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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 16, 2005

Press Briefing with Mr. Michael Green, Senior Director at the National Security Council for Asian Affairs, on the President's Bilateral with Prime Minister Koizumi



1:43 P.M. (Local)

MR. JONES: Good afternoon, everyone. We have with us here today Mr. Mike Green, Senior Director at the National Security Council for Asian Affairs -- here to talk about today's meetings. Mike is on the record.

MR. GREEN: Thank you. I will give you a brief readout on President Bush's meeting this morning with Prime Minister Koizumi. I think you all have to leave at about quarter past, so I'll try to briefly summarize the discussion the two leaders had, and leave time for some questions.

The President came here to Kyoto, on his way to the APEC leaders summit in Busan, Korea, to celebrate the strength of U.S.-Japan relations, and to have a broad-ranging strategic discussion with Prime Minister Koizumi about developments in this region and more globally. And the two leaders did just that.

In the weeks and months leading up to this summit, we've had a string of important accomplishments in our bilateral relationship. The Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Japanese Foreign Minister and Defense Minister met a couple weeks ago and reached agreement on an important plan to realign our forces, strengthen interoperability and cooperation between U.S. and Japanese forces, and this will lead to the biggest change in the U.S. military presence on Japan in over three decades, and important new steps on how we cooperate together to deal with security threats in the region.

We reached agreements on home-boarding a U.S. nuclear carrier here, on cooperation in the war on terror, and then a whole host of areas. And that set up the two leaders to talk about the centrality of the U.S.-Japan alliance, and much of the discussion today was a philosophical and strategic discussion about how the U.S.-Japan alliance fits in Japan's foreign policy, how crucial it is to peace and stability in this region. As the Prime Minister said in the press conference, his view is that a strong U.S.-Japan alliance is an asset for Japan's own relations with China, with Korea, with Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. And the President told him that's certainly our view, that a strong U.S.-Japan alliance enhances our relations with other countries in the region and helps to strengthen international institutions, international peace and stability, and to bring greater freedom, greater opportunity to other parts of the world, in particular Iraq and Afghanistan, where Japan is playing a central role.

The President congratulated the Prime Minister on his election victory. The Prime Minister said it was "a miracle" that he won, given that the majority of the Diet had opposed his plans for postal savings reform, and yet he came in, took the case to the people, won, and now a majority of the Diet members support his postal savings reform. The President said, no, that's not a miracle, that's leadership, and made the point to the Prime Minister that this kind of thing could only have happened in a democracy, where the people's voice could be heard.

The two leaders talked about strategic developments in this region. They had a long and very far-ranging discussion about China, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia, and so forth. On Japan-China relations, the President asked the Prime Minister's view about how things are going, cognizant of the fact that there have been some trouble spots in Japan-China relations of late.

The Prime Minister made several points. He acknowledged there are difficulties in Japan-China relations, but there are many areas, from his perspective, where Japan-China relations have met new success -- trade, investment, cultural and other ties. And for his part, the Prime Minister said he does not believe in the so-called "China threat" theory. He said, it's important to keep an eye on various aspects of China's role in the world and role in this region, but on the whole, he felt that the Japan-China relations had so much depth now that the prospects were good in the future, while acknowledging the various aspects of troubles between the two countries. And then the Prime Minister said, this is one more reason why the U.S.-Japan alliance is going to be key for Japan and for the U.S.

They talked about the Korean Peninsula, about the six-party talks. Japan has been a stalwart friend and ally in this process, and the two leaders reaffirmed their view that the agreement in September in Beijing at the fourth round of the talks must lead to the complete and verifiable elimination of all of North Korea's nuclear weapons and nuclear programs. The Prime Minister also raised the abductee issue, and the President, as he did publicly in his press conference, expressed our full support for Japan's position on this. The President also shared with the Prime Minister his concerns about the condition of the people in the North. And they discussed that, as well.

On the Security Council, the President reiterated U.S. support for Japan's permanent membership on the Security Council; agreed that we both -- the U.S. and Japan -- want to see reform, not only of the Security Council, but of the United Nations more broadly, and committed our two governments to work closely together to help achieve those goals we have in common -- reform and a permanent seat for Japan on the Security Council.

The two leaders talked about Iraq, of course. The President expressed his appreciation for the contributions Japan has made for the reconstruction of Iraq, for the political process, both financial and aid contributions, as well as the important role played by the Japan self-defense forces. For his part, the President is confident that Japan is solidly behind the goal of building a stable and democratic Iraq.

And as for the future disposition of Japan's forces or of Japan's role in reconstruction, I think the Prime Minister, himself, today in the press conference, put it well. He said that he's going to take account of U.S.-Japan alliance relations in a global context, take a careful look at the conditions in Iraq, and consult with other members of the coalition. But as the President made clear, this is a decision that Prime Minister Koizumi will make; it's a decision that Japan will make as a sovereign country and a democratic country, and their commitment to success in Iraq has been clearly demonstrated.

The President raised three economic issues. There was a general discussion about economic reform. The Prime Minister pointed out -- actually, the President pointed out to the Prime Minister that he remembered the Prime Minister's own view of reform when they first in Crawford, and then again in Tokyo, about four years ago, and a lot of people here were saying that, because of deflation, Japan could not reform; it had to first get economic growth going, it had to stimulate the economy and then reform the economy. And the President told the Prime Minister, you were right, because Prime Minister Koizumi argued at the time that you can't have growth without first having reform. And, indeed, the Japanese economy has had reform and is growing.

And in that context, the President raised three issues -- three areas where the U.S. and Japan need to do more. The first was, of course, beef. The President pointed out the importance of a resumption of beef exports to Japan for the American people, for American beef exporters, for the Congress, and for him. Prime Minister Koizumi explained the procedures that have taken place. The Food and Safety Commission has ruled that American beef is safe. We're now in a public comment period in Japan. The government will then, in a few weeks, be in a position to make a decision. And the President made it clear that this is their decision. Our hope, of course, is that we have a resumption of beef exports as soon as possible.

The President raised postal privatization. The Prime Minister successfully pushed through his bill; the postal privatization will now be implemented. The President made it clear that in that process it's important to us that insurance companies, whether they're American insurance companies or Japanese insurance companies, have a fair playing field. And the Prime Minister said that it's his intention to make certain that American and Japanese insurance companies all have a fair and level playing field -- a fair footing, as he put it -- as the postal privatization takes place.

And finally, the President raised Doha, the Doha development round; explained to the Prime Minister that a successful Doha Round is important to the U.S., should be important to Japan. He said he knows the Prime Minister is a free trader. And the two leaders agreed they want to have a successful round, they want to have momentum in the APEC leaders meeting, they want to have that momentum carry into the Hong Kong ministerial, and they want to make sure that there's important liberalization and the Doha Round is a success.

They also touched briefly, as you may have heard in the press conference, on avian influenza, on the recent developments in the Middle East, and on the APEC agenda that's coming up in just two days.

I'm happy to take questions. I'll call on people myself.

Q Mike, you said the President said, of course, that Japan is a sovereign nation and that Prime Minister Koizumi said that he would be consulting with allies on what to do next with the Japanese self-defense troops. But did the President directly ask Koizumi in any way to extend that period of time beyond the December period? Did he make his wishes known?

MR. GREEN: He didn't ask him. He didn't --

Q Did Koizumi indicate that he was willing to do that?

MR. GREEN: What the Prime Minister said was almost identical to what he said in his press conference -- the three conditions that are in his mind in thinking about Japan's own contribution and role -- the conditions in Iraq, because Japan is committed to, as he himself said in the press conference, a democratic and stable Iraq; consultation with the coalition partners, and, of course, U.S.-Japan alliance, as he put it, in a global context. Obviously, the other issue is Japan's own laws, Japan's own domestic politics, and his own decision in that context. But the President didn't have an ask on Iraq in this meeting.

Q Was there any sense that he at least wanted him to keep the troops beyond the elections -- Iraq's elections?

MR. GREEN: No, he didn't put it in that phrase, or in those terms. He just plainly and clearly stated how important Japan's role has been and how much the United States and the Iraqi people appreciate what Japan has done, the self-defense forces and, of course, the reconstruction assistance that Japan has provided.

Q I don't want to misread this, but it seemed like the Prime Minister was a little bit frustrated with the Iraqis in their efforts to self-govern. Was any of that expressed during the meetings?

MR. GREEN: No. You mean from the press conference, you're reading that?

Q Yes.

MR. GREEN: I didn't hear that in what he said, but it certainly didn't come up --

Q It may have been translation --

MR. GREEN: -- certainly didn't come up in the meeting.

Q -- did they talk about any ways to improve relations in Japan and South Korea, and Japan and China? And how do the problems currently affect U.S. efforts to get cooperation on things like bird flu, North Korea, trade, reform, all that stuff?

MR. GREEN: The Prime Minister -- I mean, the President invited the Prime Minister's views on relations with his neighbors, and I expect that in Korea and China he'll do the same. He'll invite his counterparts to give their views so he can understand it on how their relations are with their neighbors. And the Prime Minister explained, as I said, that there are some troubled areas. He explained what some of those are. But he also enumerated all the various areas in Japan-China relations, and Japan-Korea relations, where there's more depth and more breadth, particularly on the economic side, and that he, generally, is optimistic.

They didn't get into the second part of your question, which is how this relationship, positive or negative, affects cooperation. I can just tell you from our perspective that we are working on initiatives on avian influenza in APEC; we're working closely on the six-party talks with Japan, Korea and China all in the talks. And in terms of getting the agreement we got in September and moving forward, it hasn't been an obstacle, although everyone recognizes there are some troubled areas in these relationships at this time.

Q Two things on Korea maybe you can answer for us. First, did the President and the Prime Minister talk at all about these initiatives the U.S. has underway to cut off the illicit goods, drugs, counterfeiting, and so forth? And secondly, can you just explain to us, if there is a difference, the difference between what the Koreans have said North Korea offered during these talks, about some five-stage approach to disarmament, and what the U.S. contends happened? This was all during the talks in --

MR. GREEN: That the Koreans --

Q There were some reports out of Seoul that South Korea believed that the North had actually made some kind of an offer involving five stages of gradual disarmament.

MR. GREEN: The U.S. and Japanese governments consult quite closely on how to deal with various illicit activities, counterfeiting and so forth. But it did not come up as a specific topic in the two leaders' discussions in the meeting in the morning.

In terms of the second part of your question -- which was not a feature of this bilateral discussion, they didn't go into that level of detail about the different positions of the parties in the talks -- I would just say that we have, in the September agreement, which is an agreement of principles, a road map that we believe is quite clear. We've talked to our counterparts in Tokyo and Seoul, Beijing and Moscow, and we think that it lays out a framework for leading to the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons and nuclear programs, and also allowing a discussion of other areas like a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, dealing with economic issues, dealing with issues of importance to us, or to Japan, like abductees and humanitarian issues, and that that framework is very clear. It's not open to widely different interpretation. It says, for example, that discussions of a light-water reactor or peaceful nuclear use will occur at an appropriate time, and all of us have agreed that an appropriate time means after the North Koreans have eliminated their nuclear weapons and nuclear programs.

The North Koreans have, at various times, put forward different ideas in the talks. But they also signed on to the September agreement, and there shouldn't be any room for disagreement about how that's to be interpreted, because it was pretty clear in black and white. Obviously, the parties will now have to get together in the next session, which we think will take place some time after APEC, and start putting in place a more concrete implementation plan. But the broad contours, we think are pretty clear. And that's something that in all of the discussions that the President will be having on the margins of APEC we expect to be reaffirmed by all of his partners in the talks.

Q Mike, did the North Koreans put forth a five-stage or any multi-stage suggestion in these last talks about how to implement the --

MR. GREEN: I didn't see -- I wasn't at the talks this time. I've served my time in the six-party talks, so I wasn't there. But I don't remember a North Korean proposal being the centerpiece of this discussion. They've thrown out various ideas in the past, but that is not, certainly, I think, what was the driving factor in the discussions.

Q Did the President make any comment on Japan-China, Japan-Korea, other than initiating that conversation?

MR. GREEN: You know, the two leaders had a broad discussion about strategic developments in the region -- China, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia. For the most part, the President, I think, wanted to hear Prime Minister Koizumi's views, as he prepares to go on to Korea and then to China. And I'm sure, in Korea, he's going to want to hear President Roh Moo-hyun's views, and then in China he'll want to hear President Hu Jintao's views. And for his part, as he said in the press -- that he did before coming out here, we're cognizant of the difficulties in some of these bilateral relationships, but also see what Prime Minister Koizumi was talking about, the depth and breadth of economic and other cooperation -- for example, the Prime Minister pointed out that Japan and China are now emerging as each other's most important trading partners -- and also all of the areas where these countries have to work together, whether it's avian influenza, or the six-party talks, or energy, or some of the other issues that are in the APEC agenda; and that for his part, the President is looking at the future, and how these areas of cooperation can help to build stronger footing, a stronger base underneath the relationships in the region. And, of course, our own presence and our own relationships, and the U.S.-Japan alliance are critical to that, as both leaders discussed today.

Q Has the President brought up the issue of Yasukuni, specifically?

MR. GREEN: He did not ask about it, specifically. The Prime Minister, in describing some of the various issues in Japan-China relations, alluded to it. The President didn't raise it.

Q You said that Prime Minister Koizumi said that he didn't believe in the so-called "China threat" theory. Can you go into a little bit more detail on that, what did he say, specifically?

MR. GREEN: Yes. There's a view, or was a view, as he described it, in Japan, that China's sudden growth would lead to the hollowing out of Japan's economy. And the Prime Minister explained how the enormous boom in Chinese economic growth has brought with it real -- some real advantages -- obviously, some complications and some challenges, but some real advantages for Japanese exporters. And he gave some examples of how the Japanese economy has benefited.

It was a comprehensive look at China. As I said, the Prime Minister pointed out some of the difficulties in Japan-China relations, many of the areas of cooperation, some of the uncertainties about what role China will play. And it was in that broad context that he talked about it.

Q Did they discuss Taiwan's situation, and what's the present policy toward Taiwan independence?

MR. GREEN: Oh, did they raise the Taiwan's situation, and what is the President's policy on the Taiwan independence? The President has been very clear, and it's our view that the key to peace and stability in the Taiwan strait and in that region is to be consistent and clear. And our position is that we have a one China policy. It's based on the three communiqués. We do not support Taiwan independence. The President made it clear today that we do not want to see any attempt by either side to unilaterally change the status quo, and as he has said on many occasions, we want to see more dialogue between Beijing and Taipei. The dialogue has started. It's important that the dialogue take place with the duly elected government in Taipei, and be broadened to include all of the major stakeholders in order to make progress.

Q What did the Prime Minister say were the main tensions between the Japanese and the Chinese?

MR. GREEN: He touched on some of the issues throughout that history. He touched on some of the territorial issues. It was not the major focus of his discussion. He was, like the President, more interested in talking about the future and talking about what would form a solid base for stable and positive Japan-China relations. And he pointed to many of the things that would do that -- expanding trade and political relations, for example.

Q Is it fair to say, though, that on the China-Japan relations, that he didn't offer specific advice about improving the ties?

MR. GREEN: The President?

Q Yes.

MR. GREEN: I think that's fair to say. He wanted to hear the Prime Minister's views. He's going to want to hear views in Seoul and Tokyo. As he, the President, said in Washington before leaving to some of the interviewers, what he can do is help focus the region on the important agenda we have to move forward, and I mentioned some of those areas.

Q So, mainly, he expressed optimism about the relationship in the future, but didn't specifically say, this is what you can do to improve --

MR. GREEN: He didn't give any advice, specifically, on how to handle Japan-China relations.

Q Mike, what's the administration's position on Taiwan-China reconciliation? Does the United States support reconciliation?

MR. GREEN: As the President said, we think there should be more dialogue. I won't go through again the litany of our position on the Taiwan cross-strait issue. But when the President says there ought to be more dialogue, he means, there ought to be more dialogue. And there has been dialogue between the mainland and some of the opposition parties in Taipei. That will only get -- that's good, but it will only get you so far. The next obvious step is to have some real dialogue between the government -- the elected government in Taipei and then, of course, representatives from Beijing, to try to move forward. It's something both sides have to figure out and have to do. We want to encourage them to do it. We don't have a role in determining the agenda or the outcome, or anything of the sort, but the process is important.

Q In his speech the President is going to use Taiwan as an example of a country that was under repressive government and is liberalized. Are you at all fearful that using Taiwan as an example is going to irritate the Chinese a day-plus before meeting with the President of China?

MR. GREEN: The President, in the speech, which I guess everyone now has, is going to talk about his freedom agenda in a universal sense; that countries that are successful economically, in order to continue being successful, are going to have to give their people opportunities to worship freely, to own property freely, to express themselves freely; that these are elements of a strong and stable society, and that there are examples across Asia where countries have found that they're stronger -- their societies are stronger, their economic growth is stronger -- when they've done that. And he points in the speech to Japan, to the Republic of Korea, and to Taiwan, because Taiwan is an important example that that kind of pattern knows no cultural or historic line.

The point is not to lecture China or any other country in the region about what kind of system they should have exactly, but rather, to make the point that Asia has had a pretty good run -- there's been peace and stability, there's been economic prosperity -- and that if countries want to keep being successful, and if we want to have a lasting basis for peace and stability in the region, these other elements are going to have to be brought into the political process.

Each country is different; each country has gone down the path in different ways. Some have gone backwards and in the wrong direction, as he'll mention in the speech. But the point is not to pick one model and apply it to another country, but to make the broad point about how these elements make a society and a country stronger.

Q But the Chinese are sensitive --

MR. GREEN: They are sensitive.

Q You're not worried about antagonizing them with these words?

MR. GREEN: No, because, as you'll hear in the speech, and as you'll hear in Beijing, we approach this from the premise that U.S.-China relations are good and that we're committed to making them better, that President Hu has outlined a vision for China's development. He calls it, peaceful development. He's explained it to the President. In New York, he went into some depth and detail about how he sees his role in helping the Chinese people get more prosperity. So it's in that context and done in a way to explain what else will help China succeed.

MR. JONES: Last question.

Q Mike, does the President still regard China as a strategic --

MR. GREEN: You know, in answering questions about China's role in the world, the U.S.-China relations, we have tried to capture all of the complexity, the many dimensions to U.S.-China relations. There are elements that are very positive for the world, very positive for us in the economic realm and cooperation in the six-party talks. There are other areas where China's role in the world is still being sorted out: For example, what role will China play with regard to Iran, or Sudan, or other parts of the world, where China has increasing impact. There are elements in China's own development as a society where the President believes China will be served by allowing more freedom of expression, freedom of worship, and so forth, within China, that these will make China a more stable and productive society.

So it's a very multi-dimensional relationship that has elements of competition in it, and even elements of strategic competition, but also, increasingly, has elements of cooperation, as we see in the six-party talks, in the war on terror, in APEC. So you have to look at it with all of those different elements in mind.

MR. JONES: Thank you.

MR. GREEN: Thanks.

END 2:10 P.M. (Local)