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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Joint Press Conference With Japanese Minister of Defense Hamada Yasukazu in Tokyo

STAFF: We will now begin the joint press conference. First, we will have opening remark from Minister Hamada. 

DEFENSE MINISTER HAMADA YASUKAZU (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First, I would like to express my deep appreciation for Secretary Austin and everyone involved in allowing this meeting to happen. It was a pleasure for me to have a discussion with Secretary Austin face-to-face in such a short span, since we met in the 2+2 and defense ministerial meeting in January. We had a -- we have concluded a very productive and significant meeting.

In today's meeting, we discussed the security situation surrounding Japan-U.S. alliance, including North Korea's launch yesterday, Russia's aggression against Ukraine, as well as various challenges regarding China. We confirmed that unilateral changes to the status quo cannot be tolerated, and that Japan and the United States will cooperate more than ever in this regard.

In addition, based on the severe and complex security environment, we confirmed the importance to deepen cooperation not only between Japan and the United States, but also with Republic of Korea, Australia and ASEAN countries. Next, we discussed efforts to strengthening Japan-U.S. alliance capabilities to deter and respond, as confirmed in the 2+2 in January. We welcomed the progress of the discussion on roles, missions and capabilities of the alliance, including the effective operation of counterstrike capabilities.

In addition, I stated that it is important to discuss candidly so that extended deterrence, including nuclear capabilities, remains credible and resilient, and Secretary Austin agreed with my views. In addition, we confirmed that the United States MQ-9s, which are temporarily deployed to MSDF Kanoya Airbase, and the Bilateral Information Analysis Cell, or BIAC, play a significant role in strengthening intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the alliance.

Regarding defense equipment and technology corporation, we confirmed to deepen cooperation and to advance the discussions in unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as the possibility of joint development in the future interceptor against counter-hypersonic technology. 

Today, we were able to have a frank discussion on specific efforts to steadily implement the outcome of meetings in January. Based on the discussion, I would like to continue to work Secretary Austin to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

MIN. HAMADA: Thank you.

STAFF: Secretary Austin, now the floor is yours.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, good morning, everyone. Let me start by thanking Minister Hamada for hosting me today. It truly is great to be back in Tokyo at a time of historic momentum in the U.S.-Japan alliance.

And I'm especially grateful to have the opportunity to visit with servicemembers from both of our countries who stand shoulder-to-shoulder to uphold our alliance and to strengthen regional peace and stability. Our militaries are operating and training together like never before to maintain peace, deter aggression and respond to crises.

Now, this is a consequential time for our alliance. We are deeply concerned by the PRC's coercive behavior and its attempts to undermine the rules-based international order. And meanwhile, Russia continues to wage its cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine. We appreciate Japan's assistance to Ukraine and your leadership in opposing any attempts to change the status quo by force.

And North Korea's dangerous and destabilizing nuclear and missile programs threaten peace and stability in the region and violate international law. We stand with our Japanese and ROK allies in the face of North Korea's continued provocations, including yesterday's claimed space launch, and the United States will take all necessary measures to secure -- to ensure the security of our homeland and the defense of our allies.

As we face these chair -- shared challenges, I am here to reaffirm America's unwavering commitment to Japan. This includes extended deterrence provided by the full range of U.S. conventional and nuclear capabilities. Together, we will ensure that our alliance remains a cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

So I strongly support Japan's updated national security policies, including your decision to increase defense spending and to acquire counter-strike capabilities, and I am proud of our historic decision announced in January to update U.S. force posture in Japan by forward stationing more versatile, mobile and resilient capabilities, and that includes the Marine Littoral Regiment, the most advanced formation in the U.S. Marine Corps.

We continue to strengthen our interoperability through training and exercises. We're strengthening our information sharing through new bilateral mechanisms and we're working together on advanced technologies, including hypersonics, autonomous systems for teaming with fighter jets and advanced air defense systems, and we're increasing cooperation between our defense supply chains and building critical ties between our defense industrial bases.

I'm also encouraged by the important work that we're doing with our likeminded allies and partners, including Australia, the Republic of Korea, India and the Philippines, and I look forward to deepening our multilateral security cooperation during our upcoming meetings in Singapore.

So here's the bottom line -- the United States and Japan have made impressive progress together and I am confident that our alliance will grow even stronger as we keep building on this momentum. 

And Minister Hamada, thank you again for hosting us today. I am grateful, truly. grateful, for your friendship and your personal commitment to the alliance between our two proud democracies

STAFF (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Next, we will move on to the representative questions. In the interest of time, we will have one question for Japan and the United States each. First, we will have one question from the Japanese side.

Q (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): My name is (Amaro ?) from (inaudible). I have a question to Minister Hamada. As both secretaries mentioned in the beginning of the meeting, North Korea forced to launch a ballistic missile, which is a violation of the UN Security Resolution. So I would like to ask what kind of discussions you had of the security situation surrounding Japan, including yesterday's launch by the North Korea? I would like to ask what kind of discussions you had specifically.

MIN. HAMADA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In today's meeting, we shared both sides' recognition of North Korea's nuclear and missile issues, including yesterday's launch. 

And we confirmed to further work closely between Japan and the United States and Japan-United States and Republic of Korea, so that we could rapidly and -- act in a concerted manner against North Korea's provocative actions.

In addition, in response to challenges on China, we concurred to continue to closely cooperate between Japan and the United States and we also confirmed the importance of keeping a frank dialogue with China.

In addition, we reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and concurred on encouraging the peaceful resolution of the cross-strait issues.

STAFF (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Now we would like to move on to the U.S. side.

STAFF: A question from the U.S. side, we'll go to Mr. Peter Martin, Bloomberg News.

Q: Thanks very much for doing this. For Secretary Austin, I have two questions. First, how helpful would it be if Ukraine -- if Tokyo reconsidered its position on providing lethal aid to Ukraine, especially in the light of the fact that it's in the process of decommissioning a number of multiple launch -- of multiple rocket launches?

And second, what's your reaction to the Chinese Defense Minister declining to meet with you at Shangri-La? How do you minimize the risks associated with misunderstandings or accidents without working mil-mil channels?

And then just finally if I may, for Minister Hamada, why does Japan need Tomahawk counter-strike capability now? And could Japan employ that capability against China without U.S. approval or assistance?

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Peter. First, regarding your question on possible benefit that Ukraine would realize if Japan changed its policies, let me up front thank Japan for the tremendous support that it has provided to Ukraine already in terms of humanitarian assistance and other things. 

I want to also thank the minister for participating in every meeting of our Ukraine Defense Contact Group that gets together on a monthly basis, and his presence there -- you know, the Japanese presence there sends a strong signal to the world in terms of, you know, what Japan and what Japan's leadership is all about. 

Certainly, Peter, if you know, changing their policies, that's a decision to be made by national leadership, but any bit of support that Ukraine can get, additional bit of support, is always welcome. So -- but again, I would defer to Minister Hamada to answer specifics on that.

The second question that you asked was regarding declining -- the Chinese declining to meet with me, the minister of defense declining to meet with me. I think that's unfortunate, but we're going to continue to do what we are doing in this region and others, and that is to work with like-minded countries who share common values and common goals to continue to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. And again, you've heard me talk a number of times about the importance of countries with -- large -- with significant capabilities being able to talk to each other so you can -- you can manage crises and -- prevent things from spiraling out of control unnecessarily. 

And as we take a look at some of the things that China is doing in the international airspace in the region and the international waterways, you know, the provocative intercepts of our aircraft and also our allies' aircraft, that's very concerning, and we would hope that they would alter their actions. But since they haven't yet, I'm concerned about, at some point, having an incident that could very, very quickly spiral out of control.

But again, I would welcome any opportunity to engage with leadership. I think defense departments should be talking to each other on a routine basis, or should have open channels for communication, so...

Minister Hamada?

MIN. HAMADA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And as for your question on why we need Tomahawks, if you look at the current security environment, the missile technologies has been advancing and increased in their complexity, so at this moment, Japanese do not have a capability to counterstrike. So we believe that by having such counterstrike, we can increase our deterrence and as stated in the three strategic documents, we have made a decision to possess counterstrike at the minimum level to be prepared with all kinds of situations. And rather than focusing how we use it, we, by possessing counterstrike, we believe that we can show deterrence that it -- if Japan is under attack, then it will be met with response.

STAFF (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Now, we will conclude the joint press conference. Please remain in your seat while -- until the -- both ministers exit.