductees. So Japan would like to resolve this issue as soon as possible, and we are working on that with that intent. And yet the reality is what I’ve said just now. So with the cooperation of other countries concerned, we would like to do our best to resolve this problem as early as possible.

On the economic question, in November last year, there was a G-20 in Washington, D.C, and then there was APEC meetings, and then in April, there will be the London summit on the financial crisis. Now this is a global financial and economic crisis, and therefore, all economic powers will need to cooperate with each other, and try to resolve the issue in a concerted manner.

But above all, the largest economy in the world, the United States, has passed a relevant bill in the Congress, which accompanies large-scale spending and tax cuts. And I think this is most meaningful.

Japan today, following the supplementary budget, is deliberating on next fiscal year’s budget. And I think each country needs to work to improve its real economy. I think that is important for our recovery.

Well, thank you very much. With this, we would like to conclude this joint press conference. Thank you very much.

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