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Joint Press Conference with Secretary Panetta and Japanese Minister of Defense Morimoto from the Pentagon

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Japanese Minister of Defense Satoshi Morimoto
August 03, 2012

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA:  Good afternoon. 

            It's -- it's my privilege to welcome Defense Minister Morimoto to the Pentagon. 

            We've had a very productive discussion on a wide range of issues.  And we have affirmed our commitment to the U.S.-Japan Alliance. 

            This alliance has been the bedrock of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years.  Today, the minister and I spoke about ways to advance and to modernize that alliance, enhancing and deepening our cooperation through joint intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance operations, joint training and shared use of training ranges.           

            Japan's decision to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an important move that will help expand our bilateral cooperation.  It will enhance the ability of our forces to operate together, and it will ensure our dominance of the skies for decades to come. 

            Minister Morimoto and I talked about other areas that are ripe for greater alliance cooperation, including information security and ballistic missile defense. 

            The minister and I also discussed the revised realignment plan outlined in the April 2012 2-plus-2 statement.  This was a major accomplishment for our alliance.

             Both of our nations agree on the need to rapidly implement the terms of this agreement so that we can move forward in realigning force structure in the Asia-Pacific region.  

            A key part of that force posture is the deployment of Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa.  The Osprey is a critical aircraft that is flying operations around the world -- on the frontlines in Afghanistan as well as around communities here in the United States. 

            The Osprey is important to the defense of Japan.  It will enable Marines to fly faster and farther from Okinawa to remote islands in Japan.  And with the ability to refuel in flight, it can stay aloft much longer. 

            This is a one-of-a-kind platform.  It provides the speed, the range, the payload needed to cover the vast distances in the western Pacific, and it will enable us to perform humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, and fulfill our other roles that are critical to the U.S.-Japan Alliance. 

            I've flown the Osprey a number of times, both in Afghanistan as well as in the United States.  In San Diego I flew over Southern California communities out to an amphibious ship and flew from Washington, D.C, to New York and back. 

            Today the minister will have the opportunity to see firsthand the impressive capabilities of this aircraft. 

            As close allies, we will always respect -- always respect -- the concerns and the circumstances on both sides and work together to develop practical solutions that will allow this vital relationship to continue to move forward in the face of challenges. 

            When the government of Japan came to us and expressed safety concerns about the MV-22 deployment, we immediately responded in a deeply respectful, collaborative and a constructive manner. 

            Our hope is to work out a joint way forward in a matter -- in a manner that is befitting this great alliance. 

            On the technical issue of shipping the aircraft, both sides agree to deliver the Ospreys to Japan on time.  But in recognition of the remaining concerns of the Japanese government about the safety of the aircraft, we will refrain from any flight operations of the MV-22 in Japan in the short term. 

            Our agreement is that the results of the investigation into recent mishaps will be presented to the Japanese government and the safety of flight operations will, hopefully, be reconfirmed. 

            The Defense Department anticipates presenting this information to the Japanese government sometime this month. 

            The collaborative manner in which we are working through the issues demonstrates the strength of this alliance.  The importance we place in our relationship with Japan is in many ways one of the keys to our -- expanding our presence in the Pacific. And it is also a reflection of how much we value the trust of Japan and the Japanese people. We have made very clear in our defense strategy that we are re-balancing to the Asia-Pacific region. One of the important keys to our ability to rebalance is the United States-Japan relationship. It is in that spirit that I look forward to a long and productive relationship with Minister Morimoto -- one that reflects the strong bonds of friendship and the shared values that link our countries together. My goal is to further strengthen on of the strongest alliances we have in the Pacific. 

            Thank you. 

            JAPANESE MINISTER OF DEFENSE SATOSHI MORIMOTO (through translator):  I would like to say a few other things, and then I will try to avoid repeating what Secretary Panetta said. 

            We talked about the security issues in the meeting and U.S.-Japan alliance -- reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan alliance continued to be very important, not just bilaterally, but in the region as a whole. 

            And in order to meet rapidly changing the security environment, in order to maintain the stability, we're going to talk about making progress in RMS discussions between Japan and the United States and study the roles to be played by Japan and the United States in the area of defense cooperation. 

            For that, with regards to the defense -- the guideline which has been existence for more than 10 years, so in order to meet the current environment, we are going to start discussion on reviewing this existing guidelines.  So we agree to the idea of reviewing defense guidelines. 

            Next, Japan is moving forward with dynamic defense cooperation.  We are promoting it, and Secretary Panetta mentioned in his remarks the result of agreement made at 2-plus-2 and agreement made at heads of state meeting.  We agree to accelerate the work on this area.           

            In this regard, the establishment of training range in Guam and Northern Mariana and joint exercise in Guam and shared use of the facilities were discussed, and also we talked about the cooperation between Japan and the United States with regard to UAV and also that we agreed to look into further strengthening joint ISR between Japan and the United States. 

            Under the current security environment the -- some of the important items, they include the F-35, information security, and maritime security, and HADR.  So we agreed to further strengthen the cooperative relationship in these areas between Japan and the United States. 

            Well, we are currently toward with realignment, and in this regard, we are currently -- we talked about all the issues related to the Futenma replacement facility issues and the transfer to Guam, and we agreed to continue to make efforts in both sides to realize what was agreed in April during 2-plus-2. 

            With regard to Osprey, the role played by Osprey, and the meaning, what it means to Japan, I think Secretary Panetta already has mentioned that.  

            So from my side, with regard to deployment of Osprey in Okinawa, our -- the group analysis, the group, will get a briefing from the team in United States which is involved in investigation and the United States will give us the report of the investigation with regards to what happened in Florida and Morocco as soon as possible to Japan.  And until that we confirm the safety of it, the United States will refrain from flying Osprey in Iwakuni. 

            Moreover, when the Osprey is operated in Japan the old -- the relevant issues will be discussed in Japan-U.S. joint committee meeting.  And in order to solve these problem, we are actively cooperate and give utmost consideration to ensure the safety of the local population. 

            We covered most of the issues with -- with regard to the short to mid-term, the issues between Japan and the United States, and then we had a very productive the meeting. 

            With regard to Osprey, I had some telephone, the conversations, with Secretary Panetta, and this time actually meeting in person, I think that we are able to build the relationship based on trust.  So I believe that this, the meeting, was very timely and very substantial discussion, and I think there were -- were able to discuss about a lot of important issues, which this very important to set the direction for the future relationship. 

            (CROSSTALK) 

            Q:  ... please and then a question.  Just as a clarification, will the U.S. not fly the Ospreys in Japan until they get some sort of approval from the Japanese government? 

            And then my question is, you just got back from a long series of meetings overseas, including a number of meetings with top officials in Israel, during which time they expressed some rather vehement concerns about the ongoing sanctions and the fact that they don't believe they are working. 

            I'm wondering if you can say whether or not you got any assurances from them in private that -- that there will be either a time or no imminent attack on Iran and whether their comments in public was more public posturing versus what you understood from them in private. 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Okay.  First of all with -- with regards to the Osprey, our agreement is that we have the planes there and that we will not fly them until we've presented the report.  And our hope is that we then would be able to get the approval of Japan to conduct our flight operations. 

            We'll be working closely in order to ensure that we are together in terms of when those operations begin. 

            On the second issue, having just returned from the trip to the Middle East, I had the opportunity to visit a number of countries there.  There are obviously a lot of forces at play in that region.  There -- there are at the same time a number of opportunities that can move us in the right direction. 

            What I saw in Tunisia, what I saw happening in Egypt tells me that these are countries that are trying to move forward with democratic reforms.  

            In Israel, I had the opportunity to have a number of discussions there, and the purpose of our discussions was in large measure to discuss a number of issues that are happening in the region, including Syria, and -- and other issues related to the Sinai, and also to discuss the concerns about Iran. 

            Bottom line is that we have common cause with them with regards to Iran.  Our positions are similar.  We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  

            And we are working with the international community to implement that position, doing it through sanctions, doing it obviously through the efforts to achieve some kind of diplomatic resolution in the P5-plus-1.  

            But we also made very clear that, you know, should those efforts fail and should Iran make the decision to proceed that we have all options on the table, including military options.  

            But our position is that military options ought to be the last resort, not the first resort.  And we've made that clear. 

            I think the result of our conversations are that we understand each other better, that we're going to continue to have lines of communications between our two countries with regards to this issue, and that, look, you know we have -- we have a strong alliance with the country of Israel and we're going to continue to maintain good -- good communications, good relations with them as we confront the common threat coming from Iran. 

            STAFF:  Next question will be from the Japanese press.  Yomiuri. 

            Q (through translator):  I would like to ask Secretary Panetta, within Japan I think there are a lot of concerns raised in Japan with regard to the deployment of Osprey.  What kind of consideration you're going to provide in order to address those concerns?  If you could be very specific I would very much appreciate it. 

            SEC. PANETTA:  You know, again, we are -- we are very aware of the concerns that have been raised by -- by Japan with regards to the issues involving the Osprey. 

            At the same time, we have tremendous confidence in this plane.  We fly it in combat operations.  We fly it around the world.  We fly it here in this country.  And we're tremendously confident that this plane can safely implement its operational mission.  And what we need to do is to make that case to Japan.  

            The specific approach will to be to provide a full report on the investigation regarding the safety of the Osprey and the incidents that took place recently so that hopefully we can assure Japan that this is a safe plane to use and that ultimately we will have the opportunity to be able to put that into operation in Japan. 

            STAFF:  (inaudible) question will be from Agence France Press.

            Q:  Good afternoon sir.

            The United States has repeatedly called for unimpeded commerce and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.  Does China, by establishing a garrison in one of the Paracel Islands, impede commerce and navigation?                                            

            SEC. PANETTA:  One of the -- one of the thing that the -- the minister and I agreed in our discussions is that as we strengthen our -- our presence in the Pacific that it is important for all of the countries in that region to be concerned about issues like navigational rights, maritime security, issues related to -- to humanitarian aid, to disasters, issues related to trying to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, issues related to piracy in that region as well. 

            These are all common cause issues.  And for that reason we think it really makes sense for the countries of that region to come together to be able to advance our common security and our common strategies towards dealing with these challenges.  

            Specifically, with regards to, you know, to disputes that have arisen with the South China Sea, I'm very pleased that ASEAN has developed a code of conduct.  We have to do more to put that in place.  We've got to do more to enforce that.  

            It's clear that -- that we have to deal with these disputes in a peaceful way and resolve these issues peacefully.  The last thing we want is to have direct confrontation in -- in the South China Sea with regards to jurisdictional issues. 

            Those should be resolved peacefully, and they should be resolved pursuant to a code of conduct.  And the United States will do whatever we can to work with Japan and others to ensure that that is the approach we take in dealing with these kinds of issues. 

            STAFF:  Final question will be from NHK. 

            Q (through translator):  (inaudible) the Osprey will be transferred to Futenma in October.  In order to meet date I think that you are trying to prepare the report.  However if the release of report would be delayed, would there be any possibility that the transfer Osprey to Futenma would be delayed also? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Well, we don't anticipate a delay in the report, but I want to assure you, as I've assured the minister, that on this issue we are going to work closely together.  

            I think we both have the same goal in mind.  We have -- we have our presence there.  The Marines have a presence there.  They need a lift capability in order to be effective in that region and to do the operations that they're responsible for. 

            And we are going to do everything we can to work closely with Japan in the effort to provide those V-22s so that they are operational.  But we are going to do it in a way that obviously gets the support and the confirmation of the government of Japan. 

            STAFF:  Thank you all very much (inaudible). 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Thank you.