SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good evening, everyone, and thank you for your patience on a very busy day. But this is a particular privilege for me to welcome the minister to the State Department for his first visit as the foreign minister of Japan.
Just two weeks ago, we met in Tokyo to discuss Japan’s ongoing efforts to rebuild after the earthquake and tsunami. The people of Japan have faced these disasters and the subsequent nuclear emergency with courage and conviction, inspiring the world with their strength. Today, I conveyed again the commitment of the American people to support our friends in Japan however we can, and particularly to work through the public-private partnership for reconstruction, bringing together the Japanese and American business communities in support of the Japanese Government’s plan for recovery.
In addition to these very important issues, we discussed a number of other regional and global matters of great concern to both of us. We discussed North Korea and reconfirmed out shared goal of a complete and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I shared with the minister the upcoming plans for the third U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China meeting here in Washington in just over a week.
We also discussed developments in the Middle East, and I am grateful to Japan for its support in dealing with the increasingly alarming situation in Syria, as well as its solidarity with us and the European Union with regard to Iran and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Japan has also made critical contributions to reconstruction and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and the government just announced it will continue its financial assistance to Afghanistan at the same levels as before the earthquake. That is a remarkable example of both leadership and generosity that we appreciate.
There are so many important matters for us to discuss that the minister and I are committed to carrying on our close consultation. We are working very hard to set a new date for the Security Consultative Committee, known as the “2+2.”
So, Minister, please let me again express my appreciation to you and to your government for the work we are doing together and the very important work that lies ahead as well.
FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. I am Takeaki Matsumoto, Foreign Minister of Japan. Since taking office as foreign minister of Japan on the 9th of March, we have – Japan and the U.S. Government have maintained close coordination with each other.
I’ve had numerous opportunities of meeting as well as teleconferencing with Secretary Clinton. And it was my fervent hope to make the United States the first destination for my very first bilateral visit overseas, and I’m happy that it has become true.
We’ve been receiving very generous support and very generous and warm support from the United States following the earthquake. And one of the major objectives of my visit this time was to express directly to the U.S. Government and people that gratitude. But I regret to say that even before expressing gratitude, I may need to also express our sympathies to the United States for the very heavy damage and the very serious casualties, as well as heavy damage, caused by the most recent tornados in the United States. And as I watched the images on the television screen of the damage, it inevitably made me remember the earthquake damage of a month and a half ago. We, of course, are right in the middle of dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake, but I told Secretary Clinton, please tell us if there is anything we can do in also response to the tornadoes.
But again, let me say that we are truly grateful for the support that we received from the United States following the earthquake. And we’ll never forget the very strong support that we have received from the United States, from the – the very large number of service – U.S. service members who were engaged in Operation Tomodachi. The rescue teams who arrived on the ground very early on right after the earthquake and the many nuclear experts who are now on the ground helping us. And we’ve also – let me say that we’ve been touched by the expression of sympathy and support by a large number of people in the United States, notably small children who have also sent their messages to Japan.
I regret to say that two Americans who were engaged in what is called JET Program, a program for Americans and other English-speaking people to teach English to small children, schoolchildren, and two of these Americans lost their lives because of the earthquake. They had been serving as a bridge between Japan and the United States. We’ll never forget the deep thoughts that they had for Japan and the fact that they were helping raise good children in Japan.
As Secretary Clinton mentioned just now, in our meeting today we did cover a broad range of issues. We were hit by the earthquake, but we wish to emerge stronger by overcoming the earthquake and continue to fulfill our responsibilities in the international community.
In connection with the evolution of the Japan-U.S. alliance, Madam Secretary Clinton already referred to the 2+2. Both of us see eye to eye on the importance of that 2+2 and will continue our coordination efforts to work out a schedule for that meeting.
With regard to, or in connection with the public-private partnership for reconstruction, we’ll bear in mind, of course, the blueprint for reconstruction that Japan is now drawing up, and we agreed that we’ll promote cooperation by focusing on building Japan-U.S. mutual trust between our two countries and striving to regain the trust of the international community in the Japanese economy by, in the first place, preventing or stopping damage caused by rumors, so-called reputation damage, and also gaining the trust of the international community with regard to Japan’s role as supply chain.
We also did discuss some regional issues. And in connection with the DPRK, we did agree that we’ll – or we reaffirmed the close coordination among Japan, U.S., and the Republic of Korea, and also agreed of the importance of constructively building relations with China. And also, the Secretary was kind of enough to show her understanding with regard to the abduction issue. Let me also report to you that we did discuss the situation in the Middle East, nuclear safety, as well as UN Security Council reform.
So once again, I would like to express our gratitude for the support given by the United States, and also would like to communicate to the people in the United States our determination to recover from the aftermath of the disaster, with the help of the United States as well, and would like to tell you that we will maintain closely coordinated with the United States.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Minister. Thank you very much.
MS. FULTON: First question comes from Elise Labott with CNN.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Mr. Minister, I’d like to ask you on the Syria sanctions that President Obama issued today, although there were some members of President Asad’s family and the intelligence community that were named, President Asad himself wasn’t named. And if, in fact, as the United States attests, that he is a dictator and has absolute rule in the country, how can he not be personally held responsible for the human rights abuses in his country?
And on North Korea, there’s been a flurry of activity in the region lately, which suggests that there could be a thaw in the stalemate over Six-Party Talks. Do you envision Six-Party Talks restarting soon?
And Mr. Minister, respecting your comments about what the U.S. has already done, is there anything else that the United States and the American people can do to help Japan as they rebuild? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Elise, the sanctions that were announced today are intended to show the Syrian Government that its behavior and actions are going to be held to account and they must begin taking steps to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people and respect the rights of their people.
We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms the absolutely deplorable actions that the Syrian Government is taking against its own people. The violence must end immediately, and we are conveying that both bilaterally and multilaterally to make it absolutely clear what is expected of the government.
I welcome today’s action in the Human Rights Council condemning the Government of Syria for its violent crackdown. With this action, the council has stood against attempts to silence dissent with the use of gratuitous violence. That is not the act of a responsible government. And the Human Rights Council has set a precedent which has advanced the importance of this organization, mandating an urgent mission by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate all alleged violations of international law, with the goal of bringing perpetrators to justice. We were strongly behind this action and we will strongly support its implementation.
And with respect to North Korea, we have made consistently clear what we expect from North Korea in its actions in the future. We would like to see them engaging in meaningful dialogue with the South in the first instance, prior to any other steps that might be taken.
FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via interpreter) I understand the question for me was about support for Japan. What Japan in general, as well as the people in the afflicted areas in particular, are seeking now is opportunity for economic activity. So please do come to Japan for tourism and for business. And please do buy Japanese products as you were before, or perhaps more than before. (Laughter.) And please do invest in Japan and contribute to an even greater level of economic activity. In fact, the U.S. Government as well the leaders of the U.S. private sector are already working in that direction. And I’m sure that should this sort of movement spread in the United States, that will inevitably spread around the world as well. So we do count on continued warm and strong support from the United States.
MS. FULTON: Next question goes to (inaudible) from (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible), reporter with the Shimbun. And I’d like to ask this question of both of you. You mentioned that you did discuss 2+2, but I wonder if any reference was made to the upcoming visit by the prime minister to the United States. If not, what is your sense of the timing of that visit, when would that be desirable? And also you mentioned that you did discuss that you will continue to coordinate on the dates of the next 2+2. You agree on the importance of the 2+2. But I wonder if you can tell us what specifically you’re going to confirm or discuss in the upcoming 2+2 meeting.
FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via interpreter) Well, first of all, 2+2 meeting will have to take place ahead of the prime minister’s visit to the United States, so it is from that vantage point that we are discussing the date of the next 2+2 meeting. And also it is our common understanding that we’ll continue to discuss the specific dates for the prime minister’s visit to the United States. But I trust that the two countries do share very deeply common awareness, common understanding regarding the significance that the prime minister’s visit to the United States will have on Japan-U.S. relations.
And with regard to specific discussions at 2+2, I think it is also our common understanding that deepening of Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan-U.S. cooperation and building on the Japan-U.S. cooperation that we saw following the earthquake would be one of the objectives of that meeting as well. And both of us understand that we’ll be covering a lot of items, including common strategic objectives, as well as the military bases issues.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m very grateful for the minister’s visit and, as he said, we look forward to continuing our consultations between us in the 2+2 format and in many other settings going forward.
Thank you all very much.