Joint Press Conference with Secretary Gates and Minister of Defense Ishiba from Tokyo, Japan
MINISTER OF DEFENSE ISHIBA: Thank you very much. Allow me to make some brief remarks. Today we have the pleasure of welcoming Secretary of Defense Gates to our ministry, and we conducted consultation between the ministers for about one hour. This is the first time for me to have the honor of meeting Secretary Gates. But in August, when former Minister Koike visited Washington DC, there was the ministerial meeting of defense between the two countries. So this is the [sic] second time since then. Secretary Gates selected Japan as the last place of visit of his tour in East Asia. I think this epitomizes the fact that the US-Japanese alliance is regarded as the cornerstone for the stability of the region, and therefore I offered my heartfelt welcome to Secretary Gates.
At this meeting today, bearing in mind of the outcome of the Secretary’s Asian visit, we exchanged our views on the regional affairs. Also on the policy front, we not only discussed specific policy challenges, such as resumption of the Maritime Self-Defense Force refueling activity in the Indian Ocean, but also the future orientation of the Japan-US alliance, transformation, which has been developed in a new, post-9/11 security environment. So we were able to discuss the future direction of the transformation of the alliance. In particular, regarding the ballistic missile defense cooperation between the two countries, having confirmed that it was indispensable for the mutual security of Japan and the US, we were able to share our views that we continue to discuss the long-term and strategic perspective on BMD for Japan and the United States. And that was of great significance.
Regarding the realignment of US Forces in Japan, following the roadmap of May 2006, we confirmed to proceed steadily with the issues, such as the relocation and return of MCAS Futenma and the relocation of the Marine Corps in Okinawa to Guam. On the question of the roles, missions, and capabilities, we agreed that it was necessary to further advance these agenda from the perspective of how we can aim at enhancing the capability of the alliance as a whole. Bearing in mind the outcomes of the exchange of views with Secretary Gates today, I think this was a very significant meeting. Secretary Gates?
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE GATES: Thank you Mr. Minister. I want to express my appreciation to you for hosting us today and for productive talks. I'm honored to be the first United States secretary of defense to be hosted by a Japanese minister of defense. The promotion of the Japan Defense Agency to a ministry reflects the strategic importance Japan places on making a positive contribution to international peace and security. Minister Ishiba and I discussed a range of issues reflecting our shared interests and priorities, including alliance transformation and realignment, missile defense, North Korea, and Japan's contributions to the war on terror, including the mission in Afghanistan. The United States and Japan have a complex security agenda, an agenda that is critically important to ensuring that our two militaries are able to achieve our common strategic objectives within the bilateral alliance, regionally, and on a global scale as well. I look forward to working with the minister of defense and other Japan leaders closely as we transform our alliance.
QUESTION: Fujita from NHK. Refueling activity in the Indian Ocean: that is my question. Now the refueling is suspended. What is the impact on the alliance between the two countries? Some people voice that possible concern on this question. I would like to hear the views of the Secretary and the Minister.
MINISTER ISHIBA: First I’d like to respond to your question. The supply activity leads into the Japanese national interest, and it leads into the Japanese responsibility that we have to play in the international community. And from the security between the two countries, it is not directly related with the obligations from the security treaty, but nevertheless it is extremely important from the alliance relationship.
So the more the suspension continues, our posture will be deemed as more negative regarding the war on terrorism. So this is not something that is desirable for our country -- the long suspension period, that is. So as far as the government is concerned, we would like to take a forthcoming attitude concerning the continuation of the supply activity in the war against terrorism. I have explained the approaches to the new law. Going forward on the floor of the Diet, the need for a so-called general law -- it is being debated, and I introduced that sort of topic. We did not have the opportunity to discuss it in great detail. Maybe we don't have to rely upon the special measures law. Maybe we should have the so-called general law, and the point has been indicated from both ruling and opposition parties, and we would like to continue approaching this issue. Thank you.
SECRETARY GATES: We are deeply grateful for Japan's fueling and contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I think it's important to remember that this is not really a bilateral matter between the United States and Japan but rather Japan's contribution to a broad international coalition that is involved in trying to bring freedom and keep freedom in Afghanistan. There are a number of nations that have benefited from the fueling that Japan has contributed directly, and virtually all of the 40-some countries that are involved in the effort in Afghanistan benefit either directly or indirectly. So we are grateful for this international role that Japan has played, and we appreciate the efforts of the government to renew the fueling operation.
QUESTION: Andrew Gray from Reuters News Agency. Question for Secretary Gates. You’ve expressed the desire that Japan continue to take on more security responsibility. Can you give an indication as to what responsibilities you think Japan could play in the future, especially bearing in mind the restrictions imposed by its Constitution? And a question for Minister Ishiba: Do you feel that US policies in recent years, such as the war in Iraq, treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib, have made it more difficult for countries like Japan to support US military operations? Is what we’re seeing with the refueling mission a reflection of that problem? Thank you.
SECRETARY GATES: Well, we are obviously sensitive to Japanese law, but we would like to see Japan play a role on the international stage that befits its role as one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest democracies. There are a number of international peacekeeping and other activities where we believe Japan could play a constructive role. Japan is already one of the principal contributors for economic development and reconstruction in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and so I think that what I have said is basically consistent with what we have believed for quite some time and I think consistent with the views of the Minister and others, in terms of the proper role for Japan internationally.
MINISTER ISHIBA: Regarding the war in Iraq by the United States, how the US is approaching the situation, the question is whether Japan will find it rather difficult to support American policy – I think that was the question? Well, to us, US began its war in Iraq, and we supported US endeavors. The rehabilitation of Iraq after the conflict, our Land Self-Defense Forces supported for the rehabilitation, and the Air Self-Defense Forces are continuing their activity to that end. The weapons of mass destruction could have been possessed by Iraq -- there was a very high degree of probability, and Iraq opposed to a series of UN resolutions -- it is a fact. And also Iraq had certain operations against the Kurdish people. They used a weapon of mass destruction, killing a number of people. Considering these facts, we supported US policy on Iraq. Within the Japanese government, this thought is unchanged.
Now going forward, how can have closer collaboration with the United States, and how can we grasp correct and accurate information? Of course, Secretary Gates has the greatest knowledge about that. In the United States, a multitude of new ideas are coming within the United States. I am aware that Guantanamo was an issue, and lots of problems were raised in the United States, which I am fully aware of. Now United States is our only ally, and the US is in a very difficult situation in this context.
Can we blame just the US, or can we criticize the US only? I don’t think that is the modality of being an alliance country. We will share perspective and recognition, and we will say things that we have to say to the United States, and at the same time -- precisely because the US is in a difficult situation -- as Japan, is there anything that we can do for the US? We will be searching for that, and that is the responsibility which comes with an alliance with the United States. Of course, within Japan there is a variety of views, but as for government, we would like to be in good faith, and we would offer correct explanations to the Japanese people. Through the process of full and thorough discussion, we will decide on the policy to take. I think that is how a democratic nation should be.
QUESTION: Jiji Press, Otsuka. I have a question to Secretary Gates. Nuclear development in Iran: the Bush administration may attack the nuclear facilities. There is a prospect and some people say so. How would you respond to such views? I have a question to Minister Ishiba concerning the United States’ policy on Iran nuclear development: any solution? What kind of solution is there? So these are the two questions to the Secretary and Minister.
SECRETARY GATES: The United States government to try and resolve the Iranian nuclear problem through diplomacy and through economic pressure to try and bring the Iranian government to change its policy: we are focused on this. We have said more than once that while all options are on the table, that any solution other than diplomatic and economic pressure would be a last resort. The reality is, it’s important to maintain the unity of the international community in bringing pressure on the Iranian government to change its policy. We need to remain focused on making sure that the economic sanctions bring the kind of pressure on the Iranians that will lead them to change their approach. So I would say in brief, in response to your question, it is our policy to resolve this problem peacefully and through diplomatic and economic sanctions and pressure on the Iranians.
MINISTER ISHIBA: In today’s meeting, as Secretary Gates just mentioned, the US posture and stance were explained to us. As far as our country, Japan, is concerned, peaceful solution of this issue is something that we desire wholeheartedly, but to that end, we have to exert pressure from various directions. On this fact, the international community has to act in unison. I think that is necessary. So on this question, we are involved. Various countries, including Japan, must have good communications on the question of nuclear proliferation or nuclear development. We should try not to have the fashion of these concerns, and with concerted thoughts, I think we should think of any involvement.
I repeat: On a question of this sort, to the extent possible, we should walk in lock-step, to the extent possible. Of course, various countries have different national interests vis-à-vis Iran, but on the question of nuclear development, nuclear proliferation, we know that we have to prevent the expansion of such problems. So countries must act in unison and play the proper respective roles that they should play. This is the desirable solution, and this is the roadmap for a peaceful solution of this issue. Thank you.
QUESTION: Lolita Baldour with the Associated Press. Mr. Secretary, do you believe that North Korea is continuing to proliferate nuclear technology? And Mr. Minister, did you speak or did you gain any assurances from the Secretary that North Korea will not be taken off the US terror list, or the timing that that will take -- either a year or less? Thank you.
SECRETARY GATES: We have made very clear -- the president has made very clear -- that any attempt by North Korea to proliferate nuclear materials or technology would have serious consequences. We are watching the North Koreans very carefully, and I think that the President’s statement says it all, in terms of our policy.
MINISTER ISHIBA: On this particular issue, Secretary of State Rice as well other important US government officials, have made statements and announcements. Once again, I did not see any need to seek any assurances today from the Secretary. In any event, on this question, both countries must agree, in terms of the recognition and perception; and regarding the priority of various issues, we must share our perception. I think this is of paramount importance.