East Asia and the Pacific: Remarks Before the Subcommittee for Defense Cooperation at Japan’s Ministry of Defense

 ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHEAR:  Thank you very much, Cecile. I’d like to start on a personal note by saying that I’ve worked on U.S.-Japan relations for a good part of my career including here in Tokyo, and I’m delighted to be back working with my Japanese friends and colleagues on U.S.-Japan relations in general and U.S.-Japan defense relations in particular.

I was involved in discussions related to the 1997 guidelines way back in the 90s, and it is personally gratifying for me to be engaged in a revision to those guidelines, a revision we hope will greatly strengthen U.S.-Japan defense cooperation.

This is my first trip overseas as Assistant Secretary of Defense. I hoped in making this trip with Assistant Secretary Russel to demonstrate the importance I place on U.S.-Japan alliance issues and also to demonstrate how closely Danny and I will be working together as members of the U.S. government on this very important area for us.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  Thank you, David. I was in Tokyo almost exactly a year ago with Secretary Kerry along with of course Secretary of Defense Hagel and his team for the U.S.-Japan 2+2 in 2013, at which the ministers of both sides announced their intention to have us review the U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation. So it’s important and satisfying to me to be back today and participate in the release of an interim report on the very good work that has been done by outstanding teams on both sides working very closely together. I think the fact that we have issued an interim report on a work in progress reflects the commitment to transparency that has been a hallmark of U.S.-Japan cooperation in general, and certainly representative of the operation of the Alliance.

These bilateral defense guidelines serve as the policy framework that helps define our roles and our missions and our alliance capabilities. It makes an awful lot of sense to update them and to revise them to reflect the realities of the present day and the coming decades.

As my colleague Assistant Secretary Shear just mentioned, he was part of the last update in 1997, and a lot has happened since then. We have long-standing and frankly growing threats, such as the ongoing North Korean nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile program. We also have emerging challenges in new domains such as cyber, such as space, and of course our alliance commitment to maintaining freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight, which remains an important priority.

I think it’s worth asking ourselves what’s different today than in 1997. In the intervening years, Japan has created an impressive record of active participation in international security operations, including everything from counter-piracy on the Gulf of Aden to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, notably the contributions in the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which showcased how much the U.S.-Japan Alliance magnifies our national abilities to help.

We believe that the updated guidelines that we’re working on will provide a framework for Japan to expand its contributions in concert with the U.S. and in concert with like-minded partners. We think that it’s clear from the interim report that we shared with you earlier today that the two countries will be able to enhance cooperation and frankly work together in a seamless way across a broad continuum of challenges, everything from ballistic missile defense to, as I mentioned, disaster relief or maritime security, as a result of the work underway.

The bottom line is that we think that this process is taking a very strong and effective alliance and making it even stronger. And the stronger the U.S.-Japan Alliance is, the greater our joint contributions to regional and international peace and security. So with that, we’re going to stop and turn it back to Cecile.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We’ll take a few questions now. Ms. Hirano from NTV.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. I understand that both governments are trying to complete this review by the end of this year, but there is speculation that it might be delayed. How much does anyone in the government care about this deadline of the end of the year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  Just speaking as someone who participated in the 2+2 a year ago, I would describe this as a goal, not as a deadline.

First and foremost, we all want to get this right. There’s a lot of good work going on, but our ministers – the ministers on both sides – tasked us to work to try to complete the effort by the end of the year, and that’s certainly what we’re trying to do.

MODERATOR: Mr. Watanabe from Asahi Shimbun.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask you about the so-called grey zone situation. According to (inaudible), involving seamlessly securing Japan’s peace and security, the two governments seem to be taking measures against the so-called grey zones that cannot be adequately handled by Japan’s coast guard and police. Will this report include contingencies in the Senkaku Islands, such as dealing with the landing of armed fisher folk?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHEAR:  I think it’s important that we address some of the general areas that we hope to be focusing on.

One is that we want to achieve greater flexibility in terms of the kinds of situations that we address together from peacetime to crisis. One is our interest in increased seamlessness – that is, our ability to communicate and act together. And one is our attention to an all-of-government approach.

We learned a lot in the 3.11 disaster about how to work together, not only among our foreign and defense ministries, but across a broad array of government agencies, and we want to explore that further as we discuss the guidelines revision. So I don’t want to get too hypothetical about so-called grey zone cases, but I do want to stress that we’re interested in flexibility, seamlessness, and an all-of-government approach to all kinds of situations.

MODERATOR: Ms. Toyoda from Kyodo News, and then Ms. Ichihara of NHK.

QUESTION: My question is kind of basic. The revised guidelines seem to have abolished three categories of defense cooperation, described in the 1997 version, such as the normal situation and the (inaudible) situation, and the situation in which there is an armed attack against Japan. Why? Could you describe a little bit of the background about why you decided to abolish these three categories in these revised guidelines?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHEAR:  Well, those aren’t mentioned in the interim report. What we do in that regard is going to be worked out as we discuss the final version of the revised guidelines, so I don’t want to get too deeply into how that’s going to work out or how we’re going to treat those issues, because we’re in the process of discussing them now.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  I would say, if I could add on that, however, as Dave Shear indicated earlier, that what we’re aiming for is a seamlessness, a flexibility, an agility, that makes the most of the close coordination between the U.S. and Japan, and makes the most of the very considerable know-how and assets that we can bring to a wide range of situations. We have learned a great deal operating together, and while it’s clear that what we’re discussing are guidelines, not operational plans, we want to ensure that the Alliance builds on its strengths. One of those strengths is the flexibility of our responses.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHEAR:  I think as the interim report suggests, we’re also interested in focusing on broad areas in which we can increase our cooperation such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, training and exercises, logistics support, air and missile defense, and all of those other very important areas related to seamlessness, where we can increase our cooperation and coordination.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask you about the Japanese Cabinet decision of July 1. Would you explain about which part of the guidelines refers to the Cabinet approval of using the right of collective self-defense?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  I think that it makes sense for us to leave it to the government of Japan to speak more precisely about their Cabinet’s decision and the implications for defense guidelines, but as you point out, the interim report makes clear that ultimately the defense guidelines will of course reflect the Cabinet decision on collective self-defense.

As a general matter, the United States has repeatedly made clear that we welcome and support the Japanese government’s decision. The broader way to think about it is this: Over the recent decades, Japan has contributed significantly to regional stability, to regional peace and increasingly to global problem-solving.

The greater the capability and the greater the contribution of Japan to international disaster relief, to international security, the better – the better for the United States, the better for the people of Japan, the better for the region, the better for the world.

MODERATOR: I think Mr. Inozuka (Sankei Shimbun) has a question.

QUESTION: I’d like to change the topic, if I may.

MODERATOR: Oh, did you (Ichihara) have a follow-up question?

QUESTION: Yes, so it seems like the Diet won’t be able to resolve the question about the related law to the right of collective self-defense by the end of this year. How can you deliver the final version of the reviewing the guidelines?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  I leave it to my colleagues on the Japanese side to brief you on the inner workings of their own government.

QUESTION: My name is Inozuka from Sankei Shimbun, and I was wondering if you have any comment on our former Seoul bureau chief’s situation in Korea. He has been banned from travelling for nearly two months now and questioned three times by a Korean security office on suspicion of defaming President Park. Organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and others have expressed their concern over this issue, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Foreign Minister Kishida expressed his concern to his counterparts during his bilateral meetings. I was wondering if anything will come of this.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  The United States cares deeply about the welfare of journalists worldwide and their ability to function effectively. At the same time, we don’t comment on specific cases, particularly ones that don’t involve American citizens. I hope certainly that there will be a speedy resolution of any legal issues.

QUESTION: Do you worry that this might be a burden on the bilateral relations between Korea and Japan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  The bilateral relations between Japan and Korea are of great interest to the United States, not only because you represent two major democracies in northeast Asia, and you represent two important free-market economies, but also because Japan and Korea are each close friends and allies of the United States. We have an excellent record of trilateral cooperation and coordination.

As recently as March of this year, President Obama hosted a very successful, very important meeting at The Hague with President Park and Prime Minister Abe. In that meeting they focused in particular on the threat from North Korea. We feel strongly that in the effort to deter North Korea, to defend against provocation and to help persuade the North Korean leadership to make the right decision and come into compliance with its international obligations, trilateral as well as bilateral Japan-Korea cooperation is important.

QUESTION: Omae from Mainichi Shimbun. A question for Assistant Secretary Russel: You mentioned the freedom of navigation and the freedom of overflight. Could you clarify the particular area you mean? Is this particularly the South China Sea or the East China Sea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL:  Yes, I would clarify the area – I’m speaking specifically about planet Earth. These are global principles, and they are principles that are important to protect. And the reason is this: The economic growth that has been a hallmark of the dynamic Asia-Pacific region is a direct function of the ability of all trading nations to utilize international waters, international airspace, and increasingly international cyberspace.

It is incumbent on all of us, and certainly on major security contributors like the United States and Japan, to continue to make our best efforts to ensure that these common domains remain open to all. And we believe that the work that we’re doing to refine and to revise the bilateral U.S.-Japan defense guidelines helps in that regard.

QUESTION: In the context of the global and seamless defense cooperation which the revised guidelines will pursue, do you think it’s desirable for Self-Defense Forces to participate in mine-sweeping in the Straits of Hormuz as well? Some U.S. officials have expressed hope that the Self-Defense Forces could join in that kind of operation.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHEAR:  Japan has contributed greatly in terms of humanitarian response, and we greatly appreciate Japan’s contributions along those lines in Syria and Iraq so far. We’re certainly open to further discussions with Japan on what it might provide, but as far as I know we’ve had no specific conversations on the topic you mentioned.

QUESTION: For the finalization of the review, would you highlight some parts on which you would like to have more in-depth discussion within these next two months?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHEAR:  I think we were pretty clear in our earlier comments that we want to look at greater flexibility, seamlessness, and an all-of-government approach. We certainly also will want to be looking at ways in which we can cooperate together throughout the region on regional issues, and on issues like capacity-building for our other friends and partners in the region.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Thank you to both assistant secretaries.