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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 8, 2004
Briefing on Meeting with Prime Minister of Japan
Background Briefing by a Senior Administration Official on the President's Meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan
Sea Island, Georgia
2:10 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've just come from the bilateral luncheon meeting between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It began at 12:30 p.m. and ran until about 1:45 p.m. or so. As usual, in the bilateral meetings between these two leaders, there was a lot of good cheer and good, friendly conversation. They meet frequently and talk frequently on the phone.
Prime Minister Koizumi opened up by expressing condolences on the loss of Spot, the President's dog, and then asked after Barney, whom he knows. You probably saw that before the actual bilateral meeting, the two leaders took questions on the record and did a number of issues there.
In the actual substance of the luncheon meeting, they talked about Iraq, North Korea, the economy, and other issues. Prime Minister Koizumi congratulated the President on the very strong prospect that the U.N. would unanimously vote for the Security Council resolution on Iraq and reiterated that Japan will do its part to the utmost to assist with the reconstruction of Iraq, and in that context, that Japan was preparing to continue its deployment of self-defense forces, based on the new resolution and based on a decision to be made in Tokyo sometime next week, and also that Japan is continuing its work with economic reconstruction, based on a pledge of $5 billion made several months ago.
The President and the Prime Minister talked quite a bit about what they can do, together with the other G8 leaders and international leaders, to move forward with a successful transition in Iraq. And the President likes to make the analogy to Japan, as some of you know, and he and the Prime Minister talked about that. Where we were at war with Japan half a century ago, as the President likes to note, today Junichiro Koizumi is one of his closest friends and Japan one of our best allies. And that, he thinks, and the Prime Minister agreed, is a good model for thinking about Iraq, that someday he, the President, will sit down, perhaps with Prime Minister Koizumi and the leader of Iraq, and talk about peace and talk about our economic growth and the welfare of our people in the same way.
Prime Minister Koizumi gave the President a detailed readout on his trip to Pyongyang. He went on May 22nd. He spent several hours with Kim Jong-il. The Prime Minister reiterated Japan's very firm stand that there would be no normalization with North Korea until North Korea had addressed the three key issues to Japan, eliminating nuclear weapons verifiably, dealing with the missile threat to Japan, and resolving the abductee issue. And the President gave the President some of his insights into Kim Jong-il's character and some of the North Korean approach, and they agreed that the six-party talks -- and we have another round coming up soon -- that the six-party talks are the right process to bring China, Japan, the ROK, Russia, and the U.S. together to make it very clear that North Korea will not face a good future if it refuses to give up its nuclear weapons.
The Prime Minister emphasized that he told Kim Jong-il to think carefully about the benefits North Korea could receive if it verifiably gave up nuclear weapons -- economic aid from Japan, security assurances, energy assistance from the international community -- that these were all things that weighed against whatever benefit comes from nuclear weapons which surely outweigh the benefit of nuclear weapons. And the President completely agreed that these things were possible for North Korea, but the key was verification and making sure that the North Koreans kept their promise. And the two leaders agreed that in that context, making sure that the North Koreans make a commitment to all of the six parties, or all of the other five parties, was absolutely essential.
On North Korea, the Prime Minister talked a bit about the Japanese abductees. The President and the Prime Minister have talked about this frequently, and as you know, the President has said several times in public that the United States, and indeed the President, will stand with Japan until every abductee, every abducted Japanese citizen is accounted for.
The Prime Minister described the situation of Ms. Soga, whose husband, Sergeant Jenkins, is a defector and a deserter, and the humanitarian situation and the sympathy that the Japanese public feels for Ms. Soga. The President explained the legal situation, and his understanding of what Sergeant Jenkins had done, which was to defect to the North. And they agreed they would keep in close touch on this.
They talked about the economy, and compared growth between the U.S. and Japan; both economies doing quite well. They talked a bit about U.N. reform. The Prime Minister reminded the President that Japan pays the second highest dues to the U.N. after the U.S., and more than any other P-5 country, other than the U.S. And they agreed to work together on U.N. reform and on the importance of Japan's permanent membership in the Security Council as a goal.
And finally, they talked a bit about force posture and U.S. military presence overseas, particularly in Asia. The President explained that he's had these conversations with the Prime Minister before, that we are reviewing our global posture, that we are focusing on increasing our capabilities and living up to our commitments to our allies based on technology, not just people. And they agreed that they would keep in close consultation on how to shape U.S. forces in Japan in the years to come, to take maximum advantage of technology, to maintain a strong deterrent. And those discussions are just underway.
That was it. I'm happy to take questions. I'm assuming I can hear people in Savannah. I'm told I can hear them, but it's awfully noisy here.
Q Could you tell me how Mr. Koizumi explained Kim Jong-il's character?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You may want to ask, obviously, the Japanese delegation for more details. But in short, the Prime Minister contrasted his meeting with Kim Jong-il in May this year to the meeting in September a year ago, and thought he detected in Kim Jong-il a bit more of a recognition that there might be advantages to giving up nuclear weapons. But it was mostly atmospherics. And they agreed that the best way to explore and see whether the North Koreans were indeed prepared to change their position was in the next round of the six-party talks, which we expect at the end of this month.
Q I just wanted to ask you to elaborate a little bit about the discussions on the economy, and specifically, did the President say anything about the Japanese government's decision to stop their interventions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They did not talk about that. They mostly talked about the factors behind growth in the two economies and the expectation that the economic growth in Japan was sustainable because it was based on domestic demand from capital investment and consumer demand, and was the result of steady reform implemented by the Prime Minister. But they didn't talk about that issue you raised.
Q Could you just give us the precise -- what have President said about Mr. Jenkins, what did Prime Minister Koizumi ask him or said to him, and what did President respond to it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Prime Minister described the situation that Ms. Soga faces, and the President was quite interested in hearing about it. The Prime Minister explained, as you all know well, that Ms. Soga was married to Mr. Jenkins, that she's now in Japan and does not want to go back to North Korea, that the Japanese government is trying to find a way to have them meet.
The President expressed real sympathy for this situation and an understanding of why the Japanese public and why the Prime Minister want to do everything they can to help find a humanitarian answer to this real puzzle, and something that would help Ms. Soga be reunited with her children. The President explained to the Prime Minister that Sergeant Jenkins deserted from the U.S. Army in 1965 and, therefore, he is still technically in the U.S. Army and still wanted on four different charges. And the Prime Minister acknowledged that that was a real dilemma, as well. And so there was no conclusion, but they both agreed that the governments would keep in touch on this.
Q Can you explain if Mr. Bush expressed his feeling about how he felt about compromising with Germany and France concerning the resolution? And also, did the talks on broader -- and North African nations come up during the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, in fact, the Prime Minister congratulated the President and made the point that if there is, as most people expect, a 15-0 U.N. Security Council resolution passed on Iraq, that from his perspective, this was a real demonstration of the respect for the position the President has been pushing, which is for the Iraqi people to take on the role of restoring their country to sovereignty, with the help of the international community.
So it wasn't talked about in terms of a compromise, but rather in terms of a real success that was something both the Prime Minister and the President were eager to see, and had been for some time.
And they did talk about the broader Middle East. The Prime Minister expressed his support and the President thanked him. They'll be talking about it, of course, with the other G8 leaders in the days ahead. The Prime Minister expressed his support; the President thanked him. They talking about it, of course, with the other G8 leaders in the days ahead. And the President explained that this was a real opportunity for the leaders of the G8 to demonstrate support for reform and for change in many of these countries generated from within, but with support from leading economies and democracies of the world. But it was a very brief discussion, and they'll talk about it more with the other leaders today, tomorrow, and the next day.
Q I'd like to know more about global postal -- did President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi talk about in some detail about changing presence of U.S. military station in Japan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they didn't really talk about detailed plans because the official discussion between the U.S. and Japan on that is still fairly new. For the most part, the two governments, the Defense Department, State, Gai Musho and Boeicho, have been talking about strategy, assessing the threat, assessing the technology. They've been doing the broader homework to get ready for some discussions about how to shape our presence in a way that takes maximum advantage of new technologies that eases the burden as much as possible on the people of Okinawa or the rest of Japan, and maintains, or even enhances, the capability and the flexibility of U.S. forces.
And the case in Korea and the ROK is a little further ahead -- and we've actually had lots of discussion with the ROK government. The President has talked to President Roh, and it's a little further ahead. In the case of Japan, we're just starting now to think about how U.S. presence in Japan fits into what is our much broader effort to reposture or revise and relocate our global posture review. So they didn't get into real details about forces or figures.
Q I'm wondering if the two leaders discussed any trade issues. You may recall that Senator Grassley wrote President Bush last month asking him to raise the KAMPO privatization dispute and the BSE beef ban. Were any of those or any trade issues raised?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They did talk about some trade issues. I'm not going to get into every detail. The only one I will flag specifically is beef, because at lunch they ate beef -- and it was very good, I might add. And the President did, in commenting on how delicious it is, asked where we are on that. And they both expressed confidence that talks will lead to a mutually satisfactory solution. Because beef exports to Japan for us are traditionally a billion dollars a year. It's a very important market for us, and the Prime Minister knows that.
Q I just wanted to clarify, the discussion about Japan becoming a permanent member of the Security Council -- is that a new position, or is that -- why did it come up in this context, given the battles the administration had with the Security Council that looked like the administration trying to stack the Security Council with some of its friends?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's always been the U.S. position that -- or has been for at least a decade -- that Japan should be -- in any reformation, any effort to reform the Security Council, that Japan should be a candidate, a leading candidate to have a permanent seat. There's no concrete plan in place, there's no initiative about to begin. It was a reiteration of a position that we've had since 41, since the first Bush administration, held by the Clinton administration, and continued by this administration. And it was in the context of Prime Minister Koizumi talking about a very important theme for Japan, reform of the U.N., reform of the Security Council, that the President did reiterate that we still have this goal with Japan that's finding a way in reform of the Security Council to have Japan on it permanently.
There's no agreement on how you do that. There's no plan ready to unfold, to unveil, and there's no initiative about to start. But in principle, we've had that position, and still do.
Q There was some reporting out of Japan before the Prime Minister's visit from some interviews he did with foreign press there that he believed that the North Koreans were prepared to do a deal, and I was just wondering, how optimistic was he? Why did he think there had been this change? And did he at all raise the prospect of some benefit in bilaterals between the U.S. and North Korea?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, I didn't catch the last --
Q Did he suggest it may be a good thing to have bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea --to further this optimistic view of North Korea's position at the moment?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Kim Jong-il said in September a year ago, some slightly different formulations about nuclear weapons than he did this time. This time he apparently said that North Korea didn't want nuclear weapons, a formulation that from time to time comes out of Pyongyang, usually accompanied by a statement saying, but we have to because of the Americans hostile policy. In this case, the fact that it was Kim Jong-il was significant. And the two leaders agreed that these upcoming six-party talks are a real opportunity to test that.
The President's view, and the Prime Minister agreed, is that if we get in a bilateral negotiating process with the North Koreans, we'd throw away all the leverage we have on them, because what the U.S. brings is a military option, which is not a good option. But North Korea's neighbors bring a different kind of leverage, which is the negative leverage of being able to hold down their economic development, and then the positive leverage of providing some incentives if they give up nuclear weapons. So that the key was to keep everybody in this equally, and not have a U.S.-DPRK negotiation with sort of endorsements from the other parties, but keep it six-party.
And the Prime Minister agreed, and agreed that we would, in the six-party talks, approach this, and that the six-party talks are a good chance to test the North Koreans' -- what the Japanese call "honne", their true intentions. We do that in the talks in plenary session. There are opportunities in the past for the U.S. delegation in bilateral contact to answer questions or ask questions. So there is bilateral contact of an informal, unofficial nature that allows that, as well. But the main discussion, they agreed, and the main opportunity to test the North Koreans and whether this is something new is in the six-party -- is the six-party format.
Q I'm simply wondering if Prime Minister Koizumi asked President Bush for amnesty for Sergeant Jenkins. And I'm also interested in the discussion on the side round of the six-party talks, based on Koizumi's trip to Pyongyang. Is there anything like advice from Mr. Koizumi to President Bush? Thank you very much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On Jenkins, the two leaders compared notes. Nobody -- neither leader asked the other leader to do something, they compared notes. The situation and the sympathetic humanitarian situation of Ms. Soga, the legal situation surrounding Jenkins; no conclusions, no requests from one side or the other, but an understanding of the situation and a promise to keep in touch on this.
The Prime Minister did give advice on North Korea. And every time the two leaders meet, the President welcomes Prime Minister Koizumi's advice on North Korea. That's been true in every meeting I've been in, and I've been in pretty much every one. The President respects Prime Minister Koizumi's assessment of the security situation in Northeast Asia, considers Japan a very solid ally in this effort. The main advice the Prime Minister gave was that we should continue telling the North Koreans they can have some benefit from giving up their nuclear weapons. They can have economic aid, they can have energy support from the international community, they can have security assurances. These are all things that we have, in one way or another, put on the table in these talks, the six-party talks. And the Prime Minister's advice was, we need to keep forcing North Korea to think about the advantages it could get, and to realize that it won't have any of that if it tries to maintain its nuclear weapons option. So they often compare notes and strategy, and they did this time, too.
Thank you very much.
END 2:30 P.M. EDT