Media Roundtable in Tokyo, Japan
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, thank you very much for waiting. I’m sorry to be a little late, it’s been quite an intense and hectic morning. Let me just say that it’s, as always, very good to be back in Tokyo once again. It’s a bittersweet set of meetings for a variety of reasons, but it’s the last official meetings with my dear friend and colleague, General Chip Gregson. He’s retiring after nearly 40 years in service to our country, and he has been a very strong friend of the U.S.-Japan relationship. He has served here for many years in uniform, in the Pentagon, and also most recently as Assistant Secretary of Defense. And he will be badly missed, but hopefully he will continue his strong support for our Alliance and our work going forward. We had a chance to celebrate his service last night.
This morning I was honored to have the opportunity to meet with new Foreign Minister Matsumoto. I must say that at the very outset he reaffirmed the very strong commitment of the government to the U.S.-Japan relationship, citing that it is indeed the foundation of U.S.-Japan foreign policy, and he was deeply grateful for the strong support from the United States in a variety of different fields. And we talked about the schedule for upcoming meetings between the United States and Japan. We also had a chance to conduct an extensive 2+2 meeting, in which we are moving towards what we believe will be a major statement on the way forward for the Alliance, giving the pressing developments in the Asia-Pacific region. At the Defense Ministry, we had the chance also to meet with Defense Minister Kitazawa and discuss a variety of critical issues in the bilateral relationship.
I must say that, in all my meetings, but particularly the meetings with Foreign Minister Matsumoto and Defense Minister Kitazawa, I expressed, on behalf of the U.S. government, deep regret for the recent reports associated with allegations of comments associated with Okinawa and its people. And I just wanted to, again, reaffirm that these in no way reflect the views of the government of the United States or the people of the United States. We have worked tirelessly to try to maintain the strongest possible relationship, not only with Japan but with the people of Okinawa. We are grateful for their daily commitments to our relationship, and as we speak, Ambassador Roos is flying to Okinawa to, again, personally apologize and bring best wishes from the U.S. government to the governor of Okinawa and other key officials in Naha.
As you also know, after serious reflection and after close consultations with my colleagues and interlocutors here in Tokyo and also in Washington, DC, and frankly in the interest of the broader relationship, I have asked Rusty Deming to return to the State Department to serve as the Japan director, a critical post in the East Asia and Pacific Bureau, effective immediately. I think as many of you know, he has served with distinction in many capacities, as Ambassador to Tunisia, but in this respect he served here as DCM for many years, and also as the Principal Deputy at the State Department. I’ve worked closely with him. He has my full trust and confidence, and he will start his assignment tomorrow morning in Washington, DC. This has been very difficult, and I just want to underscore again that the United States is fully committed to ensuring the best possible relationship with Okinawa and its people.
Let me open it up. I can take some questions now. I’d like some of those questions to be about broader issues, but I’d be happy to take as many questions as I have time for.
QUESTION: Let me ask you to start with an assessment of the damage with these statements. What kind of impact do you think that it will have or it may already have on the Alliance management, and to be specific, do you still think that both governments can proceed with the scheduled number of meetings, including 2+2, as both governments have prepared?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you very much. Well, first of all, let me just say that, as I’ve indicated, I have and Ambassador Roos has apologized deeply to all key players in the Japanese government. We do believe that this has caused some harm, and it is appropriate for the United States to act responsibly to address those issues. We also recognize that we have a broader responsibility to the Alliance, and the Alliance managers are going to be making best efforts to ensure that the 2+2 is historic in nature.
QUESTION: Can you still think that configuration of FRF can be decided in the upcoming 2+2?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think we’re going to continue to consult closely with our counterparts in the Japanese government as the situation evolves.
QUESTION: Yuka Hayashi from the Wall Street Journal. Could you tell us if Mr. Maher remains with the State Department and also how would you describe the Department’s action against him? Was it a dismissal?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, yes, of course he remains with the State Department. I must say that he is a fine officer and he has devoted his career to the U.S.-Japan relationship. However, given the developments that we’ve already discussed here today, I thought it was necessary to move and ask Rusty Deming to come in and to assume the responsibilities as head of the Japan Desk.
QUESTION: What is his next assignment? Mr. Maher?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I have no information on that at this time.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific about why do you pick Mr. Rust Deming? I think that he is a very seasoned diplomat, but he is a little bit too old.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: A little bit too old? Isn’t that ageist? (Laughter) Look, he is a steady hand, he’s deeply knowledgeable, and he leads an extraordinarily able team which includes very young officers. I have full confidence in him and he will be serving for a time in this capacity, and I’m very grateful that he was able to make adjustments in his schedule to do so.
QUESTION: Is he going to be a temporary job because Mr. Knapper has been appointed as the Director of the Japan Desk?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: For the time being, Mr. Deming is going to play a critical role in advance of the 2+2 and potentially other high-level meetings, for the next period of time in the U.S.-Japan relationship is critical. I don’t think we need to get into personnel assignments in the State Department right now, but for the time being Mr. Deming is in this assignment, and I’m very grateful that he’s agreed to do so.
QUESTION: Linda Sieg with Reuters. When do expect the 2+2 to take place and could you elaborate on what you mean by “historic in nature”?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, look, these 2+2s take place irregularly. The last one was in the middle of the 1990s. These tend to mark important points in the U.S.-Japan relationship and they are particularly a new focus in a new direction. I think one of the things that you have seen in the U.S.-Japan relationship is a further, I think, set of, a profile that extends well beyond the missions associated with the U.S.-Japan Alliance during the Cold War, and I think there’s a broader recognition of bilateral steps, regional steps, and increasingly global actions that the United States and Japan are working together towards. I think, in addition, we plan on issuing a joint statement which will go into great detail about areas of bilateral defense cooperation, overall goals and objectives in terms of the Asia-Pacific region, and common cause on transnational issues that confront both the United States and Japan. We expect this to be a very important statement.
QUESTION: John Brinsley, Bloomberg. Is it fair to say that in your meetings today with Japanese officials there was no indication that this incident would in any way impede or get in the way of moving forward on the 2+2?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I believe that in every one of our meetings there was a recognition that, given pressing regional and global developments in Asia and the Middle East, in Northeast Asia in particular, that it was critical to hold the 2+2, and so I think there was a strong desire to nail down the date and get busy on final preparations and that’s what we’re attempting to do. To Ms. Sieg’s general point, I forgot to mention this in the outset. I think we’re aiming on a date in the early spring, and we hope to be able to announce that shortly.
QUESTION: Keiko Iizuka from the Yomiuri Shimbun. Did the State Department actually did the hearing or research from Mr. Maher, and did he actually admit that he actually said what has been reported?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m not going to get into those details at this time. I’m going to simply stand by what I’ve already stated and we have been very, very clear in our apologies and our statements of our regret about this incident and our desire to move past it.
QUESTION: Eric Talmadge with the Associated Press. Just to follow up on that, though, your statement just now said the “reported comments” and the “alleged statements.” Have you actually confirmed, since you’re taking action against Mr. Maher, have you actually confirmed that he said those things?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m really not going to go beyond anything further at this juncture. I think we have taken these steps because we believe that they’re in the best interest of the Alliance at this time and I really have nothing more beyond this at this juncture.
QUESTION: Nami Inoue of TBS. You said Ambassador Roos is going to Okinawa to personally apologize and bring best wishes from the government of the United States.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Why is he not apologizing on behalf of the United States?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: He is apologizing. I have apologized on behalf of the U.S. government. He will as well. So, I’m sorry if there was any confusion of that. I think he is not only apologizing but underscoring deeply that these alleged comments or sentiments in no way reflect the views of the U.S. government or the American people. And so he will underscore that clearly and deeply as I have tried to do both publicly and in all my meetings here in Japan.
QUESTION: You said that early spring would be a possible date for the 2+2, and what about the planned visit by prime minister to DC too? Can we still assume that he’s going to go to Washington before the end of June?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Frankly we are committed to have a leaders’ meeting, but the exact timing of that has not been established yet.
QUESTION: Martin Fackler with the New York Times. Welcome to Tokyo. It’s been sixteen years – fifteen years since the original Henoko agreement as you very well know, and a shovelful of dirt has yet to be moved on that. I wonder, has there been any talk about rethinking the agreement, changing the chronology, maybe thinking outside the box in terms of how to get this thing moving forward?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I would say just directly to that question, there has been a lot of thinking and a lot of careful analysis and we still remain very committed to moving ahead with the FRF. Much of our discussion today with Japanese counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense was related to the critical steps that were necessary to underscore the mutual commitment in both of our governments to see this plan into reality.
OK guys, thank you all very much.