Interview With Morio Chijiiwa of TV Asahi

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Rihga Royal Hotel Hiroshima
Hiroshima, Japan
April 11, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: I was very honored to be here. First of all, I’m honored to be in Fumio Kishida’s home town. And he put together a very, very competent, very effective G7 meeting, so we’re very grateful for that. But to have the privilege of going to this remarkable museum that is so moving, so incredibly compelling, I was very, very moved by it, very touched by it in many different ways. And I think that it’s an incredible memorial to remind all of us of the extraordinary danger of nuclear weapons, but also of the importance of avoiding war, the importance of taking every step possible to exhaust all the peaceful remedies, to try to find peace through diplomacy rather than resorting to war. And I came away from today even more motivated and even more energized. So it was a – it’s a stunning museum which I wish everybody in the world could take enough time to see it and feel it and it would shape their thinking, I think, about life.

QUESTION: I heard that you suggested Mr. Kishida to go to atomic bomb – the dome.

SECRETARY KERRY: I did. I wanted to walk down there to see more. I wanted to feel what it looked like up close and personal, and I wanted to have a sense of the history and of the damage and get a feel for where – sort of where things were and what it looked like. So I’m glad we did that and I’m very grateful to – I’m very grateful to Foreign Minister Kishida for adjusting on the spur of the moment. And I think the foreign ministers all appreciated it.

QUESTION: Many Americans still say that the dropping of atomic bomb was the right decision in order to save the – save many American people’s lives. So what made you decide to come to Hiroshima?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, no matter what people feel about that, we are now friends and allies. We have worked through a remarkable reconciliation. The story of Japan and the United States after the war, our friendship today, our alliance today with respect to so many issues – Japan is a global player internationally, diplomatically. It helps with Afghanistan. It helps with countering violent extremism. Your leaders make important decisions to contribute to fighting Ebola, to helping with development, take care of refugees in Syria. So the Japanese people have much to be proud of in that regard, and I think that my decision to come here, for me, even though I know it’s sensitive to some people, is not difficult because I’m not here to deal with the past except to remember it, learn the lessons from it. I’m here to work on the challenges we face today and to define the future and to take the past and use it as a tool to be able to help us shape that better future.

So what I saw today impresses on me the importance of the work that I am privileged to be doing, which is trying to make peace in Syria, trying to end the threat of the Democratic – of the DPRK and Kim Jong-un, working to try to bring peace to Yemen, to Libya, to other places. That’s a privilege, and today reinforced in me what a great privilege it is and how important the commitment to that work is.

QUESTION: Okay. So I think and hope that the next step will be President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. Do you think it’s possible?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it certainly is possible. I don’t know what his schedule is. They’re working out his schedule yet. I know there’s some talk about it, but the White House needs to make that decision based on the pressures that the President faces in terms of his schedule, and at the appropriate time I know they will let people know whether or not it’s possible.

QUESTION: So you might want to say that it’s up to his schedule?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, it’s up to the President of the United States. He makes his schedule, but sometimes the pressures on his schedule, he doesn’t have a lot of options and he doesn’t have a lot of freedom.

QUESTION: Okay. So do you encourage him to come?

SECRETARY KERRY: I would say to the President that this is one of the most impressive and meaningful museums to major events in history that I’ve seen, and I would want the President to see it sometime. I don’t know when he can come, but I would urge him at some point to try to come to Hiroshima and see this. I would urge every leader. I would wish that everybody could see the display and particularly see the dome with the presentation of the city before the bomb and after the bomb, and watch what happens. It’s incredibly gripping. It really stops you and makes you have to think. And I found it very emotional, very important.

QUESTION: You and Mr. Kishida talking about the reduction of nuclear weapons, but at the same time Donald Trump said that Japan and South Korea might need nuclear weapons.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no. That’s a very, very dangerous, ill-advised point of view. And President Obama has spoken out on it. I’ve spoken out on it. That is exactly opposite to the work that so many of us have been engaged in. Every president, Republican or Democrat alike, ever since World War II has worked to stop nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan, a Republican conservative, worked with Gorbachev to go from 50,000 warheads down to now we are at about 1,500 and trying to move down.

So we are working to get rid of nuclear weapons, and anybody who starts talking about adding to nuclear weapons does not deserve to be a major leader in the world today.

QUESTION: I think so too. So my next question is – okay. So the Japanese Government is very anxious about Chinese provocative action in South China Sea and East China Sea. What is the U.S. commitment to this region?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s very deep. We have a defense treaty agreement with a number of countries, including with Japan and Korea, with respect to this part of the world, and the Philippines south of here. We are deeply committed to the freedom of navigation, to rule of law, and to resolving the crisis of the challenge of the South China Sea in a peaceful way. And we’ve called on China to join with other countries in saying that they will not engage in any reclamation of islands, that they will not militarize, and that they will not engage in provocative activities, but resolve the questions of jurisdiction through the legal process. That’s our policy and that’s what we’re pushing for. We don’t take sides. We do not take sides on the substantive issue of who owns what. But we do take sides in favor of diplomatic resolution, peaceful resolution, and rule of law.

QUESTION: Okay. So did you talk with Mr. Kishida about this issue?

SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely. Yes, we did. We talked about with the G7. Everybody talked about it, and the entire G7 – and we speak to this in our communique today – we call on China to resolve this through rule of law, through diplomacy, and we urge every nation to refrain from unilateral actions that create greater tension.