(Press Conference by U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee in New York, with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Japanese Foreign Minister Kono, Japanese Defense Minister Torashima, and State Department Spokesman Richard A. Boucher. Transcript as released by the U.S. Department of State.)
Boucher: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Secretary Albright and Japanese Foreign Minister Kono will sign the Special Measures Agreement between the United States and Japan, and then after they are finished we will have a press conference and they will deliver brief statements at the beginning of the press conference, first Secretary Albright and then Japanese Minister Kono, Secretary Cohen, and the Minister of State for Defense Torashima.
(The Agreement is signed.)
Albright: I am very pleased to join Secretary Cohen in welcoming Japan's Foreign Minister Kono and State Minister for Defense Torashima to New York for today's meeting of the Security Consultative Committee, better known as the "2+2". As a sign of the health of the U.S.-Japan alliance, Foreign Minister Kono and I have just signed a new Special Measures Agreement on Japan's Host Nation Support. This agreement is a tangible expression of our mutual commitment to Asian peace and security and strongly attests to the shared value and vision that underpin our bilateral relationship.
We are particularly pleased that the substance of this agreement was developed in time for the Okinawa summit. The summit provided an excellent opportunity for President Clinton and Prime Minister Mori to showcase the vitality of the U.S.-Japan partnership and security alliance. Our close cooperation, as exemplified by the Special Measures Agreement, is even more important as we face dramatic changes in the East Asian security landscape.
During today's discussions, we reviewed recent steps toward strengthening our alliance, which remains the cornerstone of U.S.-Asia policy. Key achievements this past year include progress in implementing the guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and the recommendations of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa.
On regional issues, our primary focus was the need for continued close cooperation with the Republic of Korea in preserving stability on the Korean Peninsula. The United States joins Japan in supporting President Kim's engagement policy and in welcoming progress in the South-North dialogue. We are committed to exploring ways to encourage North Korea's emergence from its long period of isolation while addressing the concerns of the international community about its nuclear and long-range missile programs. Foreign Minister Kono also described his recent visit to Beijing, and we discussed, as we have before, the importance of China playing a constructive and responsible role in regional security issues.
Looking ahead, we agreed to continue progress on implementing the Defense Guidelines and to go forward with next steps on Futenma relocation. Secretary Cohen and I urged early ratification by the Japanese Diet of the Special Measures Agreement, and we emphasized again the desire of U.S. forces in Japan to be good neighbors to the communities that host them.
Thank you very much. Secretary Cohen.
Cohen: Thank you, Secretary Albright. As Secretary Albright has indicated, today's meeting takes place at a time of considerable hope in the Asia-Pacific region and strength in the important U.S.-Japan security relationship. This is the 40th anniversary of the current U.S.-Japan security treaty. It's been almost 50 years since we formed this alliance, and our meeting here today reminds us of the critical role that this alliance has played over the last half century and will continue to play long into the future.
The U.S.-Japan alliance provided a bulwark of democratic commitment against communism during the Cold War, and now it provides a bedrock of stability on which to build an increasingly prosperous and secure future for the region. Foreign Minister Kono and Secretary Albright have just signed a five-year renewal of the Special Measures Agreement under which the Government of Japan pays for most of the labor, utility and training relocations costs associated with the forward deployment of U.S. forces in Japan. This agreement is a powerful statement of our nation's shared commitment to a continued U.S. presence in the region. And, today, we have also marked substantial progress in our work under the Defense Guidelines to coordinate our peacetime planning and our cooperation during contingencies. This is, again, a concrete reflection of our shared commitment to the effectiveness of the alliance.
And, finally, we have approved a Joint Statement of the Environmental Principles which we follow in managing the presence of U.S. forces in Japan -- again, a further manifestation of our shared commitment to work together in a transparent manner to ensure the continued good neighborly relations between U.S. forces in Japan and the Japanese communities who host them.
Tomorrow I will continue the security discussions at the Pentagon with Minister Torashima, and next week I will visit Japan at the end of my trip to Asia. Those meetings provide further affirmation of the enduring importance of this alliance, the enduring commitment of our two nations to regional peace and security, and the centrality of this relationship to U.S. security policy in Asia.
Albright: Foreign Minister.
Kono: It was most meaningful to hold the "2+2" meeting for the first time in two years against the backdrop of various new developments in the Asia-Pacific region and to reaffirm that Japan-U.S. security arrangements continue to play an extremely important role in preserving the peace and stability of the region.
I kept you, friend reporters, for a long time but the meeting was not just a long one but also a very substantive one and, for me, a very interesting meeting. At our meeting, we first exchanged views on East Asian situation and the Okinawa issue. On Okinawa, both sides confirmed the importance of continuing steady progress on the SACO final report. In this connection, the Japanese side took up issues regarding the return and relocation of Futenma Air Station in accordance with the Japanese cabinet decision of December last year. The two sides reaffirmed that they will continue to consult closely, as stated in the Joint Security Declaration.
Also at the meeting, we confirmed the significance of the new Special Measures Agreement pertaining to Japan's host nation support, which we signed just a moment ago, and agreed to issue a Joint Statement of Environmental Principles. In the statement, we express our determination to strengthen our cooperation for environmental protection in accordance with these principles.
I believe these achievements will be conducive to the effective operation of Japan-U.S. security arrangements.
Torashima: The four ministers of Japan and the United States met together and conducted the meeting of the Security Consultative Committee. We covered a broad range of issues, and I am very satisfied that we were able to have very substantive and fruitful discussions. The substance of our discussions has already been covered by Foreign Minister Kono. This time, we are gratified that the new Special Measures Agreement has been signed and we also have been able to build a new Consultative Coordination Mechanism for the implementation of the Cooperation Guidelines. And I believe this has been very meaningful for the furtherance of our security cooperation.
Now, we also took up issues related to the facilities and areas of U.S. armed forces in Japan and also we agreed on the importance of maintaining and furthering our mutual efforts for good neighborly relations in the days ahead as well by doing our utmost in our cooperation. We shall further develop an unswerving cooperation alliance between Japan and the United States that has been built over the past half century.
Boucher: Ladies and gentlemen, we have limited time so we'll try to take two questions from each side. Let's start with Mr. Schweid.
Q: Well, since we have limited time, with the usual apologies -- (inaudible) -- subjects -- we always have limited time -- the Palestine Council has deferred for two months now the declaration of independence. Does that give you more running room? What is the U.S. going to do with this additional time, please?
Albright: Well, I think that this decision reflects a Palestinian commitment to the peace process and their commitment to continued negotiations. And it is consistent with Chairman Arafat's expression of that commitment to the President and to me in New York last week.
As we have said for some time, we have been opposed to unilateral actions, including a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence. And the Oslo Accords, as we all know, were based upon the principle of mutuality, and a final agreement can only come about through negotiations. So there still is obviously a difficult road ahead and we are going to be looking to the parties to make the tough decisions that will lead to a lasting peace, and we are prepared to continue to be of assistance as meetings go forward.
Q: Would you elaborate a little bit on the U.S. assistance because, essentially, the Administration has tried every known option of assisting -- with the President, with you, Dennis Ross. Is there any new wrinkle, any new approach? Are you going to revisit the methods, the attempts you have made already?
Albright: As wrinkled as we might be, we are going to continue doing what we are doing. I think that there are various combinations of meetings and things that can take place, and I think that there are lots of things that we will keep looking at, because I think you know that we have really put a lot of effort into this and consider it one of the most important things that can be accomplished, and we'll continue to try to work, Barry.
Q: A question for Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen. As was mentioned in your statement right now -- and I'm talking about the Futenma Air Station -- there has been a request for a 15-year time limit on the use of the substitute airfield. And I wonder if the U.S. can not accept that at all, or not. Also, what sort of specific responses did you give in the meeting today on this Futenma issue?
Cohen: If I could respond, there was agreement. Both Japan and the United States agree that we should abide by the Joint Security Declaration that was signed back in 1996 between Prime Minister Hashimoto and President Clinton, and that we would continue to consult with each other and our arrangement would depend upon the nature of the security situation at any given time. And so that declaration is something that both Japan and the United States agree to and will continue to abide by.
Q: Foreign Minister Kono, I am sure you have heard of the reports made from North Korea by Kim Jong-il that the North Koreans might be willing to give up their missile program in exchange perhaps for some assistance in satellite launches. Does the Japanese Government think that this is a genuine offer?
And for Secretary Albright, along the same lines, do you think it's time for the United States to sit down and actually have these talks with the North Koreans? I know that you've been exploring them with the Russians, but do you think it's time for the U.S. to sit down with the North Koreans?
Kono: With regard to your question, the North Korean missile issue, we have heard from the Russians as well a similar story. But we are not really sure; as Japan, we have not been able to ascertain whether that really reflects the genuine thinking or genuine feeling on the part of the North Koreans. And since we can not ascertain that information as genuine policy of theirs, we can not carry our policy any further than where we are today.
Albright: Well, as you know, we have had ongoing discussions with them on a couple of subjects and we will continue to do so as the opportunity presents itself. And I think all of us are interested in getting more definitive answers on these questions.
Q: Secretary Cohen and Minister Torashima, the question about the Korean Peninsula situation. There was in June the North-South summit, and since then there has been some developments there. Do you think that the tension on the Korean Peninsula has been easing? Do you think there are some clear indications of such a loosening of tension?
Cohen: We are encouraged by some of the steps that are being taken by the North Koreans in dealing with the South Korean Government and the people. We see some encouraging signs, but these are just first steps and we need to see much more in the way of a substantive commitment to having a peaceful relationship with the South and to see whether the North Korean Government is willing to become fully integrated into the international community.
So while we are encouraged, we will still look with great care and take prudent measures to protect our security interests as we see how events unfold. But there certainly have been some positive signs and we look forward to seeing if they can become more deeply ingrained in the process.
Torashima: I had great expectations for the North-South summit and I have great expectations for the ensuring results -- certainly a hope that there will be further successes, and Japan certainly will provide great support for such successes in the future.
Unfortunately, however, North Korea still -- it is most likely that it is deployed No-Dong, which covers virtually all Japanese territories, and we do not really see any change as of this moment in the military situation on the Korean Peninsula. We will have to closely watch how this North-South summit will lead to changes in the ballistic missile development in order to further alleviate tension on the Korean Peninsula and to further encourage positive developments. I believe the trilateral coordination between Japan, U.S. and the Republic of Korea will continue to be very important.
Boucher: Thank you very much for coming, ladies and gentlemen.