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Joint Press Conference with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
October 21, 2009

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  (In Japanese.) 

 

                STAFF: Secretary Gates, please.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Thank you, Mr. Minister.  And let me express to you my thanks for hosting these very productive talks.

 

                Japan and the United States are nearing the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security - a half century of partnership and cooperation based on shared interests and shared values.  It is the cornerstone of our security policy in Asia.

 

                There will be many opportunities over the coming year to celebrate all that we have achieved together.  The true legacy of the last 50 years is the enormous potential we have to strengthen our ties in order to tackle security challenges as an alliance of equals in the 21st century.

 

                Minister Kitazawa and I discussed a range of matters of mutual interests.  I should note that many of these issues will also be on the agenda for the president's visit next month, and I would add -- I passed on to the prime minister and the foreign minister and defense minister how much President Obama is looking forward to coming to Japan next month.

 

                The issues we discussed included the importance of our bilateral realignment road map, its strategic benefits to the U.S., Japan and the region -- (inaudible) -- the importance of moving forward expeditiously on the road map as agreed. 

 

                There are the challenges facing Afghanistan and Pakistan where I expressed my appreciation for all that Japan's self-defense forces have done in that region with regard to refueling and economic reconstruction and security assistance.  We appreciate Japan stepping forward in other areas such as piracy, and the international community will continue to expect Japan to exercise leadership in meeting global security challenges.

 

                There is the possibility of strengthening bilateral coordination on regional disaster response, a priority for both of our governments. 

 

                The minister and I spoke about how to work together as an alliance to achieve our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea.  And we discussed the importance of Japan's host nation support, which the U.S. views as a strategic pillar of the alliance that reflects Japan's commitment to our relationship.

 

                We look forward to working with the new government here in Japan, and I especially look forward to working alongside Minister Kitazawa and building on the legacy of the last 50 years to strengthen and deepen our partnership for the future.

 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  (In Japanese.) 

 

                Q     (In Japanese.) 

 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  (In Japanese.) 

 

                SEC. GATES:  First of all, we are very sympathetic to the desire of the new government in Japan to review the realignment road map.  This was done at the beginning of the administration of President Obama and the United States.  It was done in a timely enough way that Secretary of State Clinton was able to sign the Guam International Agreement in February with the Japanese foreign minister.

 

                Our view is clear.  The Futenma relocation facility is the lynchpin of the realignment road map.  Without the Futenma realignment, the Futenma facility, there will be no relocation to Guam.  And without relocation to Guam, there will be no consolidation of forces and the return of land in Okinawa. 

 

                Our view is this may not be the perfect alternative for anyone, but it is the best alternative for everyone, and it is time to move on. 

 

                We are -- feel strongly that this is a complex agreement, negotiated over a period of many years.  It is interlocking -- (inaudible) – immensely complicated and counterproductive. We have investigated all of the alternatives in great detail and believe that they are both politically untenable and operationally unworkable. 

 

                With respect to a time limit, we have not talked in terms of a time limit, but rather the need to progress as quickly as possible.

 

                And finally, with respect to some modest change in the runway of a few tens of meters or whatever, we regard that as a matter between the government of Okinawa and the people of Okinawa and the government here in Tokyo, and our only caveat would be that it not slow the implementation process.

 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  (In Japanese.)

 

                Q     How about Bloomberg?  Viola? 

 

                Q     Secretary Gates, on Afghanistan, considering some of the concerns that have been raised about a potential rift between the military and the White House because of delays in making a decision on Afghanistan strategy, do you think it's important to make a decision before the November 7th runoff scheduled in Afghanistan?  And have you come to a decision in your own mind about the best way forward?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, first of all, I would just say that these stories may make good reading, but they are not a reflection of reality.  There has been a very close, collaborative effort between our military officers and the civilian side of the government meeting almost on a daily basis, including our commanders in the field as we work our way through the complicated issues associated with the election in Afghanistan and also the more difficult situation that General McChrystal found when he got there.

 

                So these rumors of some kind of a rift, I think, are just not accurate and do not reflect the close working effort between our military and civilians, both in the Department of Defense and with other elements of the government as we try and work our way through this very complicated situation in Afghanistan.

 

                My concerns and the comments that I made yesterday with respect to legitimacy were really about the overall legitimacy of the Afghan government in the eyes of its own people, and it goes well beyond simply having an outcome to the presidential election in Afghanistan.  Clearly, having the runoff, getting that behind us and then moving forward is very important, and I think that having some clarity in that makes a lot of sense because I think it gives us the likelihood of an outcome pretty quickly.  But I think that we need to be realistic that the issues of corruption and governance that we are trying to work with the Afghan government on are not going to be solved simply by the outcome of a presidential election.  This is going to be a work in progress, an evolutionary effort, and we need to be realistic about them.

 

                Q     (In Japanese.) 

 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  (In Japanese.) 

 

                SEC. GATES:  The minister has actually characterized my views quite accurately.  I expressed our appreciation for the replenishment effort and made clear that it made a contribution to a number of nations.  The reality is the United States is not the primary beneficiary of the replenishment effort; others of our partners are, and we'll have to look at alternatives should the replenishing mission end.  But I also, as the minister said, made clear that as far as we're concerned, that's a decision that's up to the government of Japan.  That said, there are robust opportunities for additional kinds of assistance to Afghanistan.  I know that there is interest in economic development and agricultural development, but I would also say that a real need is for financial support for the expansion and sustainment of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and we would only hope that Japan's contribution will be commensurate with its standing as one of the greatest powers in the world.

 

                Q     (In Japanese.)

 

                Q     Dan De Luce, AFP. 

 

                For both of you, given how much has changed in the U.S.-Japanese relationship since the alliance was founded and the new government's desire here to modify or adjust that alliance, what does Japan concretely have in mind at doing to change or alter or improve the alliance?  And then for the U.S. Defense Secretary, what should the role be of the U.S. military here and in the region?  And should that role be scaled back or somehow changed?

 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  (In Japanese.) 

 

                SEC. GATES:  I commented to the minister this morning that one of the biggest changes that I had seen between the time I left the government in 1993 and returning to government in 2006 was the extraordinary improvement in the relationship between the United States and Japan and how much closer the alliance is now than it was even 13 years ago, 15 years ago now.

 

                It seems to me that the primary purpose of our alliance from a military standpoint is to provide for the security of Japan.  This defense umbrella has protected Japan for, now, nearly 50 years.  It allows Japan to have a defense budget, a self-defense force budget of roughly one percent of GDP.  But I think the alliance also represents a shared interest between the United States and Japan in terms of regional security, and the capabilities that we have here in Japan make an important contribution to that regional security in a time, if anything, is becoming more complex with developments in North Korea and elsewhere than in the past.

 

                I would say there are many opportunities to expand the relationship.  We already are doing a great deal together on missile defense as the minister mentioned earlier.  We're talking about how we can expand our military-to-military cooperation and interoperability in areas such as disaster assistance and humanitarian relief where we both have common interests.

 

                I made the comment to the minister in our meeting that in some ways as you look around this part of the world and recent developments in places like Indonesia and the Philippines, the greatest enemy seems to be Mother Nature, and we have the capabilities to deal with the consequences of some of these disasters, working together.

 

                So I think that there's great opportunity to expand this relationship and strengthen it, even as we strengthen our relationships with our countries in the region. 

 

                STAFF:  (In Japanese.) 

 

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