Press Conference in Tokyo, Japan with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Minister of State for Defense Housei Norota
SECRETARY COHEN: Good afternoon. Minister Norota and I have just completed a very good meeting, and I would like to thank him for hosting this visit. And I would like to thank the government and the people of Japan for their support to U.S. Forces stationed here to defend American and Japanese interests in Asia.
I saw some of that support today at Camp Zama, where I visited the U.S. troops that were stationed there. When I leave here I will meet with Prime Minister Obuchi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka to continue discussions of a broad list of mutual interests ranging from Korea to Kosovo. The reason for this strong relationship between the United States and Japan is easy to summarize. We share commitments to the same values, to security and to stability. Our common commitment to democracy and free markets has helped us work together for peace and prosperity in Asia and throughout the world. And one sign of that is Japan's generous contribution to meet the humanitarian and reconstruction needs in Kosovo. The approximately 100,000 U.S. troops that are forward deployed in the Asia-Pacific region help protect the security of Japan and the stability of the entire region. That stability is the foundation for economic growth and the spread of democracy in Asia. We share the view that another missile test by North Korea would create an element of instability and uncertainty in the region. The United States, Japan and South Korea, all want cooperation -- not confrontation -- with North Korea. We are prepared to work with North Korea to open economic and political opportunities, and North Korea should seize this chance to build a new and positive relationship. A refusal to show restraint, however, would have serious negative implications on our relationship, stalling or indeed stopping potential cooperation that could benefit North Korea and all of Asia. The governments of Japan, South Korea and the United States have been closely consulting on the coordinated political and economic steps we would intend to take if North Korea does not exercise restraint.
At our meeting, Minister Norota and I discussed a range of other topics: our continuing work to implement the recently passed Defense Guidelines, the progress towards implementing SACO, including finding a replacement for the Futenma airfield, and the importance of a strong host nation support for our security forces here.
Let me just offer a few brief comments on areas of particular interest to the press -- theater missile defense and satellite surveillance activities.
The United States and Japan expect to sign a Memorandum of Understanding soon that will establish a framework for our collaboration on TMD research. It will also cover subsequent development and production, if this is the path that Japan selects. It is important to note that Theater Missile Defense is purely a defensive system, both for the United States and Japan, and our work on this project should not be a threat to anyone. On satellites, I made it clear that the United States supports Japan's indigenous program, and we are willing to cooperate on that program. Our technical experts will continue the discussions underway of this particular matter. And we are also going to continue to share our intelligence and information with Japan just as we do now.
The security relationship between the United States and Japan is as strong as it has ever been, and this relationship continues to be an important force for stability in Asia. And with that let me take your questions.
Q: Michael Lev from the Chicago Tribune. Your statement here sounded more, a little more forceful to me in that there is a carrot and stick approach regarding North Korea. Can you be a little more specific about what's at stake here? What is the U.S. and its allies prepared to offer North Korea if it backs down? And alternatively, what's at stake if they proceed?
A: As I've indicated, and I believe Secretary of State Albright has indicated during discussions in Singapore, that we see this as an opportunity for North Korea to embrace some economic and diplomatic initiatives that would lead to a lessening of tensions and an integration of North Korea into the international community. There are a number of opportunities that I can't spell out here but have been at least made clear through the work being done by Dr. Perry and others, Dr. Kartman, who is following up on those discussions that would be of benefit to North Korea and indeed to much of Asia. A rejection of that path of integration into the international community would have the opposite result, and that is, it could lead to greater instability and tensions in the region, which would not be of benefit to anyone. And so we're hoping that North Korea will choose the path of cooperation rather than confrontation. Much will depend upon North Korean response to Dr. Perry's initiatives and those being followed up by Dr. Kartman.
Q: I am Hiroki Sugita from Kyodo News. Mister Secretary, did you agree with your Japanese counterpart on some kind of timeframe to relocate Futenma Air Base?
A: We had discussions, and will have further discussions this afternoon, with respect to a host of issues. Again talking about implementing the SACO agreement as such and the elements within that, including the relocation of Futenma. President Clinton has indicated that he hoped that outstanding issues could be resolved by the Summit next year. So I can only reiterate that progress, substantial progress can be made. This is a cooperative undertaking, and the relocation of Futenma really is in the interests of the people in Okinawa. We're trying very much to reduce the size of our footprint. As such, we think that it would be beneficial to the people in Okinawa. As long as we can find a way to meet our security requirements and readiness training issues, we would like to see that take place as soon as it can. But there is no definitive time limitation. We think that good progress has been made and can be made in the coming months and hopefully can be resolved by next year by the Summit, by the time of the Summit, but there's no fixed date.
Q: Marina Kamimura of CNN. First of all, if you could elaborate any thoughts on, there have been suggestions that Japan possibly could be compelled to suspend its contributions to KEDO in the event of another missile launch. Your thoughts on that. And secondly, your reasoning behind the replacement of General Clark, in terms of NATO, with General Ralston. Your thoughts on that and whether that had anything to do with differences over Kosovo?
A: And the first question?
Q: The first question being - your reaction to suggestions that Japan could be compelled to suspend contributions to KEDO in the event of another missile launch.
A: I'm not sure the question is posed that Japan could be compelled to discontinue funding of KEDO. This is a decision, of course, the Japanese Government would make on its own. We think that the agreed framework is in the interests of all concerned, that North Korea would not develop or seek to develop further any endeavor in the field of nuclear weaponry. But that is a matter that will, of course, have to be decided by the Japanese government and the Japanese people. We think the agreed framework is nonetheless important to adhere to, but it will create certain political pressures. That's been made clear by Japan's Foreign Minister, and it will be up to Japan to make that decision. So it's not an issue of compelling Japan, or Japan being compelled to discontinue. It's a decision that the Japanese government will have to make, taking all the factors into account. There are a number of activities, of course, or actions that Japan, the United States and South Korea could take in the field of economic and diplomatic initiatives, but that remains to be determined.
With respect to General Clark, there are a number of commanders and chiefs that will have to be replaced next year. I went through the entire list with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs looking at ways in which we could in fact structure those replacements and to do so in a way that would maintain the best interests of the United States in how we structure them. And I made a determination that General Ralston, whose term as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will expire next February, would be the appropriate person to fill the SACEUR's position next year. I looked at the same qualities that General Clark has. He's done an outstanding job in serving this capacity as Commander of the European Forces and Supreme Allied Commander, and I see the same qualities in General Ralston, namely, his diplomatic skills, his war capabilities, war record as such, and the capability of serving in that capacity. So the same characteristics I found in General Clark in recommending him for that position I find also in General Ralston. So it's a matter of maintaining the continuity of that. Because of the time pressures of next year, there was a slight difference in terms of overlap, where General Ralston's term would expire in February, we would have an additional 60 days in which he could be kept on in an official capacity and that dictated the timing of it. But I'm very high in terms of General Wes Clark and the job that he has done. And I believe that General Ralston, if confirmed for that position, would also bring the same talents to the position.
Q: Cameron Barr from the Christian Science Monitor. On North Korea, are the North Koreans fully aware of exactly what they stand to gain if they do back down from their launch or could the offer be sweetened sometime soon? And secondly, since the last launch a lot of interesting things have happened in Japanese security circles. I'm thinking about the decision to pursue reconnaissance satellites, the decision to shoot at the North Korean supposed spy boats, and more recently, the decision to pursue in-flight refueling capability. How do you see Japan's security thinking, its defense posture evolving these days?
A: I am satisfied that the North Koreans have been made aware of the potential benefits of having a more cooperative relationship with the United States, Japan and South Korea. That has been the purpose of Dr. Perry's visits to Pyongyang and the discussions that have been carried on by Dr. Kartman, Ambassador Kartman. And so I think they are fully aware of the potentiality involved in such a posture on their part of one of cooperation. With respect to what has taken place since that satellite, or the launch of the missile last year, which the North Koreans claim to be a satellite launch, there have been a number of changes that have taken place. It has certainly spurred the interests, and intensified the interests on the part of Japan to cooperate in the research and development of a Theater Missile Defense System. I would say that our relationship with Japan has certainly progressed, is stronger than ever. And I believe that everyone in the region is concerned about what kind of activity the North Koreans might pursue which could undermine the stability that currently exists. So, I think that a number of changes have been made and Japan has strengthened its own defensive capabilities. It has done so in conjunction with working very cooperatively with the United States.
Q: Anthony Rowley of the Business Times (Singapore). You spoke of the coordinated political and economic steps which the United States and Japan might take in the event of North Korea not backing down on the missile launch. We are still speaking then of political and economic steps only. And secondly, on the Theater Missile Defense System, when Japan introduced its Defense White Paper earlier this week, it insisted on calling it a BMD System, rather than a TMD System. What differentiation do you see between those two terms?
A: Yes, we have been talking principally about economic and diplomatic responses that would need to be coordinated between the South Korean government, Japan and the United States. As far as the distinction between Ballistic Missile Defense and Theater Missile Defense I think that it is a distinction without a difference in this particular case, because the type of system that the Japanese government is looking at is essentially a theater missile defense which would defend Japan itself. When we talk about ballistic missile defense in the United States, we talk about a national missile defense system, which is quite different. But the theater missile defense system for Japan, in essence, would protect all of Japanese territory; and in the theater itself, beyond Japan itself, it would provide that kind of protection for forces here, throughout the region, nearby region. And I'm talking about Japan now, in its general region.
Q: Michael Zielenziger of Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Two related questions, I suppose. Were the North Koreans to launch a new missile, clearly the Japanese people would feel very threatened by that. Would the Japanese people be justified, in essence, asking the Americans, as their security partners, to launch some kind of retaliatory strike against North Korea? Would that be justified on their part, first of all? And, second of all, we've had the impression here in Tokyo that independent Japanese satellite capability was not something we, the Americans, were particularly excited about. Is there some reversal in what you've said today?
A: With respect to your first question, whether or not there should be quote, any form of retaliation, the United States is not in the business of trying to retaliate, to escalate tensions in the region. What we are trying to do is to resolve these tensions diplomatically, in a non-confrontational style. Hopefully, the North Koreans will see the benefit of this. As far as the United States response, again, I point out it's important for the United States to coordinate its responses with the Japanese Government, and the South Korean Government, and to have a coordinated economic and diplomatic reaction to that. But I wouldn't want to speculate in terms of what action might take place beyond that. I think it's clear that we would focus principally on diplomatic and on economic reactions. And also, strengthening the Theater Missile Defenses. Again, the Theater Missile Defense, to come back to the question raised before, is primarily for the defense of Japan and its people, as well as the U.S. forces stationed here.
On the second question, you talked about whether there has been a change in policy. Our policy has been the same. We indicated from the beginning that this was a decision for the Japanese Government to make. As to whether they wish to perform, to undertake an indigenous satellite production capability that was up to the Japanese Government. We were prepared and willing to support whatever that decision entailed. And to the extent that it's going to be an indigenous production that they seek, we will cooperate to the best of our ability.
Q: Richard Roessler of Stars & Stripes. Could you tell me what your view is of Tokyo Governor Ishihara's request to have a joint use air base at Yokota?
A: I'm not specifically aware of his request, or the specifics of it. Any requests dealing with U.S. bases here in Tokyo, will be the subject of government to government relations and so it would have to be handled at a government to government basis.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY COHEN: Thank you.