03/16/17 – Press Availability With Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida address reporters after their bilateral meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on March 16, 2017. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
Tokyp, Japan
March 16, 2017

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen of the media, we would like to start the joint press conference by Minister Kishida and Secretary Tillerson. There will be the – first of all would be remarks from the two gentlemen.

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: (Via interpreter) I am delighted to welcome Secretary Tillerson for his first visit to Japan as the guest of the ministry of foreign affairs. Once again, I cordially welcome Mr. Tillerson. His visit to Japan this time is his first visit as Secretary of State to the Asia Pacific, which I have seen as attesting to the importance Secretary attaches on the region, as well as on Japan-U.S. relationship.

The recently held Japan-U.S. summit between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump indicated the basic understanding on which Japan and the United States relationship stand on, as well as the direction forward for our two nations to jointly address the various challenges upon which at the meeting I had just now with Secretary Tillerson we discussed on how we should proceed with concrete cooperation between our countries.

Firstly, on Japan-U.S. security, in the joint statement of our leaders, it is emphasized that the United States will strengthen its presence in the region and Japan will assume larger roles and responsibilities in the alliance. Thus, in order to discuss on specific ways to further strengthen Japan-United States alliance, it was decided to hold the 2+2 meeting, or Security Consultative Committee meeting. At my meeting with Secretary Tillerson, we discussed the agenda topics for the first 2+2 ministerial meeting and we agreed to accelerate the coordination of – or in deciding the timing of the meeting.

On Okinawa, I emphasized the need to reduce impact on Okinawa in a visible manner. We agreed that Japan and the United States will cooperate with each other in this regard. We again confirmed that relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko is the only solution.

Next, we exchanged views on regional developments, including the Korean Peninsula and China. On North Korean question, we shared the position that we absolutely cannot condone nuclear as well as missile development by North Korea. We reaffirmed to work in close coordination amongst Japan, the United States, and ROK to strongly demand North Korea to restrain itself from provocative actions and to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and others. We also discussed on the important role that China can play in this regard. We confirmed the importance of Japan and the United States and Japan, U.S., ROK to work in cooperation.

Furthermore, as the U.S. is proceeding to review on the North Korea policy, I conveyed Japan’s position and we were able to firmly align the policies of our two governments. We confirmed to deepen our collaboration further to formulate consistent position for the two governments going forward vis-a-vis North Korea.

I have also stated on the abduction issue that this is a serious challenge to the sovereignty of Japan as well as to the life and safety of the Japanese people, and this is a top priority issue of the Abe administration. We have confirmed to work closely going forward between our two nations.

And furthermore, I have explained on Japan’s basic position in improving our relationship with China. At the same time, I have stated that we highly value the strong commitment by the United States over the Senkaku Islands. In the leaders’ joint statement, it is stated that United States and Japan will deepen cooperation to safeguard the peace and stability of the East China Sea; that upon this confirmation between myself and Secretary Tillerson, we have discussed on the way forward for our cooperation. We have shared our concern on the situation in the South China Sea and we have confirmed to continue to work closely.

In my meeting with Secretary Tillerson, I believe we were able to be very frank and we were at sync – in sync with each other. In order to make concrete the direction forward for strengthening bilateral relationship, as agreed between our two leaders, it is critical to have close working partnership between myself and Secretary Tillerson. At the working dinner to follow, we would like to deepen our discussion on the regional circumstances, including the economic aspects.

May I now ask Secretary Tillerson to speak?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you very much, Minister Kishida, and good afternoon to all. It truly is a pleasure to be here in Japan, Tokyo, on my first trip into Asia, and as Secretary of State, I think it does underscore the importance of America’s relationship with Japan. And I’m pleased I’ve already had two important meetings and productive discussions with Foreign Minister Kishida – one in Bonn, the other in Washington – and I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Abe later.

These discussions have affirmed the friendship between Japan and the United States is strong and enduring and will continue under the Trump administration. We have deep, deep economic ties and we’ll keep working together to sustain and strengthen a relationship that is fair for both of our countries. We will work with Japan on shared regional and global objectives, including strong security cooperation within the U.S.-Japan alliance; affirming a rules-based approach to maritime governance; and deepening American, Japanese, and South Korean trilateral cooperation in the face of North Korea’s dangerous and unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Our longstanding alliance is devoted to peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Asia Pacific region. While the security environment in this region can be challenging, the United States is committed to strengthening our role, and we welcome an increased Japanese commitment to their roles and responsibilities in our alliance. We affirmed that Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the Senkaku Islands. We oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkakus.

As President Trump and Prime Minister Abe expressed in their February 10th statement, a priority of ours is expanding trilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea. Trilateral cooperation allows our three nations to coordinate actions on major regional and global problems, and more effectively counter the threats posed by North Korea. We intend to continue our coordination in regard to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 2270 and 2231, which imposed robust and comprehensive sanctions on North Korea to inhibit its campaign to develop operational nuclear and missile capabilities. North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea. With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and refrain from any further provocations. The U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan and its other treaty allies through the full range of our military capabilities is unwavering.

Once again, I’m honored to be here, and the United States looks forward to continuing its longstanding partnership with the Japanese people. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Now I would like to open the floor for questions. If you are designated, please come over to the standing microphone and please state your name and affiliation, and please also mention to whom you are asking your question to, and please be succinct in asking the question.

May I first of all ask the reporter from the Japanese side?

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Takigawa from NHK. I have a question to both Minister Kishida and Secretary Tillerson. At the moment, the Trump administration is reviewing on the U.S. policy vis-a-vis North Korea. In your meeting, were you able to discuss that – the direction of the review? What was the position or the thinking as indicated from the U.S. side?

And it is also said that the U.S. may re-designate the North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. So I would like to seek your thoughts on this.

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: (Via interpreter) So let me respond, first of all. As the United States is currently reviewing on the U.S. policy on North Korea, there seems to be a good progress. And today, I have conveyed Japan’s thoughts and position, and we were able to firmly align the policies of our two governments. It was very timely, I believe, and it was also very meaningful and relevant. But because of the nature of this issue, as to the specifics of what we have discussed, I would like to refrain from mentioning them.

Now, as for the re-designation of North Korea as state sponsor of terrorism, you have asked this point as well. This is to do with how the legislations are interpreted and applied inside the United States, so ultimately, this is something to be decided by the U.S. Government. But between myself and Secretary Tillerson, we have agreed that we should keep in close contact.

That is all from me.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Then Secretary, please.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that the diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearization have failed. So we have 20 years of failed approach, and that includes a period in which the United States provided $1.35 billion in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway. That encouragement has been met with further development of nuclear capabilities, more missile launches, including those of the recent February 11th and March the 5th. In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. The purpose of – part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach.

Foreign Minister Kishida and I had a very open and candid discussion around a different approach. We’ll have further discussions with Prime Minister Abe. I will have further discussions in Seoul, and ultimately, in Beijing as well.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. May I now invite a reporter from the U.S. side to ask a question? If you have a question, please raise your hand.


QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson, today the White House is revealing its blueprint for the federal budget that will include deep cuts to your department. Do you support efforts to make such drastic cuts to diplomacy and development funding at this time? And are you confident that you will be able to continue to represent U.S. interests with such reduced room to maneuver?

And Minister Kishida, could I ask you about North Korea? How immediate is the threat posed by North Korea to Japan? Do you assess that North Korea has the capability to strike Japan with a nuclear weapon? Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Secretary Tillerson, please.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think in terms of the proposed budget that has been put forth by President Trump, it’s important from the State Department perspective, I think, a little context, to recognize that the State Department is coming off of an historically high level of budgetary resources in the 2017 budget, and this is reflective of a number of decisions that have been taken over the past few years, in part driven by the level of conflicts that the U.S. has been engaged in around the world as well as disaster assistance that’s been needed.

I think clearly, the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past – and particularly in this past year – is simply not sustainable. So on a go-forward basis, what the President is asking the State Department to do is, I think, reflective of a couple of expectations. One is that as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in; and second, that as we become more effective in our aid programs, that we will also be attracting resources from other countries, allies, and other sources as well to contribute in our development aid and our disaster assistance.

I think as I look at our ability to meet the mission of the State Department, I am quite confident. The men and women in the State Department are there for one reason. They’re not there for the glory. They’re not there for the money, obviously. They’re there because they’re extraordinarily dedicated to the mission and dedicated to ensuring America’s national security, economic security. We are going to be undertaking a very comprehensive examination of how programs are executed, a very comprehensive examination of how we are structured, and I’m confident that with the input of the men and women of the State Department, we are going to construct a way forward that allows us to be much more effective, much more efficient, and be able to do a lot with fewer dollars.

So it’s challenging. We understand the challenge. I take the challenge that the President has given us on willingly and with great expectation that with everyone in the State Department’s assistance, we’re going to deliver a much better result for the American people in the future.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, then. Minister Kishida, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: (Via interpreter) To me, there was a question on how we regard the threat from North Korea. Now, first of all, for all repeated provocations from North Korea for Japan and U.S. as well as for the region and for the international community, this is the clear challenge to us. So we can never, ever condone such provocations. And last year, twice North Korea has conducted nuclear experiments and more than 20 ballistic missiles have been launched. And in various ways, there has been – the progress has been seen on technology front in North Korea.

So those provocations from North Korea have come to a new stage, higher stage of threat. That is the recognition of the Government of Japan. So going forward, I hope that we can closely work with the United States and other relevant countries so that to North Korea, we should strongly ask for self-restraint on provocations and to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions and others. And for us ourselves to protect the lives and livelihood of the Japanese people, we have enhanced the surveillance and alert, the activities, and we are making every effort possible to try to prepare for any eventuality. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. And once again, I would like to accept a question from the Japanese side.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Sugimoto from Sankei Shimbun newspaper. I have questions for both Minister and Secretary. Now, at the end of – two years ago, between Japan and ROK, there was an agreement between Japan and ROK on conflict women issue. And as both of you have mentioned, that Japan, U.S. and ROK needs to closely work with each other, but with the conflict women issue still being at the present, the Japan-ROK relationship is not that good right now. So how have you asked the understanding of the United States on the Japan-ROK agreement? How will you be further developing the relationship with Korea?

My question to Secretary Tillerson: In that the previous Obama government has given support to the Japan-ROK agreement, so what is the position of the Trump administration on the Japan-ROK agreement?

Now, I understand that, Secretary, you will be visiting ROK as well and you will have a meeting with the Korean foreign minister. In implementing the Japan-Korean agreement, do you have any thoughts to actively play a role in this regard?

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: (Via interpreter) So allow me to first respond to the question. Now, at my meeting with Secretary Tillerson earlier, from my part, considering the very difficult environment in the region, it is indispensable to have close partnership amongst Japan, U.S., and ROK. And it is – I have also emphasized again the importance of implementing Japan-ROK agreement, which is the foundation for cooperation between Japan and Korea, as well as amongst Japan, U.S., and ROK. And Secretary Tillerson has also confirmed with me that the United States supports the Japan-ROK agreement.

The Japan-ROK agreement has won high acclaim from the international community and Japan and Korea both needs to implement the agreement in a responsible manner, and this is something important. And in implementing the agreement is the responsibility for both Japan and ROK, a responsibility to the international community.

Now, for the current administration of the ROK and to the new administration which will be born after the presidential election, Japan will patiently and persistently make approach to ask for steadfast implementation of our agreement. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Secretary, please.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I appreciate how painful dealing with such historic issues are for both sides and the U.S. maintains its support, though, of the agreement that has been reached between Japan and the ROK to address the issue. We encourage both sides to approach that agreement in earnest and sincere efforts to bring this to a conclusion. It is important to the trilateral relationship between the U.S., Japan, and the ROK that we maintain a strong alliance in which there is no space between us, particularly as it comes to dealing with the threats of the DPRK. So we are supportive and we are hopeful that the parties can come to a rapid conclusion on the agreement.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. So this will be the last question, from the U.S. side. Please.

QUESTION: Adriana Diaz, CBS News. Secretary, how will you get China on the same page as the U.S. to defuse the threat from North Korea? And in terms of specifics, what is the new approach you envision to get North Korea to change course?

And Foreign Minister, influential lawmakers here are pushing for Japan to develop the capability to launch a preemptive strike. Is that something the government is considering?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, as to China’s support towards encouraging North Korea to give up on its nuclear program, we do believe they have a very important role to play. China is a major source of economic trade and activity with North Korea. China has long stated their policy that they too want a denuclearized North Korea. China has voted in favor of the UN Resolutions 2230 and 2221, so we look to China to fulfill its obligations and fully implement the sanctions called for in the UN resolutions. We will be having discussions with China as to further actions we believe they might consider taking that would be helpful to bringing North Korea to a different attitude about its future need for nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: And in terms of (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. Then, Foreign Minister Kishida.

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: (Via interpreter) I was not able to fully understand the last part of your question. Now, on China and vis-a-vis the North Korean issue in trying to bring solution, the role to be played by China is critical. We also agree with this. Now, because China is the chair of the Six-Party Talks and also the permanent seated member of the United Nations Security Council and China comprises 90 percent of the trade of North Korea, so we believe that the role to be played by China is indeed very important. So working together with the United States, we would like to approach China to play a more constructive role. That is what I think.

Now, I was not able to fully appreciate the latter part of your question, so I have just responded on China.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, and this is the end of the joint press conference, and please be seated until Foreign Minister Kishida and Secretary Tillerson leaves this hall. Thank you for your cooperation.