Yomiuri Shimbun Interview: The Importance of U.S.-Japan Relations

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
With Takashi Sadahiro and Keiichi Homma of Yomiuri Shimbun
Tokyo, Japan
February 17, 2009

QUESTION: So let me start with the U.S.-Japan relations. Prior to your departure, you made clear your purpose is to send a strong signal of the importance of U.S.-Japan relations. And indeed, you’ve sent a really strong signal. And the Prime Minister, I understand, is going to Washington next week.


QUESTION: My first question is why? Why it’s so – why you attach such a high priority to Japan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I really believe that the relationship between the United States and Japan is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. We are the first and second largest economies in the world, and because of that, we have some very significant responsibilities to try to work our way through this current economic crisis. Our security alliance will be 50 years old next year, and the role that the extended deterrence has provided because of that alliance has enabled Japan to be developed in a secure and peaceful way.

The increasing role that Japan is playing in development aid, in Africa, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, the willingness of the Japanese Government and people to assume responsibilities for such international concerns as piracy - just everywhere one turns, you see that Japan is a responsible actor in the world. And the challenges that we face in dealing with global climate change and clean energy and terrorism and nuclear proliferation, all of that is hard to imagine succeeding without a strong U.S.-Japanese partnership.

QUESTION: What about current Japan’s political – let me say, crisis. Today, the finance minister has expressed his will to quit. And do you think it’s possible to strengthen alliance and this kind of political -- so shaky under the circumstances?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think so. I believe that the Japanese nation is a resilient and strong one, and the basic constitutional structure is endurable. So for me, it is a matter of internal concern as to governments and who is part of them. I think that we change our government, but the bedrock relationship is the most important attribute of the U.S.-Japanese future. So I leave it to the Japanese people to determine by whom they wish to be governed. But we look forward to deepening and broadening our partnership, no matter what the political future might be.

QUESTION: I understand later today you are going to meet Ozawa the (inaudible) party in Japan. And needless to say, they insist to revise the Guam agreement you have just signed today. Aren’t you concerned the – or you may see difficulty in strengthening alliance, once Democratic Party comes to power –it’s getting likely and likely.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think a responsible nation follows the agreements that have been entered into. And the agreement that I signed today with Foreign Minister Nakasone is one between our two nations, regardless of who’s in power. It was negotiated, in large measure, under the Republican presidency of George W. Bush, but it will be implemented under the Democratic President Barack Obama. And I would expect Japan to do the same.

QUESTION: So there’s no room to amend or revise the – this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it’s an agreement that should be implemented.

QUESTION: I see. Going back to your message, if you allow me to be frank, end of 2007 we have achieved kind of – another kind of message from you. And I’m talking about Foreign Affairs. It’s a –it’s very widely read in Japan. And you described the relation with China as the most important relations – relationship in the world, while you mention twice – only twice about Japan. Have you changed your mind?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I think that that is being somewhat misinterpreted. The relationship with Japan is a solid, enduring one that is constantly important and a source of very significant cooperation. But I think in both Japan and the United States, it is very important for us to develop a positive relationship with China. That is a very important task. It may be the most important task, because our relationship is one that we can rely on. We have developed it over 50 years. Insofar as I can tell, there is no reason why it should change. It should get deeper and broader.

But I think it is fair to say that our relationship with China is still developing, as is Japan’s relationship with China, so it’s important that we focus on it and that we pay attention and try to figure out how we’re going to work out the way of cooperation with China.

MR. WOOD: Time for two more questions.

QUESTION: Let me discuss about North Korea. You met with the abductee families? Could you tell me about your impression?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was very touched by their stories. It’s one thing to read about pain that families have been suffering because of the abduction of their loved ones. And it is very personal to sit with a brother who lost a sister and parents who lost a daughter and to see their pictures at the time that they disappeared, and to hear about the daily anguish that the families feel, because they have – they heard no word for years, did not know what happened, and then they learn that their loved ones have been abducted. And it seems so cruel to have done it in the first place, and then not to provide information and let these people come home with, you know, their own families. So I reassured the families that I met with that the abductee issue is part of the Six-Party Talks; it remains a matter of grave concern to the United States.

QUESTION: It seems I have one more question. Another topic on North Korea is missiles. And during the press conference, you mentioned the possible missile launch, and also you mentioned your agreement is to deter any attacks by all means. So what the United States can do to – with Japan in order to prevent a missile launch?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have made it clear that we consider it both provocative and unhelpful. The North Koreans, as you know, have said that it is a space launch, but they have not complied with the rules that govern notification about space launches that have been agreed to by the international community. And we will continue to seek ways to discourage them from launching a missile for any purpose.

This is part of the overall negotiation that we’re engaged in. We want to end their nuclear weapons program and remove any fissile material that they have in possession. And we want to come up with controls on their missile program. And of course, we want to deal with, you know, the human rights issues, like the abductee issue.

So we are considering the steps that we would take. But I don’t believe that even if they were to launch a missile that that is a threat at this point to anyone. But they need to be on notice that the United States will work to both deter any attack on Japan and provide the deterrence that is necessary. And we will defend Japan as we have agreed to do for 50 years.

QUESTION: Just a short follow-up. That means missile issue can be part of the Six-Party Talks?


QUESTION: It can be – so added on to the meeting?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s been on the edges of the Six-Party Talks. But it is part of our overall concern with the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. It’s good to talk with you.

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PRN: 2009/T1-10