(Media roundtable with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard H. Baker, Jr., at the Ambassador’s Residence, Tokyo, Japan.)
Baker: I think they want us here, Paul, in these two chairs.
Wolfowitz: Is that where MacArthur used to sit? (Laughter.)
Baker: Except he used to stand. The point that the Secretary was making was, this was General MacArthur’s residence during the Occupation following World War II, and when he first received the Emperor, it was in this room, standing before those columns there, and we couldn’t figure out who would be MacArthur, so we decided not to do that. (Laughter.)
Well, welcome to all of you. It’s a great old house, and I’m pleased and honored to be the U.S. Ambassador here. My wife and I are very happy in Japan. We find it a challenging job, and an extraordinarily rewarding experience. We enjoy ourselves. We are especially pleased to have Secretary Wolfowitz here to give us insights as a result of his recent travels. So with that, I believe he will be glad to answer your questions, and I will be glad to do so as well, to the extent that I can.
Wolfowitz: I’ll just say the obvious: We’ve got an extraordinary man as Ambassador here. It’s not unusual to have some pretty extraordinary ambassadors, but the background that Ambassador Baker brings to this job is just wonderful, and I think he never thought he was going to do government service again, but the President asked him, and we’re very grateful he said ‘yes.’
I’ve been coming to Japan for more than 20 years working pretty closely on U.S.-Japan relations in different periods in my career, and it’s always been a good relationship. I’ve seen some extremely good periods back when Reagan was president and Nakasone was prime minister. But I think, from what I observed before I came here and what I’ve been able to see in less than 24 hours, it’s as good a relationship now as it’s ever been.
Part of the reason for that, I think, is great leadership on both sides and a very good relationship between the President and Koizumi that was reinforced, I think, during the summit in Crawford very strongly. But also, I think it is the remarkably positive attitude toward the United States here in Japan.
I just have the statistics here on a Jiji poll [and other polls] that showed that 70% of Japanese say the U.S. is the most important country; 66% believe that U.S. bases in Japan are needed for regional security -- that’s up 10 percentage points since last year. 84% believe that Japan should support Iraqi reconstruction. The statistics go on. It’s a very positive view of the United States, a very positive view of our alliance, and I think what is very encouraging, too, is an increasingly positive view of the role that Japan can play in the world. Because of the facts of history, even though Japan is the second-largest economy in the world and stunningly far ahead of the next largest, its role in the world is only starting to become commensurate with its potential. I think it’s appropriate that it should grow into that role gradually because of the history, but I’m very pleased to see that it keeps growing.
I had an excellent meeting last night with Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda, and I commented on the fact that sometimes it seems like each step that Japan takes is a small step, but they never step backwards. If you take a series of small steps over 20 years and everyone is moving forward, it produces very big change, and I think that’s the way this country has moved in many ways for a long time. Our defense relationship is excellent, and we get great support from Japan for our facilities here and for our troops here. I think we make every effort we can to reduce the burden that our presence inevitably imposes, but it’s an absolutely indispensable relationship for both our countries.
As elsewhere in the world, we’re undertaking a review of the future, which I think we call the Defense Policy Review Initiative, or DPRI for short, but I think we’ve managed to keep up-to-date so regularly here that probably less change is needed, but change is always a useful thing to look at.
Is that pretty good for starters?
Q: I wanted to ask about the non-proliferation initiative in Evian and how you foresee -- first of all, whether it was announced as a global initiative in order to avoid the perception that it would be only focused on North Korea or on Asia -- and just generally how you see that playing out in the Asian context.
Wolfowitz: Well, my understanding is that it was done as a global thing because it is a matter of global concern. Our concerns about proliferation of this technology are not just limited to North Korea. In fact, one of the very striking and disturbing things that we observed when I was a member of the so-called Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, better known as the Rumsfeld Commission, five years ago -- which had a bipartisan group of widely divergent views about missile defense -- we came to some remarkable consensus about the nature of the threat that was developing. What surprised even me -- and I was not easily surprised on this issue -- was the amount of trade in dangerous technologies and dangerous systems taking place among the worst proliferators. It was almost as though the rules of the game had changed. It used to be that once a country joined the nuclear club, they decided that the club was just about the right size and they didn’t want any new members. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore, so you get countries like North Korea helping Pakistan. The list goes on -- I don’t want to get into classified areas here, but it’s a serious problem not just limited to North Korea, and I think having a stronger international legal basis for dealing with it would be a contributor worldwide, as well as in East Asia.
Q: But in terms of North Korea, how do you expect this to fit into the overall U.S. strategy and the fact that U.S. officials have been talking about the need to try to crack down more on the sources of cash currency for Pyongyang?
Wolfowitz: I think it’s less a matter of cracking down on the sources of currency, although that would be a byproduct from trying to do everything you can to make sure that these dangerous technologies aren’t exported, and to give a basis for countries that want to help stop it, to give them more of a legal basis to do so, and for those countries that may be reluctant to stop it, to give us more of a basis to lean on them to prevent it. It’s the danger involved in this that is our primary concern.
Q: So, what kind of legal authority, in your thinking, would you like the U.S. to seek or have?
Wolfowitz: I think I’ll leave that to the State Department. Let’s let the Ambassador tackle it.
Baker: I’ll add one thing to it: underlying the relationship between Japan and the United States is recognition of the fact that Japan is a great sovereign nation -- they are our allies, but they are also our friends, and that implies a high level of consultation on how best to provide for our respective best interests. It seems to me that the Japanese have been extraordinarily good allies and friends, and as the Secretary said, it is remarkable how this has developed in a relatively short span of years. I think that what Japan does next must be measured on the basis of what Japan thinks is best for its own defense and for the commitment of its own obligations under our mutual defense treaty and the nature of our friendship. I see a wide variety of opportunities for Japan and the United States to prosper and go forward in our mutual defense. I see a high level of cooperation and coordination. I see a general willingness, and indeed an enthusiasm for making sure that each knows what the other is about and what the other thinks. If you put all those things together, it suggests that this is if not the best relationship that we have with any nation in the world, among the best relationships that we have with any country in the world. I think that’s improving daily. I think it was mirrored and reflected in the prime minister and the President’s meeting at Crawford, and I think it expresses itself in a thousand ways otherwise.
Q: In terms of cooperation, I understand that you talked about missile defense with the Defense Minister last night. When do you expect Japan to make a decision, and do you see any real obstacles to them not participating in the program?
Wolfowitz: This really is something that has to be their decision. They have much greater interest in the whole area than they did even a few years ago. I think the successful application of missile defense in the recent war in Iraq, and the lives that were saved by our ability to literally shoot the bullet with a bullet, has further reinforced the impetus here to apply some of Japan’s remarkable technology to that problem. Their geography and their situation is different from ours, obviously, so what may be most suitable for them may be different from what’s most suitable for us. Ron Kadish is the head of the Missile Defense Agency and is going to be coming out here, I think this week or later this month -- coming this weekend for next week -- to exchange views particularly on technical data. The head of the Defense Agency last night was very interested in getting more information about technical details so that they can hopefully at least make some decisions in the next budget that’s coming up. We’d obviously be very happy to cooperate with them. We’d also be very happy to give them the support that they may need if there are areas where they want to take the lead, that are different from the areas where we’re taking the lead.
Q: Gentlemen, I have a question for both of you, real quick. Mr. Wolfowitz, you mentioned the other day -- it might have been in Seoul -- you mentioned that the North Koreans are gaining an advantage, a growing advantage in asymmetrical warfare. I assume you’re talking about perhaps missiles, chem-bio, something they could possibly use. How would this apply to Japan? What is Japan most concerned about North Korea? Is it the missile technology? Could you comment about that, Mr. Baker? Because Japan is obviously very concerned.
Wolfowitz: Let me just correct that. I didn’t say anything about whether their asymmetrical advantages were growing or declining. I said they have certain asymmetrical advantages, including the fact of this huge concentration of artillery just north of the demilitarized zone. That’s one of their advantages. We have advantages of ours, and what I was talking about was that instead of playing into their strengths, we need to play into our strengths and play against their weaknesses.
Q: I just thought artillery was more traditional --
Wolfowitz: It goes all the way up. Obviously they are trying, with their missile development, to find an area of weakness for us, and I think it’s one of the reasons why missile defense makes sense, but I’d much rather have our asymmetrical advantages than theirs, if I had to trade.
Q: Thanks, sir. And Mr. Baker, about Japan’s concerns?
Baker: Well, first of all, Japan is aware of the fact that it lives in a very dangerous neighborhood, and that it must take account of that for its own survival and defense. There are a variety of things that presently contributes to their anxiety and concern about stability in the region, and one of them of course is the apparent development of a nuclear capability in North Korea. But you can add to that as well the over-flight of this island by test shots -- what appear to be test shots -- by their missiles. You can add to that the persistence of the North Koreans to abduct Japanese citizens and keep them and refuse to release many of them, and their families. You can add to that the sarin gas attack, which is the most recent significant gas warfare anyplace -- that was not so long ago -- and add to that the fact that Japan understands that it’s a rich nation that lives in a dangerous neighborhood. So you put all that together and it heightens their sense of responsibility to provide for their own defense and to depend -- as they do -- on the United States alliance and friendship to provide protection as well.
I think that coordination between Japan and the United States on defense matters has been extraordinary, and it continues to be. There are big opportunities in the future for both countries to elaborate that still further. The best way to put it is that I think both Japan and the United States have a rational and reasonable expectation that they will be able to contain the threats that are launched against them, but also a reasonable expectation that they must do very important things to prepare for it. We are interdependent, but America also must realize and does realize that Japan, while being interdependent is also a great sovereign nation that deserves a chair on the stage in the disposition of world issues.
Q: If I could ask Mr. Secretary, about the realignment issue, the U.S. defense posture here in Japan: We were told that the discussions will start in the very near future; do you see any specific difficulties to make that proceed forward?
Wolfowitz: I don’t think so. We’ve had such a good process, especially in recent years in looking at our posture here jointly with the Japanese, making appropriate changes, working together to try to relieve the burden on the people of Okinawa of our presence there. But all of it, on the basis that the Ambassador referred to a few minutes ago, of understanding how important this U.S. presence is here for both of our countries. The level of financial support that we get for our facilities here from the Japanese government is extraordinary. A significant portion of that actually goes into mitigating the environmental impact of our facilities on the local population, which is another part of the reason why people still like us. So it’s been very healthy. I suspect there’s room for some modest but useful adjustments. The middle of next week, we’ll be resuming those discussions.
Q: You were personally involved in solving the abductee issue with North Korea and I was wondering if there are any new developments on Charles Robert Jenkins?
Baker: Let me make sure I understood what you said?
Q: That there is one soldier who defected to North Korea in 1965 and later married the Japanese woman who was abducted by North Korean agents.
Baker: You’re talking about Mrs. Soga?
Q: Yes, and the Japanese don’t want, for example, Deputy Cabinet Secretary Mr. Abe to be asking that the American government give this soldier some kind of immunity.
Baker: Well, first of all, Minister Abe is deeply involved and cares very much about the abductee issue and I commend him for that. Second, I have a deep sympathy for the abductees and for their families, especially those family members that are still in North Korea, and that includes Mrs. Soga’s husband. But I believe Mrs. Soga’s husband is classified by American Armed Forces as a deserter, and it would be my expectation that while we have sympathy for him, that the legal process will have to operate within the Department of Defense on a disposition of that issue. I do not know what that is, or what it should be, but none of that diminishes my respect for Mrs. Soga; my sympathy for her plight. I had the opportunity to meet with her just a few days ago and to express that sympathy and understanding of her situation. I was not able to tell her, however, that I was prepared to say that her husband had received immunity or a pardon if he comes to Japan because the legal system has not operated. I do not know how it will operate. I’m certainly not going to try to guess what the result will finally be, but I believe that not only am I sympathetic to all of the abductee families, including Mrs. Soga, but I feel our government, up to and including the President, is as well.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, I have a question about missile defense cooperation. The Japanese government is now considering the purchase of a naval-based air missile system, which could be mounted on an Aegis destroyer, and also the purchase of the new PAC-3 missile system. Do you expect the Japanese to move to the development level or the deployment level?
Baker: Do I expect them to go forward with the acquisition and deployment of these systems?
Baker: That’s of course very much up to Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces and the self-defense establishment in Japan. What they decide to do is Japan’s decision. You asked me what I felt, what I would wish for. I would wish that on missile defense, whether sea-born or land-based, that Japan would bring to bear its extraordinary technical confidence and its resources to participate in the development of an effective missile defense system. I think it’s a unique opportunity for Japan to do something uniquely suited to its talents, abilities and structure. On missile defense in general, I think it is useful to remind ourselves that the world has changed. While artillery tubes can be destructive, for instance by North Korea to Seoul, they are not likely to cause any great danger to Japan. But long-range and medium-range missiles from North Korea are likely to do that, so Japan I’m sure will configure its defense arrangements so it takes account of the threat today, not the threat in the past. That, too, argues in favor of Japanese innovation on new systems, Japanese cooperation with the United States on new systems, and the deployment of systems to be operated, perhaps in conjunction with its friends and allies, including the United States.