It is a great pleasure once again to be hosting my colleague and counterpart, Foreign Minister Maehara. Mr. Minister, I am looking forward to the 2+2 meeting with Secretary Gates and your Minister of Defense in the coming months, and I am delighted that we will host Prime Minister Kan on his official visit to the United States this spring.
The U.S.-Japan alliance continues to underwrite peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region—and it continues to drive regional economic growth and dynamism. Since the end of the Second World War, our relationship has evolved to address the most pressing regional and global challenges.
As we begin the second half-century of our alliance, we also are beginning a new era in our strategic cooperation. Over the course of this year, and in preparation for the summit between President Obama and Prime Minister Kan, we endeavor to strengthen all of the dimensions of our alliance to better seize the opportunities and confront the challenges of the 21st century.
This begins with deepening our bilateral security alliance, but it by no means ends there. The United States and Japan will also enhance cooperation on the full range of global and strategic issues, from nuclear proliferation to maritime security, and from global economic recovery and growth to energy security and climate change.
These efforts are not only necessary but mutually reinforcing and will ensure the alliance remains what it has been for 50 years: the cornerstone of our strategic engagement in Asia.
Curbing the spread of nuclear weapons will continue to be a prominent feature of our strategic cooperation. North Korea’s unprovoked attack on the island of Yeonpyeong and the recent revelation of its uranium enrichment program highlight the fragility of peace in Northeast Asia and the ongoing threat to regional security. We affirmed the need for North Korea to take meaningful steps to engage the Republic of Korea, restart the Six-Party Talks, and fulfill its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. We also agreed on finding more opportunities to hold trilateral meetings with South Korea, as we did last December.
Minister Maehara and I also discussed Iran. We underscored the resolve of the international community to persuade Iran to abide by its international obligations, participate in the negotiations process with seriousness, and address forthrightly the international community’s concerns over its nuclear ambitions.
We both reiterated our commitment to the dual-track approach of pursuing both negotiations and pressure, and we agreed on the importance of the pressure track, to achieve these objectives. The United States welcomes the steps that Japan has taken in this regard.
The joint efforts between our two countries extend well beyond nuclear nonproliferation—and we’ve continued to expand the areas in which we’re cooperating. The Minister and I reviewed our efforts in Afghanistan, where our nations remain the two largest contributors to reconstruction. We deeply appreciate Japan’s contributions to promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
We also discussed our views on the Middle East peace process, and mutual steps to enhance the capacity of the Palestinian Authority.
In Southeast Asia, we will seek more opportunities to enhance cooperation by helping the people of the Lower Mekong region build up their capacity to deal with disasters, pandemics, and development needs. In the Pacific Islands, we are identifying new ways to help farmers and others respond to the effects of climate change. With China and India, we seek to work together to forge greater energy security as their economies continue to grow. And both Foreign Minister Maehara and I reiterated the importance of having strong and productive bilateral relationships with China.
I also look forward to seeing the Minister in July at the ASEAN Regional Forum and enhancing our consultations on the East Asia Summit.
We are taking steps to deepen our bilateral engagement on economic policy, to set a path toward more economic growth and job creation in the years ahead. Our joint efforts in multilateral fora such as the G-20 are also critical. And, as you know, the United States will be hosting APEC in 2011, so we are working closely with Japan to build off their chairmanship and efforts in 2010 to achieve further substantive progress on shaping and accelerating regional economic integration.
Beyond economic and strategic issues, we also discussed a bilateral matter that is very important to the United States—the issue of international child abduction. Next week, senior officials from the U.S. Government will meet with American parents whose children were wrongfully, and in some cases illegally, taken to Japan. I encouraged Minister Maehara and the Government of Japan to work toward ratification of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Finally, we discussed an issue that is particularly important to people in both countries and throughout the region: The Foreign Minister and I agreed that our defense posture must continue to evolve in order to deal with the emerging strategic environment. We reiterated our firm intention to continue to implement existing agreements on base realignment issues, including the replacement facility for Futenma.
The goal of our two governments remains unchanged: Both countries want arrangements that are operationally viable and politically sustainable. That means the United States will reduce the impact of our bases on their host communities while, at the same time, maintaining the capabilities that we need to meet our commitment to defend the Japanese people and the security of the region. We look forward to working with the Government of Japan to move this important process forward.
And I might also add: this is an example of how effective cooperation in our bilateral relationship reinforces our cooperation on regional and global issues. By enabling our regional security architecture to evolve, we are better able to deal with emerging strategic challenges.
Foreign Minister Maehara, I look forward to continuing to work with you on both these tracks, so we can maintain stability, security, and prosperity for the region and continue to deepen our ties and enhance the lives of the people of our countries.