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Remarks by Secretary Carter and Nakatani at a Joint Press Conference

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Japanese Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani
April 08, 2015

(UNKNOWN) (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We'll now start the joint press conference. First, I'd like to call upon Mr. Nakatani and Dr. Carter to deliver the opening statements -- Minister of Defense Mr. Nakatani first.

JAPANESE MINISTER OF DEFENSE GEN MINISTER NAKATANI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): At this time, on Secretary Carter's first trip to Asia as secretary of defense -- he has visited Japan as his first stop and we're very happy that he has done so and that we're able to greet him here at the Ministry of Defense.

In our meeting, we discussed the defense cooperation guideline, security legislation, space, cyberspace, equipment and science technology cooperation and the U.S. forces realignment.

And we reaffirmed that the Japanese alliance continues to be important for Japan's security and peace and stability of the region. And we agreed to cooperate closely to further strengthen our alliance.

Concerning the guideline, we agreed that we shall work vigorously toward the early conclusion of the review. And through this review work, we shall further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Next for myself, I explained about the situation of the development of the security legislation in Japan. Secretary Carter said he welcomes and supports Japan's such efforts.

Concerning the risk against the stable use of space and cyberspace which has become a common security issue for both nations, Secretary Carter and myself -- we agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of space and cyberspace. And we decided to instruct the officials in charge to study the establishment of a new working group concerning space between the two different agencies.

Next, we discussed the equipment and technology cooperation. And we agreed that we shall develop the F-35 regional depot and other means for a common maintenance infrastructure between Japan and the U.S. So, we will continue to deepen the bilateral equipment and technology cooperation.

Next, about the U.S. forces realignment -- we reaffirmed that the relocation to Schwab is the only solution to avoid the continued use of Futenma Airfield.

So, there have been various measures taken such as relocation to Guam and Osprey training outside of Okinawa Prefecture and return of the West Futenma Housing Area. These are efforts being made to reduce the impact to the Okinawa.

For myself, I requested continued cooperation to ease the hosting burden of Okinawa. And Secretary Carter and I agreed that we shall continue cooperation to ease the hosting burden in Okinawa.

Then concerning the security environment in Asia Pacific, we exchanged views. Concerning the Senkaku Islands, we confirmed the U.S. stance over the islands and we agreed to oppose attempts to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and elsewhere.

And in light of North Korea repeatedly launching ballistic missiles, we see that the regional security situation is becoming more severe and we reaffirm that we shall work closely together between Japan and U.S.

Based on today's achievements, I would like to continue to meet with Secretary Carter in the future in order to build a robust Japan-U.S. alliance. That's all for myself.

(UNKNOWN): Now for a statement from U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Mr. Carter?

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Excuse me. Good morning.

It's great for me to be back here in Japan for my first stop on my first trip to the Asia Pacific as secretary of defense. And I'm looking forward to visiting the Republic of Korea later this week also.

And while I regret missing Washington's cherry blossom bloom because I'm here, I'm glad we can come together and reaffirm the longstanding friendship that those beautiful trees represent.

My visit is the start of a busy month for our alliance, a month as active and as multifaceted as the U.S.-Japan relationship is. We have much to discuss in the lead-up to the two-plus-two meetings in three weeks with Secretary Kerry, Minister Nakatani and Minister Kishida; and then, of course, Prime Minister Abe's warmly anticipated visit to Washington later this week -- this month.

Minister Nakatani and I just had a productive discussion where we reaffirmed the strong alliance between our countries and I reiterated my personal interest in cultivating this alliance as secretary of defense.

I also reaffirmed President Obama's July 2014 commitment to apply our security treaty to all areas under Japanese administration and our continued strong opposition to any unilateral coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administrative control of the Senkaku Islands.

Today, we discussed the next phase of America's ongoing rebalance to the Asia Pacific region. Before traveling to Japan, I spoke with university students and faculty in Arizona about why President Obama's rebalance and the Asia Pacific's future matter to all Americans. As secretary of defense, I am personally committed to overseeing this next phase of our rebalance which will deepen and diversify our engagement in the region.

Everything the Department of Defense is doing as part of these efforts -- our investments in technological breakthroughs, deploying our finest capabilities to the Asia Pacific and realigning our posture in the region -- helps reinforce the close bonds of friendship such as the U.S.-Japan alliance that are the bedrock of our key role in the security of the Asia Pacific.

There are few better examples of that commitment than our two governments work to update our alliance's defense guidelines which hasn't been done since 1997. Much has changed in the past 18 years. We face new threats in new domains with new capabilities.

And as Minister Nakatani and I discussed today and as I will discuss with Prime Minister Abe and others later today, the new guidelines will transform the U.S.-Japan alliance, expanding opportunities for the U.S. armed forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces to cooperate seamlessly.

They detail how our two governments will continue to work together around the world and in new domains such as space and cyberspace as the minister indicated to ensure Japan's peace and security and they will help us respond flexibly to the full scope of challenges we face, both in the Asia Pacific and around the globe.

Japan is already a country that provides support around the world, whether rebuilding Iraq or Afghanistan, supporting efforts to combat health crises like Ebola or providing support to displaced persons from conflicts such as the ongoing conflict with ISIS.

As I told Minister Nakatani, the United States welcomes and supports Japan's efforts to play a more proactive role in contributing to regional peace and security. The opportunity to revise the guidelines while Japan considers its own security legislation has been very beneficial and we understand and respect that the decision on Japan's security legislation, including the right of collective self-defense, is one for the people of Japan.

As part of our rebalance, we are adapting our overall defense posture in the region to meet -- be more broadly distributed, more flexible and more sustainable. As a result, we are committed to being good neighbors, which includes realigning our bases and being cognizant of any negative impacts of our operations on local communities.

We are already seeing progress in both our countries in -- on this important effort. In Japan, the West Futenma Housing Area, 128 acres of land, has just been returned and the KC-130 squadron was transferred from Futenma to Iwakuni last summer.

And in Washington, we secured congressional approval to fully use Japanese funding to construct our strategic hub on Guam, which is a major step forward in relocating several thousand marines from Okinawa to Guam. We appreciate Prime Minister Abe's and the Japanese government continued support for this important effort.

As secretary of defense, I never forget that military strength ultimately rests on the foundation of the economy. That's one reason why the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP is so important for both our countries and probably one of the most important parts of America's rebalance. President Obama and I are committed to passing it and we hope for progress later this spring.

TPP will strengthen the economic power of the United States and many of its allies and partners, including Japan. It will deepen those ties and underscore our lasting commitment to the region and it will help us promote both the interests we share and the rules-based international order that has served Japan, the United States and every Asia Pacific nation for so long.

And one last note -- as many of you know, the legendary Hotel Okura has been for many American government officials our home away from home in Tokyo for many years. I've spent countless evenings in the Okura, including last night, and will always have fond memories of it.

Japan's hospitality will surely remain warm and welcoming as ever in the future. But I, along with many Americans, will miss the Okura. Thank you.

(UNKNOWN) (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Next, I would like to take the questions from the representatives of the media. Because of time constraints, we will take two questions each from Japan and U.S. sides.

Please raise your hand and when you're recognized, please come to the microphone in the front. Please identify yourself -- name and affiliation -- and then please make clear whether you're addressing the question to Minister Nakatani or Secretary Carter or to both the minister and the secretary before asking the question.

Now, first the question from the Japan side -- Fuji Television reporter, please.

Q (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): (inaudible) from Fuji Television. Thank you for this opportunity.

I want to ask the two ministers same question -- so, this review of this guideline, significance and the timing of this review and revision -- now, from U.S. forces sources, we hear that they want the Self-Defense Force to be more involved in the South China Sea. So, this guideline review -- is that going to be predicated on the cooperation between Japan and U.S. in the South China Sea? So, could you also elaborate on the specific areas of cooperation?

(UNKNOWN) (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First Minister Nakatani, please.

MINISTER NAKATANI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Concerning the guideline, the previous review was 1997. It's been already more than 17 years since that time.

And during this time in the areas surrounding Japan, the security situation has become even more severe. And also in cyberspace and outer space, in these new fields there are various issues that we need to respond to.

And also during this time the Self-Defense Forces has been engaged in anti-piracy PKO and international emergency relief. So, the SDF activities have expanded in scope to global activities.

And so, we have this change in the security environment and the expansion of activity and role of the SDFs -- and also there's been the cabinet decision concerning development of the security legislation. Those developments should be reflected in the guideline; that shall strengthen the Japanese alliances (inaudible) and response capabilities. And also, we think that the Japan and U.S. can more broadly contribute to the peace and security of the international society.

Currently between the two countries, we're working on revision of the guideline and we're -- while we recognize the importance of having consistency between the guideline review and development of the security legislation, so based on the development of the security legislation, we further deepening discussions toward the completion of the review of the guideline to be completed in the first half of this year.

Concerning Japan-U.S. cooperation in the South China Sea, the guideline shows this broad framework and direction concerning Japan-U.S. cooperation and roles capabilities. And so, it does not target any specific area, including the South China Sea.

Having said that, last October in the interim report of the guideline review, we state that based on the changing security environment, there could be areas of cooperation such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- ISR. So, concerning this ISR, there should be cooperation.

And in terms of Japan-U.S. cooperation in these specific fields including ISR, we are going to further study in these matters. In terms of the South China Sea, the Self-Defense Force is not conducting the surveillance activities on a persistent basis and we have no concrete plans for doing so.

(UNKNOWN): Secretary Carter?

SEC. CARTER: Well, thank you. First of all, I agree with everything the minister said.

The guidelines give us opportunities to have reflected in this alliance which has been the bedrock of our alliance system in this part of the world and a foundation of security in the entire region -- excuse me -- give us the opportunity to extend its reach into new domains like space and cyber, as the minister indicated, and geographically, and also in terms of the kinds of technology that the United States and Japan cooperate with.

So, I think this is a terrific time in the U.S.-Japan alliance. It is a -- really allows us to open up many new opportunities to strengthen the alliance in areas where that strengthening is needed because the security situation has changed or in areas where we have new opportunities as a consequence of the guidelines.

(UNKNOWN): Great. The first question from the U.S. delegation will come from David Brunnstrom with Reuters.

Q: Thank you very much.

Question, if I can, for Secretary Carter -- can I ask about the plan for exercises in the Philippines this -- this month, which I gather are going to be the biggest in 15 years? Have they been scaled up in the light of Chinese activity in the South China Sea and is this part of the strategic rethink in the light of Chinese assertiveness?

Also, does the United States see moves towards militarization of land reclaimed by China in the South China Sea and what would be the U.S. response to that? And any move by China to declare a new ADIZ in the South China Sea? Many thanks.

SEC. CARTER: OK, first with respect to the Philippines, the -- the United States and the Philippines are also renewing our security cooperation at this time. And that is another dimension of the rebalance in the Asia Pacific that's very welcome to the United States.

Philippines have long been a security partner of ours; we want to deepen that kind of security and I think that the government of the Philippines wants to do the same. That is reflected in the increased activity and intensity of our exercises together.

And the Philippines and the United States have a broad range of interests in the region. You probably know that we have had -- been cooperating in the field of counter-terrorism for some time with the Philippines.

And then the general situation that you raise of stability in this part of the world and making sure that there are no changes in the status quo that are made coercively and that territorial disputes which are longstanding are not militarized -- the United States has long opposed that kind of activity on the part of anyone in the region and the part of -- and any part of the region. And we -- while, we don't, as we frequently say, take a stand in any of those territorial disputes, we take a strong stand against militarization of those disputes.

And the opportunity that that kind of activity creates for tactical circumstances to take on strategic significance -- that's not in anyone's interest in the region. So, we watch it very carefully.

And it's one of the kinds of conduct that's really contrary to everything that our system of alliances stands for, which is the principled pursuit of peaceful interests in this region. That's been the secret that has kept peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region for -- for decades now and has led to the miracle of human prosperity and progress in country after country in Asia and that's the system that the United States stands behind; that's the purpose of the rebalance and that is also the principle of the U.S.-Japan alliance that we're here to strengthen today.

(UNKNOWN) (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you very much. Next question, second question from Japanese side, please.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Another question from myself for both ministers.

Secretary Carter, a question to you -- so, concerning relocation of Futenma, in realizing that, what do you expect of the Japanese government? And concerning this issue, there's this confrontation between Japanese government and Okinawa Prefecture. How do you see that conflict?

Next question to Minister Nakatani -- for the resolution of Futenma issue, what kind of requests are you making to the U.S. side in terms of alleviating the hosting burden?

SEC. CARTER: Well, I'll just say on behalf of the United States, we're grateful for the opportunity -- for the efforts of the government of Japan to help move forward on this topic.

We're trying to do our own part, which involves some of the steps I mentioned like the return of land and the relocation of assets, which takes some of the pressure off of certain locations in Okinawa. And I -- I -- I mentioned also that our Congress has very helpfully taken its own steps to make it possible finally for us to move forward on the project in Guam which will be the location from which many of the Marines currently based in Okinawa will be situated.

So, we're trying to do our part here and we're grateful to the government of Japan for its own efforts.

MINISTER NAKATANI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Concerning the Futenma issue – toward the resolution of the Futenma issue, the Futenma Airfield is surrounded by houses -- it's in the middle of the city. And we should not perpetuate that Futenma -- that's something we must avoid -- avoid. And that is the precondition and I think that's the common understanding between the government and the local community.

Based on that understanding, I had this meeting with Secretary Carter. In terms of relocation to Henoko, in avoiding the continued use of Futenma, we agreed once again that this is the only solution -- the relocation to Henoko.

And in terms of building a replacement facility, we're going to make sure that we take the optimal way to conserve the natural environment in moving forward with this construction work.

And in terms of the importance of alleviating the burden to Okinawa, we reaffirmed the importance of that. And so, there's the move to Guam and Osprey training outside of Prefecture and the return of Nishi-Futenma Housing Area. So, these efforts are being made and we welcome this progress in terms of lessening the burden.

And concerning the easing of the burden to Okinawa, there has been the accident of parts falling from aircraft and also in the low altitude training -- we asked for consideration for the local residents.

And concerning future cooperation from U.S., I -- once -- we once again asked for cooperation and Secretary Carter said that the impact of the presence in Okinawa, the U.S. is committed to alleviating such impact. That's all.

(UNKNOWN): Our final question this morning will come from Felicia Schwartz with the Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION: Secretary Carter, turning to the Middle East, what's your assessment of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen? And also, Deputy Secretary Blinken said in Riyadh on Tuesday that the U.S. is expediting deliveries of munitions and building up intelligence and logistical support.

Can you provide some more detail on what armed munitions you're sending, how many bombs and what specific intelligence are you sharing? And then I have a second part.

SEC. CARTER: OK, well, with respect to the -- the first part, the United States has indicated that we want to support our longstanding partner Saudi Arabia in defending its own borders. And in conducting activities to restore stability in Yemen, we are providing them with intelligence information, surveillance and reconnaissance information to assist them in their operations.

We're providing them with some logistics information and we're providing them, as your question indicates, with some resupply of equipment and munitions. I don't have the specifics here with me -- we can get you some of that.

It happens that I spoke to the Saudi minister of defense just yesterday to discuss these matters. And, you know, at the same time, with respect to Yemen, the United States is supporting the effort to get a political solution there that stops the violence at the same time that we're contributing to the Saudi efforts to protect its own security, which is a longstanding interest of the United States from a longstanding partner of the United States in the region.

QUESTION: So, can you, one, be any more specific about, like, the outlook on the ground? And two, as the Huthis are advancing, there's also reports that AQAP is taking advantage of the situation to expand. Do you believe the current situation in Yemen gives an opening for AQAP and what is the U.S. doing to make sure that it doesn't endanger U.S. national security?

SEC. CARTER: Well, the situation is still and obviously very unsettled. And there are a number of different warring parties, as your question indicates -- the Huthis are one, AQAP is another one that has seized the opportunity of the disorder there and the collapse of the central government.

And of course AQAP is a group that we're very concerned with as the United States because in addition to having other regional ambitions and ambitions within Yemen, we all know that AQAP has the ambition to strike Western targets, including the United States. And that's why we've long conducted counterterrorism operations against AQAP in Yemen.

And I think to get to where I think your question was leading, obviously it's always easier to conduct counterterrorism operations when there is a stable government willing to cooperate in place; that circumstance now obviously doesn't exist in Yemen. That doesn't mean that we don't continue to take steps to protect ourselves; we have to do it in a different way, but we do and we are.

QUESTION: Are you seeing AQAP make gains?

SEC. CARTER: Well, you see them making gains on the ground there as they try to take territory, seize territory and these battle lines, which involve actually several factions of which AQAP is one, Huthis are another; there are tribal factions and so forth. So, we are observing that -- AQAP participating in that kind of fighting.

But just to go back to the -- the -- the central point I think of your question, the terrorism threat to the West, including the United States, from AQAP is a longstanding and serious one. That one we will keep combatting; we obviously will change the way we do that in accordance with the circumstances there.

Obviously we hope that order is restored to Yemen, not only for that reason but because there's a lot of suffering going on in Yemen as these fluid battles and these different groups go back and forth. Thank you.

(UNKNOWN) (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): At this time, we would like to close this joint press conference. The two ministers will leave. Reporters, please remain seated.

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