Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto After Their Meeting

Tokyo, Japan–(ENEWSPF)–April 17, 2011.  

PARTICIPANT: (Via translator) Secretary Clinton and Minister Matsumoto would like to begin this press conference. First Minister Matsumoto will say a few words.

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via translator) Once again, I would like to say how grateful I am to Secretary Clinton for her visit to Japan. As we had a great earthquake already, Secretary Clinton and I had two teleconferences, as well as other talks in Paris, where Secretary Clinton gave us words for well wishes, support, and solidarity. And, once again, in today’s meeting for Japan’s cooperation she gave us again words for support, and I am very encouraged.

We had the great earthquake and tremendous support has been given to us already. We have had support of the U.S. forces, as you are all aware, and also from the U.S. President, Secretary, and many other U.S. citizens, including very small children have given us words of encouragement and support. Also, the donations, the goods in kind, dispatch of experts concerning the nuclear power stations, we have had great support from the Americans. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Americans, particularly the State Department has given us around-the-clock support at the U.S. embassy here in Tokyo. They put in place a special arrangement whereby they provided us with great support, and that has been a great encouragement for us. Once again, I express my appreciation. I would like to express my appreciation to the American side.

Now we have to step up our efforts to deal with the nuclear accident. Certainly we have to (inaudible). And, of course, I would like to disclose the information about the situation, as we should, to the international community. Also, in the international community the nuclear safety has been (inaudible) and improved. This is going to be a very important challenge for all of us — (inaudible), as well. Japan and the United States would like to cooperate with each other.

The U.S. made a proposal for a post-disaster reconstruction, including the private sector, Japan, and U.S. move ahead with the partnership. We had an agreement on this. And (inaudible) ownership, Japan will formulate its reconstruction plan. And, based upon the plan, the — we would like to have cooperation from the U.S. and other countries in the world, so that we can proceed rapidly in the direction of reconstruction. In the process of reconstruction, we would like to welcome support, advice, and (inaudible) from the U.S. side. We have with us President Donohue of U.S. Chamber (inaudible) the Japanese (inaudible), along with Secretary Clinton. The two top people of the business communities had an opportunity to have a conversation with us. We welcome (inaudible) and that the government would like to certainly (inaudible) their efforts.

And as for the public-private partnership, we would like to consult with each other, and we would like to start with whatever we can deal with immediately. And President Donohue said Japan and the United States have a very unique relationship in the economic field. And to show that we have a very robust economy, it is very important for not just Japan, but for the rest of the world, as well. We — I welcome the effort, and I have been greatly encouraged by his word.

And going forward, as we move ahead with the reconstruction, we have just announced this — Japan’s partnership. And just the other day the U.S. side also said that it would relax the restrictions on travel to Japan. And these are very positive steps, and I believe these are steps that would promote the reconstruction of Japan.

Secretary Clinton said that a friend is someone who really helps a friend in adversity. She gave us very warm, cordial words.

In the rescue and relief operations we had a lot of cooperation with each other, and many Japanese people and the heart of the Japanese people and the heart of the American citizens, I think, are met in this process. And so, as we deepen our cooperative relationship between the government and also the citizens, and as we see a very strong, robust growth in the business arena as well, I think I am convinced that we will be able to achieve reconstruction. And with this determination, I would like to conclude my message to you. Thank you. Thank you very much. I would like to invite Secretary Clinton to say a few words, please.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be back in Japan. I wish to convey in person to the Japanese people my country’s admiration for your strength in the face of this multi-dimensional crisis of unprecedented scope. We pledge once again our steadfast support for you and for your future recovery. We are very confident that Japan will demonstrate the resilience that we have seen during this crisis in the months ahead as you resume the very strong position that you hold in the world today.

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet again with the foreign minister. As he said, we have been in touch by telephone and had an opportunity to meet in Paris shortly after he took office, and shortly after the earthquake and tsunami hit.

President Obama has reached out to Japan on behalf of our country. We both were very touched by our visits to the embassy in Washington to leave a personal note for the Japanese people in the condolence book there. And officials across both of our governments have been in constant contact to coordinate our relief efforts. The alliance between Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of peace, progress, and prosperity in East Asia. For 50 years, it has been sustained not only by the actions of our governments, but by the allegiance of our people. This alliance lives in our hearts.

And so, when we in the United States saw Japan struck by such a catastrophe, and realized the magnitude of what you were facing, we responded not simply as allies and partners, but in a deeper sense, as friends. The people of the United States could not stand by as the people of Japan suffered. At the U.S. embassy and at our consulates in Japan, our diplomats and disaster experts, have worked around the clock with their partners in your government and in the self-defense forces. Many U.S. officers stationed in other countries who once lived here in Japan volunteered to come back from as far away as Nigeria and Canada, because this country means a great deal to many Americans. And they wanted to be here to help. This is what friends do in times of need.

We were fortunate to have dedicated leaders in our governments and in both of our embassies. Ambassador Roos led our efforts here in Japan, and Ambassador Fujisaki led Japan’s efforts in America. I want to thank both of them.

Our nuclear experts from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy have supported the heroic Japanese responders working to end the emergency at Fukushima. And the U.S. military has provided many forms of assistance as part of Operation Tomodachi — in English that means “Operation Friend”. To cite just one example that the minister and I were discussing, Sendai Airport was engulfed by the tsunami. Its buildings were uprooted, its runways covered with tons of debris. For the past month, U.S. airmen, soldiers, and Marines have worked with their Japanese partners to clear away the devastation and to repair the landing strips. This week, earlier than anyone had predicted, Sendai Airport reopened to commercial flights.

Examples such as this of collaboration illustrate a broader point. When the earthquake and tsunami occurred, the response of the United States was all hands on deck. That sentiment still continues, and will continue, because the well-being of the Japanese people is a bedrock priority of the United States. You are our partners and our friends.

It is also a truism in international relations that when hardship strikes anywhere else in the world, Japan is there. After the Indian Ocean tsunami, after the Hurricane Katrina, after the earthquake in Haiti, Japan sent aid and often aid workers. In places unsettled by conflict, from Somalia to the Golan Heights, Japan sends peace keepers. To help Pakistan meet its security and economic challenges, Japan organized a donor’s conference, and pledged $1 billion itself. Japan is one of the world’s (interruption to audio) are honoring Japan’s legacy of caring for others.

So, I come with a message from the people of the United States, a message of solidarity and shared hope. Together we are looking to the future. So many U.S. companies and citizens expressed their desire to help. So our two governments, as the minister said, have agreed to create a public-private partnership for reconstruction. We wish to enhance cooperation between Japan and American businesses, between civil society groups, public officials, under the guidance of the Government of Japan, with its planning.

Here with me today are Tom Donohue, a leader in the American business community, and president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Tom Nides, my deputy secretary of state, who had a distinguished career in business before joining the State Department. I asked them to come to Japan to begin a conversation with your government and business leaders. Their presence here is a reflection of the American business community’s full faith in Japan’s economic recovery.

Let me close by saying again that the hopes and prayers of the American people are with the people of Japan, today and always. The stories we have heard of the courage of the Japanese people, the selflessness shown toward each other, the devotion shown toward their nation, have moved and inspired us.

Last week in Washington the National Cathedral convened a prayer service for Japan. It brought together people from many faiths — Buddhist, Shinto, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian — who prayed together for healing for Japanese families and a swift recovery for the nation. One speaker was your ambassador to Washington. He said that, “The way ahead is rough, steep, and long. But we can find encouragement in the resilience and civility of the Japanese people,” and in the support shown for you from around the world.

We will hold a prayer for Japan in our hearts, as we walk that long way ahead toward a strong and bright future for this great nation. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via translator) Now, as I mentioned and also Secretary mentioned, including public and private sectors, we now have — we would like to promote Japan-U.S. partnership, and we came to an agreement on this. So I would like to report to you about that. We have with us Mr. Yonekura of (inaudible), and also the president, Donohue, of U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These gentlemen are with us, so I would like to introduce these two gentlemen to you, and also would like to invite them to say a few words. So, please, gentlemen.

MR. DONOHUE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, and good afternoon, everyone, Mr. Minister, Mr. Chairman, ambassadors, and ladies and gentlemen. We applaud Secretary Clinton for bringing together the U.S. government, American business, and our national civic groups to demonstrate our solidarity with our friends, our economic partners, and the people and businesses of Japan.

During our visit, we have heard directly from our Japanese colleagues in the business community and American-based executives here about the economy, the recovery efforts, and the challenges ahead. We have been impressed by what we have heard. The Japanese people and their businesses are working hard to keep this important economy online and on track. Their strength and perseverance in the face of such hardship underscores our admiration for their resilience and their courage.

If anyone needed to be reminded of the pivotal leadership role Japan plays in the worldwide economy and the global supply chain, they have gotten it. It is in the interest of the American business community to see that the Japanese economic engine is running at peak performance as quickly as possible. And we stand ready to work with our Japanese friends to accelerate the recovery and strengthen their economy.

We intend to go back to the United States and tell our Chamber members and the American business community that Japan is working hard to recover, that it will recover, that it is on track. We will tell them that the people and businesses of Japan have acted in an extraordinary fashion to help and support each other, that Japan is open for business, and that American companies have every reason to stay fully engaged in this important economy. Economy, jobs, and keeping people’s livelihoods intact are important. Foremost in our minds is the tremendous suffering and loss here. We are deeply sorry about it. The bottom line is this. We stand with Japan. We hold our great friendship and affection for her people. We are committed to her recovery.

And let us not forget, as we end, Japan has a long history of overcoming devastating natural disasters and beating long odds. They will do so again. They will emerge, in my judgment, even stronger. And it will happen more quickly than anyone thinks.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we look forward to coming back again very soon to help with this important mission. Thank you very much.

MR. YONEKURA: (Via translator) Thank you very much. Mr. Yonekura. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is an unprecedented earthquake and disaster. And on this occasion, many American people, as was mentioned by the foreign minister earlier on, gave us a word of encouragement and support and best wishes. And we have received a lot of support from them. And this time, Secretary Clinton, along with President Donohue of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have come here to tell us that they are ready to support for reconstruction.

The U.S. relationship, friendship, how deep it is, how strong the alliance is — once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. (Inaudible) immediately after the earthquake on March 14th, we established a headquarters to deal with the great earthquake, headed by myself. And member companies have given us the donations and also goods in kind. And we received at a very, very rapid pace that surprised us all, such support. At this moment the donation and goods in kind, in terms of monetary, exceeded 60 billion yen. Such support has been extended to us.

We would like to bring the money and the goods to the affected people as quickly as we can. We are doing our level best, in cooperation with the self-defense forces, where we are dealing with the logistic efforts, and also in four (inaudible) we have established (inaudible) between these (inaudible) and us, as we embark upon these activities.

And also on March 24th we established a special committee on post-earthquake reconstruction, which I chair. And for early reconstruction various measures need to be taken. And we are going to make recommendations to the government. And also would like to do whatever we can.

At the same time, whatever we can on the part of the business community will be done quickly by ourselves. We have already started this effort. At (inaudible) through these activities, we, as the business community of Japan, will engage in activities for swift reconstruction. First, with respect to the cooperative effort between Japan and the United States that has been proposed, in whatever affairs where cooperation is possible, we would like to consult with them and would like to initiate our efforts through this means, as well. Going forward, we would like to work out the details with the U.S. business community. I would like to have your support.

So, that is all I have to say. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. At this moment we would like to have commemorative picture taken. So I would like to ask the four people to stand on the platform, stage.

Thank you very much. President Donohue, Mr. Yonekura, please go back to your seats. Now, next I would like to entertain questions from the floor. At the beginning, from the Japanese press. Are there any questions from the Japanese press first, please?

QUESTION: (Via translator) (Inaudible) to Minister Matsumoto and Secretary Clinton I would like to ask a question. Now, in these talks toward the reconstruction after the earthquake, you came to an agreement to establish a partnership between the two countries. When it comes to the support from the U.S. and (inaudible), what is it and what is the schedule for this?

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via translator) As you know, Japan is now formulating a blueprint for recovery and reconstruction. And based on this, we would like to have cooperation from the U.S. and other countries in the world. This partnership is to have a cooperation from the Japanese and U.S. economic organizations, firms, think tanks, and NGOs. We would like to have a broad cooperation from the private sector with the government’s involvement. That is the aim of this partnership.

With respect to specifically how to proceed, we would like to have a (inaudible) companies. We would like to start with whatever we can.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I agree with the minister’s description. We are going to be looking to the Japanese Government and its plans for recovery and, through our consultation, determine how best to utilize our assistance in an appropriate way. And this public-private partnership will be one of the ways that we offer whatever help we can, going forward.

MODERATOR: (Via translator) Thank you. From the American press, this next question.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister. Shaun Tandon with AFP. As you know, the U.S. military presence in Japan has not always been without controversy, particularly in the past couple of years. With a strong U.S. response to the disaster, do you see this as a turning point where there could be a new Japanese attitude toward the United States, and specifically toward the military presence?

And expanding on that, Madam Secretary, you mentioned the generosity of Japan in aid. Is there a concern on the part of either of you that Japan could potentially become more insular because of its great needs at this time? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Shaun, as to the first — or as to the second question, I see Japan continuing its global involvement on a range of issues. Of course it has to focus on the disaster recovery. That is what is expected in order to overcome the terrible damage that was done. But the minister and I have an ongoing dialogue about issues affecting Afghanistan and Pakistan, North Korea, the rest of the world. So I see a continuing outreach on those matters.

With respect to the United States military, of course it has been a great honor for our U.S. forces to work with the Japanese self-defense forces in order to provide assistance. More than 14,000 U.S. personnel have been involved in one way or another in offering assistance. And the operation is under the direction of the Japanese Government in response to the needs that the people of Japan have.

But for us, we provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief around the world. It is our duty, it is our honor, particularly to help our ally, Japan, but we have done it in many places. And it has been a full effort by the U.S. Government because, of course, our military has been very involved, but so have our special disaster teams from USAID, our nuclear experts, and so much more of our governmental assets. This was, for us, a very strongly felt commitment that we were pursuing.

MODERATOR: (Via translator) From the Japanese minister — yes, Minister, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via translator) The U.S. forces in Japan have been engaged in their efforts for the defense of Japan and the civility of this region. The Government of Japan and also the Japanese people have a great understanding about this fact. Now, with respect to the disaster cooperation, through this cooperation was, again, the people of Japan, including when it comes to the U.S.-Japan alliance, including the presence of U.S. forces, they have been encouraged by it. And the U.S. has shown its friendship in the process. And I think we strongly feel it. And I think this is a fact. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Now, another question from the Japanese press next, please. Please.

QUESTION: (Via translator) (Inaudible) Newspaper. I would like to ask a question to the two of you. 2-plus-2, because of the earthquake, may be delayed (inaudible) scheduled. Now, in these talks, there is talk about the timing to hold the 2-plus-2. In the next 2-plus-2 meeting, are you going — I think you are going to talk about the Futenma issue. With respect to Futenma and the common strategic target, how would that be affected because of the earthquake?

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via translator) Now, with respect to the next 2-plus-2 meeting, at an earliest possible timing before the prime minister (inaudible) Japan. Now, in view of that, the Japanese and U.S. governments are in consultation with each other. I think this understanding is shared.

Now, with respect to 2-plus-2, based upon the close relationship or cooperation between Japan and the United States over the disaster, I think how Japan and U.S. should cooperate will be decided. And also, with respect to — we would like to make sure — we would like to issue something when it comes to the common strategic targets. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via translator) Thank you very much. Last question. I would like to entertain the last question from the U.S. press, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the Washington Post. In the initial weeks (inaudible) there seemed to be some U.S. concerns about Japan’s transparency or handling in the nuclear incident. Have these concerns been fully allayed at this point? And how?

And in a related question, I wanted to ask about American travel to Japan for you, Madam Secretary, specifically. So, on one hand, you continue to see aftershocks and periodic spikes in radiation, but also this talk of need for economic support. What is your advice to Americans considering travel to Japan? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the State Department lifted a travel advisory for all parts of Japan, except the 50-mile radius from the nuclear plants. We have encouraged businesses and other Americans to go on with their normal lives, and to travel to Japan for business or other reasons. And we are very pleased that our commitment to working with Japan has been so deep that we have had many American experts here consulting with Japan on almost a daily basis. The constant effort to respond to the decision — the situation at Fukushima have required intense analysis by Japanese, American, and international experts. And we have been very supportive of what Japan is doing to take the appropriate steps.

I think that the — I think the utility company, Tepco, is going to be releasing later today its plans about how to go forward. Minister asked that I would be sure that those plans were analyzed by our experts, which of course we will do.

But we are doing everything we can to support Japan. And we have very good cooperation. And I would just reiterate what I said earlier. This is a multi-dimensional crisis of unprecedented scope. Our experts are aware of that, and are doing all they can to assist as Japan leads in everything it can do to try to control the situation.

MODERATOR: (Via translator) Minister Matsumoto, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via translator) It is exactly as Secretary said. With respect to provision of information, we certainly have been trying our best. And if there is any information that is not communicated, we will, of course, note to make sure that that doesn’t happen. We have made improvements, and would like to continue to make improvements.

MODERATOR: With this, we would like to conclude this joint press conference. Thank you very much for your cooperation.