Press Availability for G7

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
International Media Center
Hiroshima, Japan
April 11, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Konnichiwa. I am very privileged to be here, and I want to thank Foreign Minister Kishida and the Government of Japan for hosting us here in Hiroshima for the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of 2016. I also want to thank our terrific Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and her entire team for their hard work and for what they are accomplishing in strengthening, building the relationship between the United States and the people of Japan.

My fellow ministers and I today and yesterday had a really very busy couple of days – very intensive discussions; five different sessions, I think; two working meals. And we covered a range of topics which I know Fumio Kishida has talked to you about a little bit earlier. Before I get to those issues, I want to express on a personal level how deeply moved I am and how honored I am to be here as the first Secretary of State to visit the beautiful city of Hiroshima. Earlier today, as you know, I joined Foreign Minister Kishida and the other ministers for a tour of this extraordinary Peace Memorial Museum. It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display. It tugs at all of your sensibilities as a human being. It reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices in war and of what war does to people, to communities, to countries, to the world.

This was a display that I will personally never forget. I don’t see how anyone could forget the images, the evidence, and the recreations of what happened on August 6th, 1945. But the reason we came here was not to be stuck in the past. We came here and drew from the experience of touring in this museum how critical it is that we all apply the lessons of the past to the future and the present. Going through this museum was a reminder of the depth of obligation that every single one of us in public life carries – in fact, every person in position of responsibility carries – to work for peace, to continue the efforts that President Obama and other leaders came together to talk about in Washington a few days at the Nuclear Security Summit, to create and pursue a world free from nuclear weapons.

Going through this museum was a reminder of the indisputable truth that war must never be the first resort. If it must be, it must be the last resort because of the utter failure of all diplomacy and of all other choices. It was a reminder also for all of us of why these meetings and these relationships matter so much – why close cooperation among all of our nations is so enormously important. Because the peaceful, stable international system that we have built in the decades since World War II are not a given. They’re not automatic. They require work, investment, leadership. That order must be preserved by leaders and nations who have designed it and who are party to it. And every one of us understands the wisdom and the hard work required to ensure that a global conflagration never erupts again.

After touring the museum, we had the pleasure of walking over to the Peace Memorial Park and through the gathering of children along the way with their flags. And standing there in the serenity of that place and going over to the dome and the building that still stands, you simply can’t help but recognize that Hiroshima’s legacy is one of rebirth and resilience. It is a tribute to the human spirit.

In the years following the war, the people of Hiroshima and Japan have built a country that has become a powerful and important global partner in contributing to the eradication of disease, to the end of conflict, to the avoidance of war. And much like Hiroshima has transformed into a stunning metropolis that we see today, the relationship between the United States and Japan has also undergone a remarkable transformation.

Today, we are not just friends, but we are steadfast allies. And over the years, the United States and Japan have built a partnership that serves as the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. And together, we work closely to promote shared values and broad interests of our two people. I want you to know that the United States is very grateful for the active leadership that Japan has shown through the G7 presidency, and over the past two days we discussed the path forward on a long list of global challenges, including, of course, nuclear non-proliferation, which means we talked at some length about the DPRK and the challenge of the nuclear program there. Every one of us expressed our concern about the North Korean provocative behavior in recent months. And together, we issue a call on the DPRK to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raises the tensions of the region, and instead, to take the necessary, concrete steps towards fulfilling its international commitments and obligations.

We also discussed the global threat that is posed by Daesh. I was in Baghdad on Friday and I updated my fellow ministers today – yesterday, actually – on the productive meetings that I had with Prime Minister Abadi and other Iraqi leaders. All of the G7 nations remain absolutely steadfast and united in their commitment – I would call it a resolute commitment, strong commitment – to degrade and destroy Daesh through our global coalition. And we each committed to using all of the tools that are available to us in order to confront this scourge. And we all agreed we are making progress. We’d like to go faster, but we feel confident that over a period of time, as we said in the very beginning and as we repeat again today, we will defeat Daesh.

We also know that an important part of defeating Daesh is helping to bring about a genuine political transition in Syria that ends the civil war there. Yesterday evening, I had a conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov in which we talked about how to make certain in these next days that every extra effort possible is being made to sustain the cessation of hostilities, to work to define which fighting group is where, and to make sure that we are concentrating our efforts against Daesh and Nusrah, and to try to work hard also to deliver the humanitarian assistance. We have a team working in Geneva and a team working in Amman on a daily basis in order to try to carry out that mission, and we agreed to redouble our efforts to make certain that we do.

Here in Hiroshima, we discussed how we all can contribute to the continuation of the cessation of hostilities with the goal of advancing negotiations shortly to stop the violence and lead to a political transition that the Syrian people want and deserve. But as we have said all along, in each communique from Vienna twice, in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, and in the Munich communique, we have repeatedly said this must be a Syrian-led Syrian process. And in the end, it will be determined by the Syrians themselves, showing the capacity for compromise and the capacity for negotiation to bring peace to their country.

Ending the Syrian civil war is essential, not only because the violence and the sheer human suffering has continued for too long, but also because ending the conflict is an essential part of reducing the capacity for a Daesh to expand its activities – whether it’s to Yemen or to Libya or elsewhere, it is essential to reducing the number of terrorists who may try to return home to Russia, to the Central Asia, to Europe, to the United States, in order to carry out their killer instincts in other environments. But also, it is the key to stemming the flow of refugees throughout the world, and particularly the Middle East and Europe.

The refugee crisis demands a global response, and we all agreed on that here. And that is why President Obama is hosting a high-level event at the United Nations General Assembly in September with the aim of expanding the humanitarian safety net and creating more long-term, durable opportunities for refugees, to those who are fleeing intensive strife or persecution, to be able to find safety and asylum.

Over the course of the summit, we also discussed the conflict in Ukraine – I might add, at some length – with a determination to try to implement fully the Minsk agreement. In fact, we underscored the need for both parties, Russia and Ukraine, and Russia helping with the separatists, to pull together the full implementation of the Minsk process.

We also discussed international maritime issues. I reiterated the United States commitment to maintaining peace, security, and safety on the open seas by protecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded lawful commerce, and the importance also of ensuring that disputes are managed without unilateral actions, without militarization, on the basis of international law and diplomacy.

We discussed the need to support the political process in Libya and the new Government of National Accord. And the foreign minister of Italy and I, who put together the meeting that took place in Rome that helped to shape what is happening now, have agreed that with – together with our colleagues, that we need to have another meeting shortly and we intend to schedule that as soon as is possible.

We also discussed Afghanistan – and you’re getting a sense of how broad these discussions were. There wasn’t one of these discussions that was just a two-minute flyby. They were in-length, in-depth, and with substance. And with respect to Afghanistan, where I traveled just before I came to Hiroshima, we discussed how essential it is that the international community in Warsaw, at the Summit of NATO, and then later in Brussels, we come together in order to support President Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah and the unity government in their efforts to stabilize the country and bring the Afghan people the peace and security that they are so desperately seeking.

Our ministerial did cover a number of other critical issues as well, from cybersecurity to climate change. But I want to make sure that I have some time to answer your questions, obviously, so let me just underscore this.

In every one of our sessions, we all noted the critical need for G7 engagement. We all noted the value of the G7 engagement. And we also noted how much stronger we are when we can speak with one voice. When our leaders come together next month in Ise-Shima, I am confident that they are going to build on the progress that we were able to build here, which you will find in each of the communiques that you have, and they will also continue to commit to take our nations down a path towards a safer, more secure future for our fellow citizens, and I think for generations to come.

So I thank you very, very much and I’m happy now to take a few questions.

MR KIRBY: Our first question today will come from Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. Welcome to Hiroshima. My name it Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun, D.C.-based correspondent. Firstly, today you visited the Peace Memorial Park as the first U.S. secretary since the end of the World War II. It’s more than seven decades. And you wrote a message in the guest book – quote, “Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of the memorials,” unquote. And does it mean when you go back to Washington, D.C., you will recommend to President Obama to visit here, Hiroshima? And how you – how will you explain your experience here in Hiroshima to the President?

And one more thing. Could you describe a little more how you felt when you looked at the picture of the people who were suffering from the effects of the bomb and when you heard the story of each sacrifice? I want to ask you, as one of the second generation of the survivor – survivor of that atomic bomb, as the world nuclear power and the only nation which used atomic bomb, what message exactly you want to deliver to the people in Hiroshima and the world, particularly including to the survivor to the atomic bomb? Thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you for the question and I’m pleased to be able to shed a little bit more light on the visit. First of all, you quoted my words. Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and “everyone” means everyone. So I hope one day, the President of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here. Whether or not he can come as President or – I don’t know. That is subject to a very, very full and complicated schedule that the President has to plan out way ahead of time. I know that he is invited to do so. I know, because he has said so publicly, he wants to come to Hiroshima sometime. But whether or not that can work in the next visit, I just don’t know.

With respect to how to explain the experience and how did I feel, I think the most moving, the most impactful moment in the museum is this extraordinary domed virtual display of the city of Hiroshima. And you look at the city of Hiroshima and then there’s a close-up of life in the city of Hiroshima with the boats going by on the river and you see the city in sort of a more personal sense, and then it backs away and you get an aerial view, and then suddenly see a bomb moving down towards the city, an explosion, and the incredible inferno, the conflagration that follows with this amazing cumulus cloud going up into the sky and then the devastation in its wake. It is a brilliantly done, remarkably powerful, very important message to anybody who sees it, not just about that particular bomb, but about what happens in a world with massive weapons of destruction, even conventional weapons that have huge capacity today to do enormous damage. And I was very moved by that; I was very – it was very personal.

What it underscores to me, and as I said in my comments a few minutes ago in terms of the obligation of any leader anywhere, is anybody who’s been in war – and I’ve been in war – knows the insanity of it and knows how complex it is with respect to loss of life and innocent civilians and people caught up in it. And so we all have to work to avoid that. And that’s what President Obama is committed to in his efforts with the Nuclear Security Summit, his efforts to be part of an initiative to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Now, we all know that’s not going to happen overnight. It’s complicated. You have to find a way to resolve conflicts. You have to change behavior. You can’t just wipe away deterrence overnight. You have to do a lot of things, which is why one of the first steps we want to pursue is the fissile material prohibition, and there are a number of other steps. And it will take time to build the capacity to get there.

But what this museum and the events here remind us is we have to get there. We have an obligation to work to get there. And we’re making some progress. That is why something like the actions of Kim Jong-un in North Korea stand out as such an aberration against the direction that the world wants to go. And I’ll jump ahead of any question that one of you might ask – it is also why any suggestion by any candidate for high public office that we should be building more weapons and giving them to a country like Korea or Japan are absurd on their face and run counter to everything that every president, Republican or Democrat alike, has tried to achieve ever since World War II.

So those are the emotions that came to me in the course of this, and more, and many more. That’s why I wrote that every person should be able to see this memorial and other memorials of war, because they bring home to people the importance of diplomacy, the importance of engagement, the importance of trying to work through these issues in a better way. And I come away here – from here absolutely reenergized and recommitted and dedicated to help find that better way.

MR KIRBY: Our next question comes from Naoya Yoshino from Nikkei.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I have a two-part question.

SECRETARY KERRY: A who? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: My name is Naoya Yoshino.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I know your name, but you have a – something-part question?

QUESTION: I have a two --

SECRETARY KERRY: A 20-part question? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Two-part. Yeah, no, no, no. Two-part. So my first question: What are your impression of visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as the first-kind Cabinet member of the U.S. Administration?

Secondly, what is the likelihood of President Obama visiting Hiroshima?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think both of those I answered.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, I --

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. So we’re two down.


SECRETARY KERRY: One to go. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What is percentage – is it higher than 50 percent or not?

SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) I wish I could give you a percentage. I can’t give you a percentage. Not because I won’t; I don’t know. But I promise you when I get back to Washington Tuesday night and I see the President this week, I will certainly convey to him what I saw here and how important it is at some point to try to get here. You can be assured of that. Okay? Thank you. I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen three questions go faster. That was good. (Laughter.) Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Our next – I’m sorry. Our next question comes from Elise Labott from CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. After seeing what you saw today, do you feel confident the world is doing enough to stop North Korea from using a nuclear weapon or do you think a new, tougher approach is needed now that you have seen and have a better understanding of the real-world consequences of death and destruction? And given North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and destabilizing behavior, do you think the prospect of a world without nuclear weapons is becoming more distant? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: What was the second part? I apologize. The second part of that, Elise, was do I think --

QUESTION: I mean, given all the activity we’ve seen from North Korea, not only its nuclear tests but it’s threats to use a nuclear weapon, don’t you think the prospect of a world without nuclear weapons is becoming more distant, despite your efforts at a nuclear-free world? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: So with respect to the first, with all due respect, I didn’t need to come here to, quote, “better understand” the real-world impact of war. I understand the real-world impact of war. I am a child of World War II, born in 1943, and have seen since I was growing up the effects of war. A young boy in Berlin, seeing the burned out Reichstag, Hitler’s bunker blown up, and the consequences of war for that generation that were our parents’. In addition, I obviously served in a war and I saw it there.

What I got here was a firsthand sense of what happened in Hiroshima, and what happens with a nuclear weapon particularly in terms of its types of destruction. But I’ve also seen that because when I served in the United States Navy, I went to Nuclear Chemical Biological Warfare School, and for better or worse I learned a lot about throw-weights of nuclear weapons and radiation sickness and all the other issues. So for me, what today really was was a moment of connecting to this place and to the feelings of the Japanese people and the terrible events of that day in a very personal and special way. And of course, whenever you see the firsthand effects of a terrible moment in a war, I think it reinforces in someone the reasons why we have to try to avoid that.

And am I confident that we’re doing enough or need to get tougher to stop it? We are tougher now. We fought, together with some of our closest friends and allies, to get China to sign on to a tougher UN Security Council resolution just a few weeks ago, and we now have stronger sanctions in place against DPRK. In addition to that, we have moved to discussions about the potential deployment of THAAD, which is a defensive – defensive system, as well as other steps that we are engaged in with respect to North Korea.

So we’re on a path that is constantly ratcheting up and toughening as their behavior grows more threatening and as they don’t heed the prior steps that have been taken. I think China has determined that it is now going to implement – I mean, we’re just in the beginning stages of this implementation, and that’s going to have a greater impact on, I think, the North.

Now, we are also talking about what else we can do. But my sense is that there is a united five-party members of the Six-Party Talks who are absolutely determined to keep the pressure on, but to do so in a way that hopefully brings people back to the table rather than spills over in a way that gets more dangerous rather than less.

So I think we’re on track, though I would like to see a few measures that we weren’t able to get into the resolution yet implemented over the course, perhaps, of the next months depending on what actions the North decides to take. So it is still possible that we will ratchet up even more depending on the actions of the DPRK. We are prepared to get back to talks. We have made it clear that we are prepared to negotiate a peace treaty on the peninsula. We are prepared to negotiate a non-aggression agreement. We are prepared to actually provide economic assistance and welcome the North back to the community of nations. We’re prepared to provide aid and we’re prepared to work with our colleagues on development and the long-term future. We’re prepared to work with South Korea on the concept of reunification, if that’s what they want. But it all depends on the North making the decision that they will negotiate denuclearization, which is the agreed-upon policy of China, the United States, Japan, Korea, Russia, and we are waiting for that opportunity obviously to have a real negotiation.

With respect to the nuclear threat overall and does what’s happening in North Korea mean that we’re more distant – no, I don’t believe that in the least. No. Profoundly, no. We are prepared to negotiate with Russia for a further reduction in nuclear weapons after we have ratified – we did ratify the START agreement. I led that effort on the floor of the Senate. So we are now at the level of about 1,500 or so, and that is a far cry from where we were in the days of President Reagan and Gorbachev where there were 50,000 nuclear warheads in each hands, pointed at each other. So we’ve gone from 50,000 to 1,500 or so, and we’re prepared to move even further down and have embraced the concept of a world without these weapons. We’ve just negotiated an agreement with Iran that gave up its path towards a nuclear weapon in a verifiable, transparent way that we will now have an IAEA able to certify each day, every week, all through the life of this agreement. And we have had a number of other nations – I think it’s about 13 or so – have given up fissionable material, and we’ve reduced the number of people who have enriched materials lying around, and we have increased the number of countries that are participating in the nuclear threat reduction process and opening themselves up to greater, better practices for accountability for any medical radiation material and so forth.

So there’s an enormous amount that is happening now. North Korea remains the single one hard spot with respect to that policy, but as I just said to you, we have toughened up and ratcheted up the sanctions with respect to North Korea, and it is very much at the top of our priority list with respect to this endeavor.

So I think we’re moving in the right direction, notwithstanding North Korea. And my hope is that together with China particularly, because China obviously has such an important connection to North Korea – it’s the supplier of all of their fuel for trucks, planes, cars; it’s a supplier of food; it’s their banking connection to the world – China has an enormous ability to send a message to and have an impact on North Korea. And China, we are pleased, joined us in doing some things that have an impact on China and its economy. And we have to go step by step and continue to build as we go forward, and that’s what we’re going to do.

MR KIRBY: Our final question today comes from Masakatsu Ota from Kyodo News.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your precious time, and also I just want to repeat my gratitude to your visit to this special place. Thank you very much again.

My question might be overlapped by the – my two colleagues regarding your visit to Hiroshima, but I’d like to ask you: What the fundamental meaning of your visit to Hiroshima in the context of the history of the mankind who have been and will be under the shadow of nuclear threats?

And also, based on this experience, how would you energize the nuclear disarmament agenda? Nuclear disarmament looks like a standstill (inaudible) while since the President Obama made his concrete proposal on the nuclear reduction, 2013, June, in Berlin. So what would be your priority of your government? And Secretary, what would be a priority on the nuclear disarmament agenda after this visit? Thank you very much, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Very, very good question, and very happy to answer it.

In terms of the meaning, I’ll just build out a little bit in terms of the substance. Apart from the emotional and obviously personal components of what I’ve already spoken to, the reason I thought that it was particularly important to come to Hiroshima and to come now was not just that Fumio Kishida and I work together and are friends, and this is his home community and we have a G7 meeting here, but because we are engaged in this effort to try to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and because we are importantly trying to remind people of the power of reconciliation, the power of people who were once enemies who were at war being able to come together, find the common ground, build strong democracies, build alliances, and do important things that have a positive impact on people in the rest of the world.

That’s what we’re showcasing here. We’re showing the strength of this friendship, the strength of this alliance, and the important message that comes from the transformation that people who were once, as we saw in the photographs upstairs depicted in the horror of the aftermath of the atomic explosion, who have come from that moment to a place of incredible prosperity and accomplishment where their country is participating and leading in many cases on important issues globally.

Japan is a global leader. Japan has worked with us to help deal with Ebola. Japan was there ready with emergency funding to help us get protective equipment to people and to have people be able to have the shelters that they needed. Japan has been there in Afghanistan, helping us with respect to the humanitarian efforts and the recovery and development. Japan has been there with Syria in an effort to help deal with the problem of refugees.

So we have built out of the ashes of war and that moment of horror, an extraordinarily strong relationship that stands as an example to people all over the world about what can be. And I would that somebody like Kim Jong-un would look at that and see the good faith with which people were able to come together and make good things happen. So I think that’s an important message.

Also, we came here because President Obama is deeply committed, as he just evidenced in his fourth meeting and the last one in Washington, to underscore the importance of nuclear security. We must secure nuclear materials so that they don’t fall into the hands of a terrorist organization and they try to create a dirty bomb – not a full nuclear bomb, but a bomb which has nuclear radiation components and therefore can kill a lot of people. And that’s another reason for being here, because we have an immediate task to work together to deal with the problem of violent extremism, which remains a challenge for the safety and security of people.

And finally, to answer your question about – you say we seem to be at a standstill. The fact that one particular meeting ran into difficulties does not define a world at a standstill. That meeting ran into difficulties because there was an inability for some to agree that there had to be a decision to go forward by consensus, and we didn’t have that decision for consensus. So that’s why we particularly were concerned about how to go forward. And I’ll tell you why – because some countries, and I understand the emotion of it, want to just outlaw every nuclear weapon tomorrow. I understand why people want to do that. But to do that without working through all of these other things that we know we have to work through is not to make the world safer. This has to be done, and we’re for it, but it has to be done in a way that works up to the capacity to accept that you, in fact, are not making the world more dangerous because you’ve done away with a level of deterrence for activity, you’re actually making the world safer.

And the steps that we need to take – and you asked me what are the steps and priorities – one would be if we could ratify the Nuclear Test Ban. We’d love to ratify it. President Obama wants to do that. But we haven’t yet been able to get that through in the Senate, and there are many people who need to learn more about how modern technology has given us the ability to determine the strength of our deterrence without engaging in a fissionable action where you actually have nuclear fusion that winds up with an explosion. We don’t want to do that, and we haven’t done that since 1992. Now technology allows you to test the materials – the material, the physical materiality of nuclear materials in a way that allows you to determine the soundness and safety of your stockpile and your deterrence program, which is very important.

But we also want to get rid of fissionable material. The – if we could do the fissionable material restriction, that would be helpful. And finally, the nuclear safety initiatives that were laid out at the Nuclear Summit in Washington by President Obama, all of those are top priorities.

So those are clear priorities, each of which, if we achieved them, would be a step towards the ability to begin to change the way people think about conflict, weapons, and the dangers that we face.

So we have a lot of priorities. I think the world is moving in the right direction. Notice of the 200-plus nations, there are just one or two state actors who behave badly, and the rest of the world is arrayed against them. And then we have the challenge now of non-state actors, and that, we are learning, is a complicated, time-consuming effort, but it’s one that we are rising to the challenge of and where I am convinced we are ultimately going to prevail.

MR KIRBY: Thank you, everybody. That concludes today’s press conference.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Thank you.