Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 19, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone. And it’s an honor for me to welcome Foreign Minister Gemba to the State Department on his first official visit to Washington. He and I have closely consulted both by phone and in person several places, but it’s a real pleasure to have you here. Japan and the United States share a strong and vibrant partnership. Our alliance helps safeguard regional security and is the cornerstone of U.S. strategic engagement throughout the Asia Pacific.

Today the foreign minister and I discussed the evolving situation on the Korean peninsula in light of the reports from North Korea state-owned media on the death of Kim Jong-il. We both share a common interest in a peaceful and stable transition in North Korea, as well as in ensuring regional peace and stability. We have been in close touch with our partners in the Six-Party Talks today. President Obama and President Lee spoke last night. I spoke with Foreign Minister Kim early this morning, and we are also reaching out to Beijing and Moscow, and, of course, closely coordinating with our Japanese friends. We reiterate our hope for improved relations with the people of North Korea and remain deeply concerned about their well-being.

The minister and I also discussed a number of bilateral and regional issues and reviewed the close and ongoing collaboration between Japan and the United States in the aftermath of last March’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. We discussed Japan’s recent move to pursue consultations on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to resolve longstanding trade concerns in order to deepen the economic ties to the benefit of both our countries. I also urged that Japan take decisive steps so that it accedes to The Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction and address outstanding cases.

We are also focused on investing in the increased ties between our people and, in particular, young people through the Tomodachi Initiative. I welcome the news that the foreign minister will soon visit Burma. We now have a real opportunity through sustained diplomacy to test the new government and to overcome the obstacles in the way to Burma achieving its rightful place in the community of nations. Later today, Japanese and U.S. officials will meet with counterparts from India for our first-ever trilateral meeting, and the United States supports a meeting between Japan, China, and ourselves, as Foreign Minister Gemba recently proposed. And finally, we covered global issues like Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the situation in Afghanistan, where our two nations are the two largest donors.

So we had a very comprehensive, constructive discussion, and I am grateful for this chance at the end of this year to meet with the foreign minister, to take stock of where we are, and I look forward to meeting again next year as we continue our work together.

FOREIGN MINISTER GEMBA: (Via interpreter.) Let me start by saying that at the invitation of Secretary Clinton, I visited the United States for the first time in a bilateral context. This visit has served as an opportunity for me to deepen my personal relationship with Secretary Clinton and to further strengthen Japan-U.S. relations.

This time, in light of the developments in North Korea, namely the death of Mr. Kim Jong-il, Secretary Clinton and I had an in-depth discussion on the situation in North Korea at today’s meeting. We share the recognition that it is important to make sure that the latest events would not negatively affect the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. For this purpose, as we – for this purpose, we affirm to closely monitor the situations concerned, and to coordinate closely with each other by sharing information between Japan and the United States, and among Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea.

I understand that there was a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Noda and also President Lee Myung-bak yesterday. And based on the discussion that I had with Secretary Clinton today, I intend to reach out to my counterparts in the Republic of Korea and China to discuss this issue. We share the view that we should coordinate closely with Six-Party partners. We’re also in agreement that all sides want stability and calmness during this period. In addition, we also confirmed that we should maintain our close coordination among Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea on the efforts toward denuclearization of North Korea – in particular, to ensure concrete actions taken by North Korea.

Due to the most recent developments, we are seeing an increasing level of interest in and attention to how the process of dealing with the abduction issue develops in Japan. I expressed my gratitude to the consistent support extended by the United States for raising the abduction issue every time during the U.S.-North Korea dialogue. Moreover, taking into account this new situation, I ask for continuous understanding and support from the United States for resolving the issue. Also, when we look at the Asia Pacific region, trust and cooperation among Japan, the United States, and China is critical for ensuring stability in the region. With this in mind, I proposed to Secretary Clinton to launch a trilateral dialogue among these three countries, and in response, Secretary Clinton shares my view.

I am encouraged by the progress in democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar. Secretary Clinton visited Myanmar earlier this month, and I will visit there next week. Against this backdrop, we agree to deepen coordination between Japan and the United States so that this positive trend will be further solidified in Myanmar.

On India, as the Secretary suggested, we affirmed that Japan and the United States are deepening strategic relationship with India. As a specific example of collaboration, the Japan-U.S.-India trilateral dialogue will be held at the working level here in Washington, DC today. We also exchanged views on global issues, including pressing challenges of Iran and Afghanistan, and confirmed that we will closely consult and cooperate with each other. During our frank discussion on Iran, specifically in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act, which targets the Central Bank of Iran, I conveyed my view that there is a danger of causing damage to the entire global economy if the imports of Iranian crude oil stop.

And let me emphasize that it is the solid foundation of the Japan-U.S. relations that enable us to coordinate, cooperate, and consult with each other closely. On security, Secretary Clinton and I reaffirmed that the two countries will continue to implement the realignment of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan, including the relocation of Futenma Air Station and the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps from Okinawa to Guam in accordance with the Japan-U.S. agreements. We also confirmed that with regard to the U.S. budget for the relocation of the Marine Corps to Guam, the commitment of the U.S. Government to the implementation of the 2006 Japan-U.S. Roadmap is unchanged. I emphasized the importance of moving forward to lessen burden on Okinawa and asked for cooperation from the United States.

On the economy, from the perspective of incorporating the economic growth of the Asia Pacific region, which is a growth engine of the global economy, Japan decided to enter into consultations with the countries concerned for the participating in the TPP negotiations. I briefed Secretary Clinton on the most recent status of preparation in Japan regarding this consultation.

As part of the centennial anniversary of the presentation of the cherry blossom trees from Japan to the United States, and also in the context of the reconstruction efforts after the disaster, we did discuss Kizuna Project, a youth exchange program that focuses on the North America as well as collaboration with the Tomodachi Initiative, the joint initiative between Japan and the United States, in implementing the project.

In conclusion, taking into consideration the current situation in North Korea, Secretary Clinton and I reaffirmed to continue to make frequent contact with each other.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you, Minister.

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PRN: 2011/2170