OPERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode until the question and answer portion of the conference. During that time, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your phone. I’d like to remind all parties this conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.
And now I’d like to turn the call over to your host today, Ms. Heide Fulton. Ma’am, you may begin.
MS. FULTON: All right, thank you. And thank you, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. We’re very happy to have with us two senior Administration officials to talk to you today on background to preview tomorrow’s U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting, informally known as the 2+2 Ministerial. I’d be happy to reveal the names and titles of our speakers but just want to reiterate that this will be – the entire call will be conducted on background and the officials are to be referred to as senior Administration officials one and two, respectively.
Our first speaker will be [Senior Administration Official One], who’s the [title withheld]. And his counterpart, [Senior Administration Official Two], [title withheld].
At this time, I’m going to turn it over first to [Senior Administration Official One], but again, I just want to reiterate that this call will be on background.
All right, thank you. Senior Administration official number one.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, Heide. Good afternoon, everybody. As Heide mentioned, tomorrow Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates will host Foreign Minister Matsumoto and Defense Minster Kitazawa for a really historic Security Consultative Committee meeting at the State Department. You’ll hear us sometimes refer to the Security Consultative Committee as the SCC or sometimes more informally as the 2+2.
This is the first such meeting that we’ve had since May of 2007. The purpose of the 2+2 is to underscore the significance of the alliance in the years ahead, and to endorse and release a joint statement and associated documents that advance the alliance and sets its future agenda. The meeting has additional significance, of course, since it takes place three months after Japan’s very tragic triple disaster – the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant situation – which did result in unprecedented collaboration between the United States and Japanese governments.
The joint statement will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to a robust force posture in East Asia and will update the common strategic objectives for the alliance. It will also include steps to strengthen our bilateral alliance and outline alliance cooperation in a regional and global setting. We expect the discussions to focus on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan, missile defense technology transfer, and the realignment of our forces, particularly in Okinawa.
With that, let me turn it over to [Senior Administration Official Two].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Sure. Thanks, [Senior Administration Official One.] Just to echo what [Senior Administration Official One] offered, we expect that tomorrow’s Security Consultative Committee meeting will underscore the strength and the vibrancy of the alliance and its role as the cornerstone of stability in the region. The scope of cooperation that will be highlighted in the joint statement that the two secretaries and the two ministers will issue tomorrow really illustrates that together the United States and Japan are addressing the region’s most critical challenges and that, as [Senior Administration Official One] said, that we’ve emerged from the tragedy of March 11th stronger and more vital.
The common strategic objectives that will be issued by the 2+2 meeting will really cover the full breadth and scope of issues that are before the alliance, including the denuclearization of the – of North Korea, progress – continued progress in Afghanistan, access to what we refer to as the global commons, and a number of concrete steps that we’re taking together for – to enhance alliance cooperation.
Lastly, the 2+2 meeting will reinforce the value of the U.S. forward presence in Japan, including on Okinawa, and that our forward deployed presence really serves as a critical element of our treaty commitment to defend Japan and to contribute to peace and security in East Asia, as well as the overall U.S. defense posture as a resonant civic power. And you will see in the announcements that the 2+2 will make tomorrow continued progress on the realignment roadmap as both sides seek to steadily implement our commitments under the realignment roadmap and under the May 28, 2010 joint statement.
That’s it for me.
MS. FULTON: All right. Operator, I think we can open it up for questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. To withdraw your request, press *2. Once again, to ask a question, please press *1 on your phone.
Your first question today comes from Shaun Tandon of AFP.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for doing this call. I just wanted to ask you a little bit more in detail when you talk about the realignment roadmap – as you know, there’s been quite a bit of controversy in both countries now about the Futenma issue in particular, but about the realignment in general. Do you anticipate looking for some sort of new ideas on this, or do you anticipate looking purely at the 2006 agreement? I mean, how much are you going to be looking at it in terms of new ideas?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I’ll take a first whack at that, and then [Senior Administration Official One] if you want to add anything. And I will speak purely with an eye on what’s been going on in the United States. I’ll leave it up to my Japanese colleagues to characterize Japanese politics. And let me simply say that, as I assume you’re referring to the letter that the Department recently received from Senators Webb --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: -- and McCain and some other activity up on Capitol Hill, that we very much appreciate the perspective of the senators. We very much understand the frustration that they feel, and they are raising a number of very legitimate questions. But from our perspective, we remain committed to the current plan to maintain a forward presence in the region and a forward presence that is geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable.
The agreements and policies that we currently have have been carefully developed over many years in close consultation and coordination between the United States and Japan and within the U.S. Government, including with our military services and with Congress, and we remain committed to our current approach.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I don't have anything to add to that.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Your next question comes from Kevin Baron of Stars and Stripes.
QUESTION: Hi, gentleman. Thanks for the call. I wonder if you can comment on The New York Times reports from the defense minister saying that he feels that the realignment plan will be delayed. Are we going to see any kind of announcement of delay tomorrow, or is there an expectation that there’s just no way to do what was supposed to be done by 2014?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I don't want to get ahead of anything that will be announced tomorrow, but let me say that I think it does not take a math prodigy to look at the calendar, look at the original timelines that were laid out, look at the progress that has been made, and make a determination about what can and can’t be completed between now and 2014. So I think you can expect to see coming out of the meeting tomorrow a readjustment of the timeline going forward in a way that is more realistic and that will allow us to achieve our joint and mutual goals.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And once again, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your phone. Your next question comes from Matthew Pennington of the AP.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi. I’m following on from the last question. Will you give a specific new deadline, or will it be open-ended, just to say as soon as possible? That seemed to be the wording that the Japanese defense minister had expressed to the Okinawa governor last week.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I think our approach, as we work this through the 2+2 tomorrow and into the next phase of our efforts to implement our – the agreement, is to develop a realistic timeline going forward that will allow us to achieve our goals and to meet the commitments that we have both made on Futenma and on the Futenma replacement facility.
QUESTION: So that means no specific time?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: That means that we are working with the Government of Japan to develop a pathway forward that will allow us to meet our goals and our commitments.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
OPERATOR: Your next question comes from Betty Lin of World Journal.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. I’d like to know whether you’re going to discuss the East China Sea and South China Sea issues and how will you discuss that. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Betty, we’ll talk about the full range of issues in the East Asia and Pacific region as well as some global issues. And certainly I would expect there to be a discussion on maritime security and issues along those lines. And so if it comes up, it will come up in that context.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Once again, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your phone.
At this time, there are no further questions from the phone.
MS. FULTON: Well, if that’s the case, gentlemen, I’d say that was short and sweet, and we’d like to thank our audience for participating, but we’ll go ahead and wrap this up and move on.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Thank you everybody. Bye-bye.
MS. FULTON: Thank you for your time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you.