A/S STILWELL: Well, good evening. It’s great to be back, and I look forward to engaging with my Japanese media friends. The interaction has always been very positive and professional, so I appreciate that. Do you know Marc Knapper?
DAS KNAPPER: Hello everybody.
A/S STILWELL: He’s going to keep me from saying anything really stupid. But let me start off, before I get to my prepared comments, to note that my first interaction was in 2008. In Misawa, my media folks took me aside. So I had both U.S. and Japanese public affairs folks, who suggested that I take the time once a month to host a segment of the media represented in Misawa, Japan for an informal lunch and just have a conversation about who we are and what we’re doing, and demonstrate the eagerness to engage and answer questions, because if you’re going to print something, I would rather you print something that reflects the truth, as we see things, vice speculation. So I still maintain that perspective. The more often we can engage with the media and give you a clear picture, the more we can appreciate and hope for positive and accurate – it may not always be positive, and that’s fair, but accurate is what we seek. So let me just offer some thoughts about the trip and then take your questions.
I’m definitely enjoying my time at the Fuji Dialogue today. I had a chance to speak in the first session, and it was good to share ideas with General McMaster, former national security adviser – he had some great points to make – and others as we discuss important topics in the Indo-Pacific. In addition to the dialogue, I’ve also had a good chance to meet with a large number of bilaterals, especially with Japanese government officials, which was very productive.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this Alliance is the closest it’s ever been. There have been a number of high-level dialogues, and things are tracking very well with key policy objectives in this administration. I’d like to lead off with the trade deals we just signed on agricultural and industrial goods, as well as digital trade. And digital trade is something that is setting the pace for other agreements of its kind, so we appreciate the interaction with Japan on that. Once all this goes into action – once it starts – over 90% of U.S. agricultural products imported into Japan will receive preferential tariff access, while the U.S. will provide tariff reduction or elimination on $40 million worth of Japanese agricultural exports. This is truly a win-win agreement. This is the essence of trade. Trade has to benefit both sides for it to be fair and repeatable. So this agreement reflects that.
We are also investing together in the Indo-Pacific. We’ll be at the East Asia Summit here soon and the Indo-Pacific Business Forum following that. And the opportunities to cooperate and interact with Japan in these activities continues to grow. Japan and the U.S. share values in providing a rules-based, high-standard environment where countries can pursue development and infrastructure investment without encroaching on their sovereignty. Trade is trade – the political and the security are totally different.
We are working with Japan on energy security to promote open regional energy markets through the Japan-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership, the Japan-United States Mekong Power Partnership, and the United States Asia Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy. These are long acronyms – JUSEP, Asia EDGE, and JUMPP. The point there is that we’re finding that by simply asking and working together in the region – we’re finding that there are many areas where both sides bring capabilities, that by working together we’re actually having greater success than if we did it individually.
In August, Secretary Pompeo and the Japanese foreign minister announced our intent to provide an initial $29.5 million under Asia EDGE – that’s energy development supporting Mekong countries’ pursuit of energy security and reliable access to electricity, through the Japan-U.S. Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP).
Through our deep and longstanding partnerships on digital technology, such as the Internet Economy Dialogue, the Cybersecurity Dialogue, and then just JUSEP, like I just mentioned, we are collaborating on a Smart Cities in ASEAN – strengthening cybersecurity capacity and developing secure and reliable telecommunications infrastructure.
Talking is good. Any way to communicate is better, and it definitely reflects interest in digital trade. The goal is to provide global digital connectivity that respects human rights and enables open, reliable, and secure Internet. An essential part of ensuring this secure global connectivity is the infrastructure on which it rests. The U.S. and Japan both recognize the importance of promoting open, interoperable, reliable, and secure 5G networks – and the Internet of Things, including the sourcing of infrastructure from a variety of trusted vendors. It is also critical that the United States and Japan maintain our leadership on these game-changing, emerging technologies.
Both countries also recognize the importance of trust and rule of law as principles in support of secure ICT supply chains. Future prosperity rests on regional peace and security, and our Alliance is the cornerstone that guarantees this goal.
We closely coordinate on achieving our goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, and we thank Japan for its cooperation in enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions and preventing sanctions evasion, including assistance in stopping illegal ship-to-ship transfers.
And during my meetings, as I continue to do at all levels, I stressed how crucial it is to have strong and close relationships between our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, to face these security challenges. I know you’ll have questions on that coming up. The United States will continue to encourage these two critical allies to resolve bilateral frictions and resolve them through sincere dialogue. And we encourage both the ROK and Japan to work on resolving ongoing disputes, show creativity to move their relationship forward, and strengthen our trilateral cooperation.
With that, I will open it up to your questions.
QUESTION: It’s a great pleasure to be here, and I have a tough question first: I want to ask about GSOMIA with South Korea. How do you think about the importance of GSOMIA between South Korea and Japan? And maybe you know well about the military aspect, and if you have a good example of how GSOMIA is a very effective thing, or situation, please tell me that exactly at some point.
And then the second question: According to your trip schedule, you will visit South Korea on November 5th. At that time will you request a reconsideration of the GSOMIA for South Korea to maintain good activity or to protect confidential information?
A/S STILWELL: Before I answer your question, let me get back to something I should have addressed at the beginning. First off, congratulations on the Enthronement Ceremony for the Reiwa era. I know the Secretary of Transportation enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to come here and be a part of that. And certainly condolences for the loss of life for the previous Hagibis and for the most recent heavy rains that we saw here, that we experienced as well out at the airport in Chiba. We still see more and more of these. We look forward to further cooperation in mitigating these effects.
To your question on GSOMIA, you know it took a lot of time to get to that agreement. Negotiations to build trust are important. The U.S. is happy to be a part of that. You asked about the example of how it works. I think we all recognize the importance of that in the most recent SOBM launch – the fact that it was used and the Korean side acknowledged that they used it. And it was to the benefit of all sides that we had these capabilities in place. As I mentioned at the beginning on media interaction, more communication is always better than less, right? Having more connectivity, especially in a period of time where these threats are growing and where the capabilities of North Korea are increasingly threatening its neighbors – the more we can cooperate not only supports the ROK defense, it certainly benefits the Japan side. It benefits us in terms of forces and capabilities we have here in the region, in Korea and Japan, and for any long-range missiles, potentially protecting the homeland. We strongly encourage both sides to find creative solutions to this issue.
And let’s not let economic issues spill into security. I mean security is security. It benefits all sides.
QUESTION: I’m Ryohei Takagi from Kyodo News. Thank you for this opportunity. My question is about North Korea. As you know, North Korea has been launched short-range ballistic missiles, and some of them might be medium-range. But President Trump said it’s kind of standard practice, a standard test or something like that. Because of what he said, there is speculation that North Korea will do further provocations like launching a long-range missile or nuclear tests. So my question is, what would be the red line for the United States? When will North Korea cross the line? Thank you.
A/S STILWELL: Obviously everyone is concerned about that. They want to know at what point we will take firm action. But as you know, once you identify red lines, you’ve just boxed yourself into a corner. Now you have no maneuvering room. I’ve learned – as a military guy, I like very clear lines – yes-no, black-white – because those decisions you make have to happen immediately. But this is not really a military problem. This is a much broader political issue. And in those issues, drawing red lines, as you know, it actually makes the security problem worse, because you’re basically telling them “You can play right up to here, but you can’t go any further.” Better leave that ambiguous. So that’s going to be my response. Ambiguity helps in this case.
It’s frustrating. It’s certainly frustrating for our allies, but it also gives you room to – and space to negotiate and move things. And you know that President Trump is actually – by choosing to interact with North Korea, by pressuring and letting them know that we’re serious over the last couple of years, we’ve gotten much further than we have in the past on these negotiations. For the longest time we shut missile tests and other provocative actions down. Nobody understands North Korea better than their nearest large neighbor, Japan. I think you’re not going to get a solution right away. It’s going to take time. I think the progress over time has been positive. And so we’ll continue to work with them. Clearly we will stay in close coordination with Japan on these things. And the more we can talk, the better.
QUESTION: I’m Chiba from Nikkei. Thank you for attending our event. My question is also about North Korea. The U.S. is negotiating with North Korea now, but earlier North Korea said they would break the deal. So do you think you should put more pressure on North Korea to move this negotiation forward, and what is the biggest problem to move forward?
And a second one is, I think the threat by North Korea to Japan is growing recently, because they continue launching the missiles including [inaudible]. So how can the U.S. and Japan cooperate to tackle this problem? Thank you.
A/S STILWELL: As I mentioned before, patience is required. That has been the plan here all along – patient diplomacy with North Korea. Trying to force a solution overnight hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work now. What we have seen in the past is where we get positive language where the North Koreans say something, and I was involved in a couple of those instances, and then claiming victory and saying we’ve solved it. Well, that just encourages more bad behavior.
President Trump and the administration has done, I think, a very good job of applying consistent pressure, keeping the pressure on throughout, not just saying everything is fine and trying to begin a relationship – a normal relationship, by the way. We have to continue to add pressure. But you’re going to see variations in pressure over time, and a lot of it depends on the negotiating attitude by North Korea. We wish they would continue to negotiate on a steady basis, but again you know well that they, politically, domestically, they can move so far, but then they have to back off. So we’re giving them room to keep up, and to adjust.
And as far as the threat to Japan, we’re very much aware of that. And we’ve been very appreciative of Japan’s support in providing for your own missile defense. The radar sites on the west coast I think are also very helpful. You know, when I was at Misawa, I worked with those quite a bit. The cooperative aspect of U.S.-Japanese engagement on preventing North Korea from doing something really bad as far as with missiles and what-not has been positive throughout, and I think it will continue to be.
A/S STILWELL: Yes, of course. I mean the goal is final, fully verified denuclearization. That’s the goal.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. Following up on GSOMIA, my question is: Do you think that it is possible to make South Korea again reverse their decision to terminate this treaty? Only one month is left. This is my simple question. And another question is with respect to INF treaty termination. Have you opened up a new discussion with the Japanese government to dispatch a new missile system to the Asia-Pacific region? If you have any specific idea with respect to the location, could you elaborate on that?
A/S STILWELL: On your second question on INF, remember the whole point of INF—it was a bilateral treaty with the Soviet Union, then Russia, and the U.S. One side was no longer in compliance with that. We gave them every opportunity—Russia—to get back in compliance, which they chose not to do. If you have a treaty between two people and one has abrogated the treaty, you have no treaty, so let’s keep the focus on INF as simply a matter of the fact that the treaty didn’t exist anymore because of Russia. It had to do with Russia. For the second part of that question, I think Assistant Secretary of Defense Schriver is best suited to answer that question. I think he did answer it yesterday, so I will leave his answer as the final on that one.
As far as the first part on GSOMIA, we do of course encourage the Korean side to return to this agreement, because it benefits us, it benefits you, and it certainly benefits them as well. Any fallback options really don’t count. The TISA—it’s just not the same thing. It doesn’t happen in time. It’s just not quick enough. These missile launches and things, they just happen too quickly. As I mentioned earlier, it was used—the Korean side acknowledged its use in the most recent launch, demonstrating it is possible and smart to use it. As far as the reversal, I’ve said before, my job is not to mediate between Japan and Korea, and my Japanese counterparts and Korean have also indicated that’s not our role, but someone very wisely noted this morning that the word “catalyze” or “encourage,” that’s something we can do is bring the two sides together, encourage both to take a larger view of this issue and manage it that way. This is a security issue; it affects all three of us. As we said before, we were disappointed in Korea’s decision to choose that realm, to choose the GSOMIA, vice other things they could have done to express their concern bilaterally with Japan.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Kazusa Yoda from Yomiuri Shimbun. Thanks for having us today. I would like to ask about North Korea, since President Trump has said that the short-range missiles are okay. But on October 2, I think there was a test-firing of a new SLBM and I believe that came into a different stage apart from the tests before. How do you recognize and evaluate that situation?
A/S STILWELL: First off, I’m not a lawyer, but I like the way lawyers approach questions and answers, and the first thing you have to do is make sure that the premise for the question is accurate. I think that the statement that the U.S. is okay with short-range missiles, with violations of UNSCRs, is not supported by historical facts. One of the outcomes of the early negotiations with North Korea was to impress upon them with a pressure campaign that we don’t appreciate UNSCR violations—nuke tests, short-, medium-, or long-range, SLBM, any launches, so I would clarify that the U.S. does not think it’s okay. The fact that we take different types of actions, some visible, some not visible, is worth noting. There are many ways to respond to these things; it doesn’t always have to be more sanctions, military action. It could be all along the spectrum of diplomatic to economic or whatever, so I would not take it as okay or acceptable. But you’re right. SLBM is a different sort of a threat and we’re still working on it. I’ll defer to Marc on that, if you have anything more to say on that.
DAS KNAPPER: The administration has taken strong action as you saw with the Stockholm talks and all the rest of it. The conversation continues and again we have to keep an eye on what the ultimate goal is: to denuclearize and then remove the missile threat. That’s a long-term issue. It’s going to take more than a month or a year. It’s going to take a while.
QUESTION: I’m glad to see you. Thank you very much. I have also a question about GSOMIA. What do you think about the South Korean administration’s attitude? The Moon Jae-in administration’s attitude looks like they’re going to China and North Korea. What do you think about the situation of the South Korean administration?
A/S STILWELL: We have a strong security alliance with South Korea. The Moon administration has done a lot of positive things—THAAD. South Korea stood up for its own sovereignty in the face of some significant economic pressure from China by defending itself and defending its forces that are on the Peninsula by allowing and inviting the deployment of a much-improved air defense system there on the Peninsula. I think Lotte, the company that leased the land that was used for that, took some significant, almost catastrophic, economic penalties from China, unfairly I might add, as China expressed its concerns or objections to that decision. We’ve worked with the Moon administration, the President has, in this joint approach to pressuring North Korea into talks. In the end, they’re a sovereign country. We respect the Korean people’s choices as expressed by their president. Not every decision is something that we think contributes to our security, but they’re an ally but they’re also a sovereign country and we have to give them that space. We don’t go inside and start changing things. We believe that we can accomplish these things through negotiation and through democratic processes.
QUESTION: I’m Noriko Hirahara from Jiji Press. Thank you for giving us this kind of opportunity. My question is about the maritime coalition plan. Japan has not joined the U.S.-led maritime coalition plan to protect vessels passing through Middle Eastern waterways, but the Japanese government considers sending or deploying military forces independently. Do you support this idea? Thank you.
A/S STILWELL: You’re talking about the Persian Gulf?
A/S STILWELL: OK. That’s a great question and I want to compliment you, because we had seven questions that were all on North Korea and GSOMIA, so thanks for the change-up. It’s helpful. This question’s been answered many times in the past. From my perspective, if you have instability, if you have Iran and Saudi Arabia shooting at each other, that will make a significant impact on energy security, not just in the Middle East, but certainly in East Asia. I know China will be affected, Japan will be affected as well, as energy flows get disrupted, so we certainly very much appreciate Japan’s decision to contribute as much as possible. Clearly the U.S. has interests in making sure there’s stability in the Middle East, but your country has significant energy interests in that stability as well and so as much as anyone can contribute, that’s both welcome and understandable, right? You have interests. It’s in your interest that energy does not get cut off, so whatever you can contribute, we encourage you to do so.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Riho Izawa from NTV. Thank you for this opportunity. My question is back to North Korea. Last month, Mr. Kim Myong Gil said that the time limit is the end of this year and it depends on the U.S. attitude, but now it’s the end of October already. So my question is: What would be the next step for the U.S. to make the discussion go forward again?
A/S STILWELL: I’m going to have to claim ignorance on that one. I don’t remember a time limit being set. Is this the North Koreans?
DAS KNAPPER: The North Koreans have said the end of the year is their deadline.
A/S STILWELL: For a follow-on to Stockholm?
DAS KNAPPER: For just some kind of breakthrough with us.
A/S STILWELL: As you can tell, I’m not completely up to speed on that particular aspect, but I would say that the North Koreans do one thing a lot, and that’s bluff, right? “Sea of fire”—think of all the things they’ve said of things they’re going to do which they never followed through on. It is in their interest to resolve this issue, the nuclear issue. As we’ve said before, having nuclear weapons and the delivery means for them makes them less secure, not more secure, it makes them less secure. If they wanted to bring the U.S. and the region to the table to negotiate a more stable security environment for themselves, they have this capability now, they should take advantage of it and not set artificial deadlines and the like. These aren’t tactics that have been working for them in the past. You know what has worked for them? A consistent conversation with us and with others to understand how we can address their security concerns while at the same time final fully verified denuclearization.
QUESTION: Hi, this is Madoka Ishiguro from TBS. Thank you for coming back to Japan and having us. I have two questions. First about South Korea: Prime Minister Abe just met with the South Korean prime minister. What do you think about the relationship between Tokyo and Seoul? The second question is about your plan in Japan. Is there any plan to meet with someone or will you just leave Japan tomorrow and go to another country?
A/S STILWELL: I’ll go to the second question first. The purpose of the visit to Japan this time is the Mount Fuji Dialogue—very productive, I really got a lot out of the meetings I got to participate in, to include the one I spoke at as well. We got to hear many different perspectives, and hearing the Japanese side in that forum is extremely helpful. Marc presented as well. He had probably the hardest one, mine was easy, but that’s why he gets to do that. Very productive. But of course we take advantage of being here on the Japanese side. We’ve had some very productive interaction with former Ambassador Sasae, who I knew from my time in the U.S. We had some trouble remembering why we knew each other, because I thought I knew him from when I was here up at Misawa, but that wasn’t it, and then in the middle of the conversation I saw his face and it all came back to me—these wonderful receptions in the Japanese Embassy there in DC and a very positive relationship over time. And then a number of other formal relationships—lunch today with my counterpart and the like. All very useful, and as I said in the beginning, the more we can talk, especially face-to-face, that matters. The telephone’s great, VTC is fine, but face-to-face makes all the difference in the world. So, very productive. I’ll leave tomorrow in the morning, but one more breakfast before I go. I’m always happy to come interact with my Japanese counterparts.
On the first one, similar to your second question though, the prime minister from Korea coming to meet with Prime Minister Abe—if you’re talking, things are at least stable, probably not getting worse, so again we can encourage both sides to have the courage to work on moving this relationship back into a more positive regime and we are seeing that in interaction like that, so we encourage both sides to continue that and get this back in the light in a positive sense.
QUESTION: I’m Yoshiyuki Ito from Asahi Shimbun. Thank you for this opportunity. I have one simple question. What do you think about the impact of Mr. John Bolton’s resignation?
A/S STILWELL: Wow! That’s a short question! That’s not a simple question! Today General McMaster, the previous national security advisor gave some very helpful – and his perspective is fantastic. I grew up in the military. Military career is very similar to what was the standard progression in Japanese companies, where you start at the beginning, at the bottom and you stay with one company for a very long time until you retire. That was the American model for a long time. The military is the same way. You stayed in for 20, 30 years, so I was always surprised, when I talked with my civilian family members and friends, that they would go from company to company to company to company. That’s how you advance at least in the U.S.; you don’t stay in the same job. You change. Companies also change personnel on a more frequent basis than we do in government. As we take advantage of the strengths of others. As we take advantage of a different perspective that others bring. So I don’t think that the departure of National Security Advisor Bolton created any more churn, friction, disruption than any other national security advisor. The great thing about our systems, democratic system is there’s always someone ready to step in and take over and do just as good a job or better. So I think national security advisor, Ambassador Bolton brought certainly a different perspective than General McMaster, which moved things along for a period of time, and here we go, now we have a new national security advisor who will bring his strengths to this. I think that’s a good thing. Different perspective, new approach, and if I can say, new energy. I can tell you I’ve been doing this for four months. I’m exhausted. I mean, the pace is unreal. How Marc does this for a long period of time, when you combine travel with just the day-to-day grind back in D.C. or here in the Embassy, it’s good, I’m not complaining, but it is busy, so you bring in a new national security advisor, O’Brien, he brings new energy, new perspective, and I think it’s positive.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. Let me ask about the Middle East situation. Japan decided not to join the U.S. led maritime security initiatives. But Japanese activity would be limited to surveillance or research. What do you think about that? It would be [inaudible] for U.S.-led initiatives or …?
A/S STILLWELL: I answered that question mostly the last time I was asked, we were talking about interests and the need for not just the U.S. to carry that burden of security in the region but the more the merrier. And frankly, in political terms, when you have one country telling Iran and Saudi Arabia, “Let’s not do this,” that helps. But when you have multiple countries, when you have a multi-lateral approach to this, it’s always more effective, when you hear from many voices that say, “We want stability. We don’t want fighting.” So the more voices, and the more physical contributions, the better. The English language way of saying that is, “Many hands make light work, right?” If you lots of people doing the work, the work burden is lighter for everybody, so that’s the U.S. perspective.
QUESTION: Thank you for having us. My question is about China. Vice President Mike Pence criticized the NBA, National Basketball Association in his speech in D.C. yesterday. So regarding the freedom of speech, my question is, do you agree with these remarks, and will the Trump Administration urge American companies not to accept regulation by the Chinese Government about freedom of speech in the future?
A/S STILLWELL: That’s a great question. Thank you. Let me start off with the Chinese Government has a long-term plan to have its opinions, its world view reflected a lot more, largely, across the world. So activity in the U.N., activity in the region, activity in cyberspace, all part of what the Chinese call a community of common destiny or community of shared future for mankind, is what they call it. In that is what Xi Jinping put out two years ago an idea called “cyber sovereignty.” The idea that China is OK to censor information outside of China that does not support its particular view of any subject. And so we see that over and over again when as I mentioned before, when the Moon Administration decides to put a defensive article in its own country that has no impact on the PRC, and we assured them it has no impact, yet they still attack Korean business, Lotte, because it’s using its influence in a sovereign country to change their worldview. So when you talk about the NBA, a single individual exercising his freedom of speech, sends a note out in support of an activity that’s going on in China. China overreacts and basically the National Basketball Association backs down and denies that individual’s freedom of speech. There is evidence that China actually leaned on Mr. Silver to fire Morey, or leaned on the Rockets to fire this guy. Meantime, you have anti-Rockets, anti-U.S., anti-NBA protests inside China, all fueled by the government in this nationalist sense. All this leads to a very unfortunate collision between how communist China sees the world and how the rest of us see the world, so that’s what the Vice President was trying to get at, to identify that there is an extant, an existing international approach that respects the sovereignty of all nations, and the rest, and this new concept of using economic levers and other things to pressure companies, individuals, to self-censor, to not say things that offend the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese people, which is a strange way of putting that, is unacceptable. We believe that people should be able to express themselves. That’s the basis for democratic governments, and using these levers, especially economic ones, is not appreciated. So that’s where the Vice President was going.
QUESTION: I would ask how about the Hong Kong situation?
A/S STILLWELL: Short question, we’ll give you a short answer. The president said these people just want liberty. You know? The Hong Kong people at one point enjoyed the ability to elect their leaders. They enjoyed the ability to speak freely, and what you’re seeing is a slow squeezing of those liberties. Trying to make them more like the mainland, while at the same time, in 1997, we have an agreement between Hong Kong, between the U.K., and China, that guarantees Hong Kong autonomy for 50 years, until 2047. And that “one country, two systems,” two very distinct systems is getting squeezed down to one country, one system, and Hong Kong people are doing what they can do to resist that pressure. The U.S., as the president said, supports liberty, advises Beijing to treat this situation with care, to try to hear the concerns and address the concerns of the Hong Kong people, and we hope that China, Beijing agrees to do that.