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Joint Press Conference with Secretary Gates and Minister Kitazawa from Tokyo, Japan

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Japanese Minister of Defense Tosihimi Kitazawa
January 13, 2011

(Note:  Minister Kitazawa’s remarks are provided through an interpreter.) 

                MODERATOR:  We shall now start the joint press conference.  Minister Kitazawa and Secretary Gates will make their respective opening statements.  First Minister Kitazawa will make a statement. 

                 Minister, please. 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  Good day to all of you.  Thank you for coming.  Today I had the pleasure of welcoming Secretary Gates to the Defense Ministry and we just had the Japan-U.S. defense ministers’ meeting.  This is the first time that I meet with Secretary Gates since at the ADMM [ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting] -plus meeting in Hanoi last October.  And this is the fifth meeting that I’ve had with Secretary Gates.  

                And it is extremely meaningful that we are able to have such frequent meetings in view of the difficult regional situation as well as security challenges that we face in this region.  And so I heartily welcome Secretary Gates to Japan.  Having said that, cabinet shuffle it’s reported is pretty soon with regard to Japanese political situation, so I don’t know if I will meet Secretary Gates in the days ahead. 

                 Now, with regard to the defense ministers’ meeting today, we had a very frank exchange of views on the following topics: first with regard to the response to the regional situation, I explained to Secretary Gates my meeting with the ROK [Republic of Korea] defense minister on the 10th of January and we confirmed the importance of Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.  Secretary Gates explained to me the results of his visit to China until yesterday and exchanged views.

                 On the deepening of Japan-U.S. alliance we agreed that we shall accelerate consultations between Japan and the United States on the deepening of Japan-U.S. alliance in the security area and so that we’ll be able to advance a vision for the Japan-U.S. alliance in the 21st century at the time the prime minister visits the United States.

                On the Futenma relocation issue, we confirmed that we shall implement the Japan-U.S. agreement of May last year.  With regard to the relocation of aviation training, we also confirmed that we will engage in – or we confirmed the currently ongoing work in order to add Guam – for relocation after expanding the training and agreed to step up the efforts to finalize.  And also explained the Japanese government efforts with regard to gaining understanding of Okinawa and asked for Secretary Gates’s cooperation to reduce impact and also discussed HNS [host nation support] ballistic missile as well. 

                 And let me conclude by saying that Japan will build on the results of the exchange of views in order to further strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance.

                 GEOFF MORRELL [Pentagon Press Secretary]:  Mr. Secretary?

                 SEC. GATES:  I’d like to thank Minister Kitazawa and the people of Japan for, as usual, their warm hospitality.  This is my fourth [sic - third] visit to Tokyo since becoming U.S. defense secretary and the latest of many trips I’ve taken to Japan in both a public and private capacity since my first visit here more than 30 years ago.  Each time it is a pleasure to be with old allies and meet new friends.

                 This morning I had a very productive series of meetings with Prime Minister Kan, Foreign Minister Maehara and Minister Kitazawa.  We had a full agenda and much to discuss including the appropriate response to North Korea’s continued belligerence and nuclear weapons program, the challenges associated with China’s growing military strength, our collaboration on ballistic missile defense where the U.S. and Japan are jointly developing a new advanced interceptor, opportunities to cooperate in areas such as counter-piracy, peacekeeping, disaster response, humanitarian assistance and other important multinational efforts, to include Afghanistan, where Japan is making a substantial financial contribution.

                 Also, the recently issued Japanese “Defense Program Guidelines,” a forward-thinking document that reaffirms the importance of our alliance, including the U.S. military presence to Japan’s defense. 

                 And finally, the alliance force posture generally, to include our efforts to implement a realignment roadmap.

                 On the last note, we helped move forward with the relocation of U.S. forces in Okinawa in ways that are more appropriate to our strategic posture while reducing the impact on the communities nearby.  In the past year, I’m also pleased, we’ve come to an agreement on host-nation support that will enable the United States to continue deploying our most advanced capabilities in Japan’s defense. 

                 In the months ahead we look forward to Prime Minister Kan’s visit to Washington, when our heads of government will unveil a new alliance vision statement.  It has been about five years since the last vision statement and the world and circumstances in Northeast Asia have evolved a good deal since then, so it is appropriate to update our alliance at this time. 

                 As I will state in my speech at Keio University tomorrow, while issues associated with Okinawa and Futenma have tended to dominate the headlines this past year, the U.S.-Japan defense alliance is broader, deeper and indeed richer than any single issue.  In this, the 51st year of the U.S.-Japan alliance, it is important to remember that ours is an enduring and equal partnership based on interests and values that unite our two peoples. 

                 Thank you.

                 MODERATOR:  I’d like to move on to questions from the floor.  And please move to the close microphone in front.  First, questions from the Japanese press. 

                 Q:  Representing the MOD press club, I’d like to ask a question for both Minister Kitazawa and Secretary Gates.  Minister Kitazawa, you visited the ROK recently, and Secretary Gates, you visited China.  And right after your visits, you had this meeting. 

                 And I wonder what sort of exchange of views you had with regard the Chinese military – (inaudible) – on North Korea situation or the recent East Asian situation.  You have talked about strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and also strengthening Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.  In view of the current situation in the region, what sort of issues do you see in the situation and what’s the response that you’ve discussed?

                 MIN. KITAZAWA:  Let me respond to that question.  As you pointed out, I think it’s the perfect timing.  I just visit ROK.  Secretary Gates just visited China.  And then we had this meeting – bilateral meeting here in Tokyo. 

                 And I first explained the interlocution I had with the Korean counterpart and that there was this wanton act on the part of DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], two incidents last year and I engaged in full exchange of views with the ROK and confirmed that we fully support ROK’s position on this. 

                 For the stability of the Korean Peninsula, Japan, South Korea and Japan-U.S. and South Korea defense cooperation needs to be strapped up.  This would be very important and that’s a point we agreed.

                 With regard to China, we had an explanation from Secretary Gates in a very frank and candid manner, a very easy to understand manner.  And with regard to China, we agree that we need to encourage – the entire international community needs to encourage China to behave in a cooperative manner with the international community as a responsible power.

                 With regard to the remarks I made the day before yesterday, with regard to the amendment of the law regarding the situations around Japan, it is not that we are engaged in concrete discussions of concrete content, but as minister responsible for the defense of a nation, we need to raise the interest in matters of this sort.  And as the one responsible for Japan’s defense, responsible for security, that is a point that is indispensable.  That is what I stated in my lecture the day before yesterday. 

                 As defense minister in charge of defense of Japan, I explained my recognition.  I hope that you’ll understand it that way.

                 SEC. GATES:  Let me just say a word in addition.  Minister Kitazawa has just come back from Korea.  I will go there tomorrow.  If there is a common theme in my visits, it is the common interest of the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and China for there to be stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula.  This requires that the North cease its belligerent behavior and its provocations that have killed innocent victims, both military and civilian, in Korea. 

                 We are supportive of negotiations and engagement between the North and South, but there must be concrete evidence on the part of the North that they are finally serious about these negotiations.  But all four of these countries have a common interest in a peaceful outcome and stability on the Peninsula in each place we have talked about how to pursue that.

                 With respect to China, I talked to the minister as well as the prime minister and foreign minister about the constructive talks that I had in China and that I believe there is the opportunity for further cooperation between the Chinese and U.S. militaries going forward in the context of a much larger positive relationship between the United States and China.

                 At the same time, I explained that the United States will sustain its military presence in Northeast Asia and look to enhance it in Southeast Asia and will firmly defend the principle of freedom of navigation.

                 MR. MORRELL:  A question from our traveling press now.  Dan Deluce of Agence France-Presse.

                 Q:  Defense Minister Kitazawa, your country has moved towards more military cooperation with the United States and South Korea.  But given the Japanese constitution, what can your government really do in the event of a North Korean attack? 

                 And Defense Secretary Gates, you have described a sea change in public attitudes in South Korea due to North Korean provocations.  In the event of another incident, is the United States opposed to South Korea responding with air power or other escalatory steps?

                 MIN. KITAZAWA:  Let me lead off.  We have in Japan Article Nine of the constitution and we have to only maintain exclusively defensive forces.  So we really have built up only our defense capabilities, as I’m sure you’ll understand.

                 Having said that, there are also forces in our neighborhood who might resort to any action.  And the Japan-U.S. alliance, the Japan Security Treaty has had a history of more than half a century.  This, I believe, is extremely important for the defense of Japan in view of the situation around Japan.  And so this landmark here I think it is urgently necessary to further advance our security relationship. 

                 Now, between Japan and ROK we have not really reached a level of military cooperation the day before yesterday.  It is not that we agreed on that sort of thing.  As we advance international cooperation, what we discussed is that it is very important to have an ACSA [Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement] or a cross-servicing agreement and therefore following Japan-U.S. and Japan-Australia ACSA, I suggested that we also have an ACSA with ROK, a friendly country for Japan.  And we came to the understanding on the part of ROK on this point.

                SEC. GATES:  With respect to the question that you asked me, it’s a longstanding principle that every country has the right to protect itself and defend itself against an unprovoked attack.  I think the key on the Korean Peninsula, as I discussed in China and discussed here in Japan, is to prevent another provocation from happening.  We have seen this cycle over and over again and I think the objective that we all have in common is how do we prevent another provocation from taking place?  How do we move the process forward on the peninsula in a way that shows that the North Koreans are serious about engagement, serious about negotiation, and that this is not just a repeat of what we have seen so often in a past after a provocation of trying to reset the clock, if you will, back to where it was before? 

                So I think we need, as I’ve said, a concrete manifestation of North Korean seriousness, but I think the central objective of all involved parties should be to prevent another provocation from taking place in the first place. 

                MODERATOR:  Second question from the Japanese press, please. 

                Q:  I’m – (inaudible) – from Fuji TV.  A question about Futenma relocation.  First, Minister Kitazawa.  A question about measures to reduce impact on Okinawa.  Maybe you’ll confirm the work to relocate aviation to Guam.  I wonder what the conclusion was with regard to the relocation of part of training of F-15 fighters at Kadena to Guam.  And I’d like to ask what timeline is for implementation of specific measures.  And you mentioned you discussed BMD [ballistic missile defense].  What sort of discussion did you have? 

                A question for Secretary Gates, yesterday, Mr. Secretary, you suggested that would delink the common strategic objectives and Futenma relocation.  I wonder how – where you place the Futenma relocation issue in the Japan-U.S. relationship. 

                MIN. KITAZAWA:  Let me lead off on the Futenma relocation issue.  The reduction of burdens on Okinawa, on that question we are considering all sorts of options and negotiating with the U.S.  You referred to the Kadena based F-15 fighter aircraft and relocating part of that training to Guam.  We are engaged in discussions with the United States on this matter and we communicated to the U.S. side Japan’s intent to further advance such discussions. 

                On BMD, on missile defense, I explained the Japanese views on this and that is with regard to transition to production and deployment, we’ll consider that and take necessary measures that the mid-term defense program specifically refers to that point.  And with regard to third-party sales, I also stated that it’s necessary to consider the introduction of mechanisms for consultations regarding the necessity for prior consent. 

                SEC. GATES:  Excuse me.  I heard the – your reference to and statement about my delinking the strategic – the common strategic objectives, but I didn’t get your question.  Could you repeat that, please? 

               Q:  Yesterday, I think you mentioned that you will delink the common strategic objectives that you’re working on with the Japanese side and the issue of Guam, and I wonder where you place the Futenma relocation issue in this context. 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, first of all, as I mentioned in my opening statement, we read a lot about Okinawa and Futenma relocation, but the alliance is broader than this.  And I think what I said in China was that I felt that after – since the last common strategic objectives had been put together in – agreed in 2005, that clearly events in the meantime indicated the importance and the value of updating that document.  And I think that is independent of the Futenma issue. 

                By the same token, the realignment roadmap is important.  We do understand that it is politically a complex matter in Japan and we intend to follow the lead of the Japanese government in working with the people of Okinawa to take their interests and their concerns into account, and that obviously needs to happen. 

                By the same token, I would just underscore the benefits to the people of Okinawa of the realignment roadmap.  Thousands and thousands of United States Marines and their dependents will depart the island.  Significant land and facilities will return to the people of Okinawa.  The U.S. presence will be less visible on the island.  So there are very real benefits to people of Okinawa in this realignment roadmap.  And as I say, we will work with the Japanese government and follow their lead as we work our way through this to make progress. 

                MR. MORRELL:  Final question from Satoshi Ogawa traveling press corps from Yomiuri Shimbun.

                Q:  Secretary, with regard to the European missile defense system, there are plans to implement the U.S.-Japan jointly developed interceptor SM-3 Block 2A.  Besides, the U.S. hoped some Europe countries would buy this interceptor, but Japan’s prior consent is needed to export the missile to Europe.  So my question is, did you ask for the Japan’s consent to Mr. Kitazawa? 

                 And next question is, you mentioned you agreed to accelerate defense posture discussion on the contingency.  So what kind of cooperation do you look to from Japan? 

                 And Mr. Kitazawa, how would you respond to the U.S. request on the contingency cooperation?  Thank you. 

                 SEC. GATES:  First of all, I – we have this joint development program on a very sophisticated interceptor.  It makes economic sense to make it available to others.  And we will be working toward that end with the Japanese government.  Because it’s a joint development program, this is a matter that needs to be agreed between us and we will continue working on that, but I think there is – I think it’s fair to say that the minister acknowledged the economic benefit of being able to make it available, but we understand that there are certain processes that have to be gone through here in Japan before that is possible. 

                 All I’ll say on the second issue is that we’ve agreed that as part of the deepening of our alliance that we need to do more planning together and not just for the defense of Japan, but for regional contingencies.  We need the planning to be realistic and effective and we will pursue it with our counterparts in the ministry of defense. 

                 MIN. KITAZAWA:  On missile defense, let me respond to the question.  As you’re aware, the previous administration with regard to transition to production and deployment, that will be treated as an exception to the three principles on arms exports.  The question is how to transfer that – the system to third parties.  And on this matter, as I mentioned earlier, before the end of the year as a target, we will strive to come up with a conclusion.  That’s what I told the secretary. 

                 MODERATOR:  We’ve already exceeded the scheduled closing time, so with this, we shall conclude the joint press conference.  Please remain seated until the two ministers have left the hall.  Thank you very much for your kind cooperation. 

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