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Diplomacy in Action

Briefing on the 50th Anniversary of U.S.-Japan Alliance

Special Briefing
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Washington, DC
January 19, 2010


MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Today – yesterday, today, depending on what time zone you’re in, we are very, very pleased to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the important and vital strategic alliance between the United States and Japan. So we thought we would begin today’s briefing by bringing down my friend and colleague, Assistant Secretary of State for Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell, to kind of reflect on the importance and the state of our relationship as a cornerstone of our policy towards the Asia Pacific region. So Kurt, thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you very much, and I’m sorry to keep you waiting. We were just going over some final details. And for those of us – those of you who traveled with us last week, we almost made it to Asia, and thank you for your forbearance and your support. We were able from Hawaii to communicate with all of our interlocutors in Papua New Guinea and Australia and New Zealand, and the Secretary was very apologetic. Almost all of our conversations were extraordinarily understanding. I think there was an appreciation for the urgent and immediate challenges that the U.S. Government is facing in Haiti. And the Secretary promised that she would be rescheduling her trip to each of these countries in the coming months. However, while we were in Hawaii, we had an excellent meeting, probably one of the longest and most detailed meetings I’ve ever attended between the United States and Japan, between Foreign Minister Okada and Secretary Clinton and they’re really starting to cement their relationship, and I can sense the chemistry and the trust developing between the two and that’s deeply gratifying.

In addition, the Secretary gave a speech really outlining our vision for how the United States wants to interact with Asia when it comes to its fledgling international organizations. And so even though the trip was abbreviated, I think we got quite a bit of work done.

As P.J. indicated, this is – today, we’re marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, security partnership. It’s no exaggeration to say that it has been the cornerstone and the foundation of everything that we’ve managed to accomplish over the course of the last few generations in Asia. And we hear this not just from Japanese friends, interlocutors, but throughout the region.

Over the course of the last couple of months, as the United States and Japan work together on a series of challenging matters, one of the things that’s been most interesting, and indeed gratifying, is how much we hear from other countries in the region, from South Korea, from Singapore, from Australia, from New Zealand, all countries in Southeast Asia of how much the U.S.-Japan relationship matters to them, not just to us. Indeed, many people think of it as sort of the irreducible component of American and Japanese approaches to global policy.

So we’ve tried to take the appropriate steps over the course of the last several days to underscore the importance of this relationship. When the Secretary and Prime Minister Okada met in Hawaii last week, the Secretary issued a detailed personal declaration of her support for the alliance. Today, we have also issued a formal 2+2 statement which is a document that is formally released by both the U.S. and the Japanese governments, including Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton on our side, and Japanese interlocutors, defense minister, and minister of foreign affairs on the Japanese side.

In addition, Prime Minister Hatoyama and President Obama both issued independent statements today commemorating this alliance 50 years ago today. President Eisenhower referred to this relationship as not just a corner strong, but – cornerstone, but an indestructible component of the American approach to the Asia Pacific region.

And I just want to say that one of the points that we tried to underscore when the Secretary was in Hawaii – was that we have seen over the course of the last several months many areas in which Japan has stepped up in important ways. Today, Japan is the largest supporter of our ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, with the $5 billion commitment to a host of humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. In Copenhagen, it was Japan and Prime Minister Hatoyama that provided the most generous support for efforts in the developing world to deal with adaptation and the inevitable challenges that climate change will bring to the disadvantaged. Japan has been enormously supportive in various operations against piracy, and we have seen more recently Japanese support to Haiti communicated directly to the Secretary while we were in Hawaii.

So I think overall, we’ve seen enormous indications of this new government of a desire to work closely with the United States, but it is also the case that the U.S.-Japan alliance is, at its core, a security partnership, and we believe that it will be critical in the coming months to make sure that our two governments are working closely together. There clearly are issues that require more work and more consultation, and from the U.S. Government perspective, we’re prepared to work with our Japanese interlocutors.

We have outlined what we think is the best way forward on issues associated with the FRF plan and Futenma, and we expect those consultations with our senior Japanese interlocutors will continue. I’ll be leaving – leading a delegation to Japan in about two weeks time, where we will continue those discussions going forward.

I think that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Okada indicated they wanted to use the next year as part of a process – a deep process of dialogue and discussion about the purposes and the criticality of the U.S.-Japan alliance going forward, and we’re looking forward to those opportunities and chances for interaction going forward. So in many respects, this is really a day for celebration and for looking back, but it’s not sufficient. We need to make clear that our primary focus is to look forward and to work together with Japan to make sure that this alliance maintains its critical role in the years ahead.

That’s just a general statement. I’m happy to take questions on any other topic, but I want to make sure that we focus today on this important 50-year milestone. Yes. And if wouldn’t mind just – I know you, but just identify for folks here in the audience.

QUESTION: Sure. Arshad Mohammed of Reuters. Assistant Secretary Campbell, why – however strong the bonds between the United States and Japan have been over the last half century, why should one not look at the Japanese Government’s decision to cease the Indian Ocean refueling operation and the continued disagreements over the – over Futenma and conclude that though the bonds have been strong, they may be fraying ever so slightly?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, we have communicated directly to the Japanese Government not only our appreciation for the refueling mission, but we’ve also tried to be very clear that it’s made an enormous difference in our ability to operate. But not just our ability; other major nations have taken full advantage of this refueling capacity, and so I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that it will be missed. It’s played a huge and critical role, and we regret it.

At the same time, the party, when it was out of power, when it was campaigning, took a very strong view that this was something that they were going to need to look at. And as we have worked closely with our Japanese interlocutors, the new government, they’ve been very clear that they are determined to play a role in trying to bring peace and stability to South Asia, to Afghanistan, and to Pakistan. And so that’s one of the reasons that they’ve stepped up so substantially their assistance. And we’re grateful for that. So at the same time that this mission will be missed – refueling mission – it is also the case that Japan has now stepped up in a very important, major way in terms of providing assistance on the ground.

The truth is in many respects, this is the first transfer in power in about half a century. We had short-term new governments in the 1990s, and it is completely natural and indeed expected that you’re going to go through periods in which both sides ask detailed questions and have a chance to look afresh at the commitments of previous administrations. That goes on in the American – on the American scene and we should expect it on the Japanese scene as well.

I would say that in many respects, in terms of our interactions, we are finding an ability to discuss issues of mutual concern, whether they be regional or global, challenges on the Korean Peninsula, or issues associated with climate change, that there is, I think, very clearly a relationship that’s developing with new players across the Pacific, and I’m quite confident about the direction ahead.

And so I think it’s important not to over-blow what – these challenges that we face and put them in a larger context and to recognize that our alliance is bigger than any one or two issues, and also appreciate that in the midst of very real challenges that we’re facing on Futenma and the like, it takes place within a context of cooperation and coordination that in many respects is unprecedented.

Yeah, hi.

QUESTION: Yeah, Lachlan Carmichael from AFP.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Hi, nice to see you again. So we didn’t get out to the beach very much, did we?

QUESTION: Well, I was thinking we’re coming back from Melbourne today, so – (Laughter.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yeah, yeah. That’s right. That’s true. I’m rested. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, if you look at it that way. Anyway, since – have you ever seen so many questions asked about the alliance in the 50 years it has existed? And do these questions mean that the alliance fundamentally will change? Will this be the biggest reshaping of the alliance --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: This is nothing in comparison to what we faced in 1995 and 1996. Let’s keep in mind a few basic things. In the last several weeks, we have seen opinion polling in Japan about the United States and the U.S.-Japan alliance which are the best polls in history ever taken, with support in Japan of the United States in the 80 percentile, 85-86 percent – just enormous – and 70s for other aspects of our alliance. And so if you compare and contrast that with 1995 and 1996, after the tragic rape of the young schoolgirl in Okinawa, when most of Japan had deep, serious, and sustained questions about the viability of the U.S.-Japan alliance, I would argue with you that we are in a much stronger, very stable, and ultimately strong position for the continuation of the U.S.-Japan security relationship.

And it is also the case that as an alliance, it has demonstrated enormous adaptability. It has gone from a situation where it was originally aimed at fears of Soviet expansionism and adventurism in Asia, now it is basically aimed at no specific or particular nation. It serves as the foundation to bring a degree of confidence to the Asia-Pacific region. It’s been enormously successful in this regard. And no, the challenges we face today aren’t – I mean, there were times where we were in offices in the 1990s where people were worried that the entire fabric of the alliance was coming apart. We do not face challenges like that today. This is a process that many have called for, for years, that democratization of Japanese foreign and security policies, a need to explain more clearly to the Japanese public about the choices and challenges that Japan faces, not only in the region but working with the United States. And I think we’re very confident we’re going to get through this and, at the end of it, be stronger because of the process.

Yes. Hi.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Dave Gollust --


QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date, if you will take a question on another subject – since your visit to Burma, initially there seemed to be some conciliatory gestures but then the government said that they’re pretty much going to go ahead with an election plan that they had been working on for a couple of years.


QUESTION: Could you assess what’s gone on since your visit?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, we have had some follow-on direct interactions with Burmese authorities. And I think we’re going to be looking at a subsequent set of discussions in the near future. I would say to date it’s a mixed bag. We have seen certain things that we’ve watched carefully. We’ve seen higher-level engagement with Aung San Suu Kyi. And we’ve seen other developments that we’ve looked at closely, but at the same time there are, of course, areas of real concern. Continuing problems with ethnic minorities, persecutions, and other issues – even one involving an American citizen inside the country. And I think it would be fair to say that the Secretary and our team is looking for greater clarity in the coming weeks. I think we went into this, both the review and a new set of policy priorities, with a very clear understanding of the challenges, that we had to be patient and that we had to recognize the enormous challenges that have come with every attempt and strategy for dealing with the regime. That is – but it is also the case that we are not unendingly patient. We will need to see some clear steps in due course.


QUESTION: Thanks, Kurt. Hi, how are you?


QUESTION: Indira Lakshmanan. I’m from Bloomberg. I want to ask you two unrelated questions. The first is about Japan. What sort of indications do you have that we don’t already know about that this Futemna issue is actually going to be worked out? Because what we’ve seen until now is each side intransigent in their position or seemingly, at least publicly. So what signs do you have that this is actually going to work out the way the U.S. wants it to?

And secondly, on China, I’d like to know whether that demarche has been formally issued over the Google case, and I’d also like to hear from you a little bit more about what the U.S. is doing with China in terms of internet freedom and internet security.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you, good questions. Look, it is clearly – and I’ll take the first one first – we have had extraordinarily deep and detailed conversations between the United States and Japan on this matter. And obviously, there’s a balance here. The United States is trying to be very clear and firm about why we think this position that’s been worked out over decades, really, is the right approach. But at the same time, we do not wish to appear intransigent, and indeed, we’ve tried to be very clear that our door is open for dialogue and discussions on a whole host of matters, and we’re also trying to maintain within this general context a flexibility.

Japanese interlocutors are working through these matters at the highest levels. We have received assurances from senior-level players inside the government. And we are working over the course of the next few months to ensure that we arrive at the best possible understanding and solution on the way forward. It is also incumbent on those of us who work within the context of this alliance to make very clear that this is a much bigger set of challenges and opportunities than simply the FRF plan. And so it’s critical to put our ongoing discussions and occasionally disagreements within this broader context.

And so I would just sort of leave you with that, that it’s extremely important that we strike a public pose and indeed a set of private interactions that are not intransigent. And so – and by the way, I think that is also the case with the Japanese Government, and we all appreciate that these – the challenges here have a direct relevance for the future strength of the U.S.-Japan security relationship, but they also play a major role in domestic politics in Japan.

On the issue of Google and China, if you will allow me, I have just a brief statement, and I’d like to just read it and then I think I’ll probably leave it at that, but this will address some of the specific questions that you’ve raised.

More generally, in terms of the cyber arena, the ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy. Cyberspace provides a platform for innovation and prosperity and the means to improve general welfare around the globe. President Obama has identified cyber security as a national priority that underpins global security and economic prosperity and also contributes to free expression.

In addition, the President specifically made internet freedom a central human rights issue of his trip to China, holding the first-ever online town hall meeting, where he highlighted the principles that freedom of expression, including free and open internet use, is a universal right that should be available to all people, whether they are in the United States, China, or indeed any other nation. Now, Secretary Clinton will be giving an address later this week on the importance of internet freedom in the 21st century, and we will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear.

Now, specifically on the Google-China issue, I think it would be fair to say that the U.S. Government has had multiple meetings with Chinese authorities on this matter and will have more in the coming days. It is also the case that we take this matter very seriously and, as Secretary Clinton said last week, that the whole issue does raise serious concerns. Now, it is also clear that China has denied the allegations made by Google. But we also think that the Chinese are in the best position to explain this, and we are asking them for an explanation.

We are not prepared to go into any further specifics at this time, but we will be having more discussions with Chinese interlocutors in the coming days.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) issue –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m just going to stick with that statement, if that’s all right. Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you (inaudible). Can I ask you on North Korea?


QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea foreign minister again suggested yesterday that to start the peace treaty discussion first. And they also suggested by doing that, we can build the trust between countries in Six-Party Talks and make progress in denuclearization of Korean Peninsula. So what is your response to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I hate to trouble you. Could you – I didn’t completely understand the whole question. If you could just start again, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. Actually North Korea foreign ministry –


QUESTION: -- again suggested yesterday to have peace treaty discussion between countries. And they also suggested that we can build trust by just starting the discussion –


QUESTION: -- between countries. So what is your response to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, we think that the appropriate next step is for North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks and to resume deliberations in this context. And within that context, it’s possible to have bilateral interactions and other discussions not just with the United States, but with other countries. We think it’s important that North Korea make clear that they are prepared to abide by previous agreements in 2005 and 2007. And the U.S. position, which is very firm and in close coordination with our allies and friends in the Six-Party Talks, is that it would be inappropriate at this juncture to lift sanctions or to revisit aspects of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, given the certain – the current circumstances. So what we’re looking for really is the return to Six-Party Talks, and we think that’s the best approach to deal with all of these issues.

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that. But is it impossible to have bilateral –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m just going to stick with that statement for now.

QUESTION: All right.


QUESTION: My name’s (inaudible) with Kyodo News.


QUESTION: You mentioned about traveling to Japan –


QUESTION: -- in two weeks’ time. Can you give us when you are actually going and who you’ll be meeting with?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, let’s see, I think we’ll be leaving the first day or two of February, and the hope is we’ll be meeting with senior interlocutors, both within the government in the prime minister’s office, in the ministry of foreign affairs, ministry of defense. Also think it’s important to meet with some of the key Diet members that are playing such an important role and thinking about these issues, and obviously with our excellent U.S. team. I’ll also be going to South Korea as well and looking for there to meet with my interlocutors of the ministry of foreign affairs and trade, friends at the Blue House, ministry of national defense, also within the legislature as well, and we’ll also be meeting with some non-profit groups and, of course, our strong Embassy team when I’m there as well.

QUESTION: So (inaudible) in Japan and South Korea will be the only destinations, or any other countries?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think for right now that’s where we’re planning to go, yes.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m (inaudible) with (inaudible). My question is about U.S. presence in Japan. So in Japan, some foreign policy experts and ruling party politicians share the belief that Japan would be amply protected without U.S. force presence in Japan, since under the security treaty U.S. force would swiftly deploy from Guam or Hawaii in the case of a contingency. So they believe that (inaudible) to be moved out of Japan. So how would you respond to that?

And my second question is: How do you view the (inaudible) relation between government policymaking and the (inaudible) election?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: On the second issue, I just – I won’t have any particular comment on domestic politics or elections in Japan. And of course, we’re prepared to work closely and in the spirit of collaboration with all elected officials in Japan going forward.

On the first point, I think the United States believes quite deeply that the ability for American forward basing – Navy, Air Force, and Marines – ground forces in Japan provides not only essential credibility, but also capabilities to be able to respond urgently and directly to challenges not only to Japan’s security, but regional security challenges in the immediate region. And so I think there’s very little question or debate among strategic analysts or foreign policy specialists that a boots on the grounds, ships in the harbor, airplanes, jets in the sky component to our alliance with Japan is essential.

I can take a couple more questions. Yes, ma’am, thanks.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. My name is (inaudible) with Hong Kong (inaudible) TV.


QUESTION: I have a question. In the statement with (inaudible) made by the U.S. and Japan minister it says United States and Japan will work to advance cooperative relationship with China and welcome it to play constructive and responsible role in the international arena. I was wondering if you can express this statement a little bit more. For example, like how do you work with China and to advance the cooperative relationship?

And also if I may, why is U.S. and China release – why is U.S. and Japan really see China in (inaudible) two sentence?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: What are – I’m sorry, the last question?

QUESTION: Yes, what do U.S. and Japan really see China be –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Really see – oh, I see. Look, I think we tried to state very clearly in this document that it is the mutual interest of the United States and Japan to see China’s rise to be a peaceful, constructive rise that supports the institutions and the capabilities and the progress of the Asia-Pacific region. And I think Tokyo and Washington are very strong in our support for a China that plays those constructive roles. I think it is also the case that this new government in Tokyo has made clear that they want to move beyond some of the historical challenges that have plagued Sino-Japan relations and develop a deeper, stronger bond. It is important for the United States to underscore that we support that process, and we think that can contribute to a better atmosphere and strategic dynamics in the Asian-Pacific region. And we also think it’s important, increasingly, for countries involved in an engagement strategy with China to coordinate more closely together.

And so, I think the statement speaks for itself and it does underscore that one of the most important features of global politics is indeed China’s rise in the Asian Pacific region.

I can take a couple more questions. Anyone else? Okay, thank you all very much. I appreciate it.

PRN: 2010/073

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