Joint Press Briefing by Secretary Mattis and Minister Inada in Tokyo, Japan
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
STAFF: Now we will begin the joint news conference.
Minister Inada, Secretary Mattis will make initial remarks.
First, we'd like to start with Minister Inada.
JAPANESE DEFENSE MINISTER TOMOMI INADA (through translator): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Today, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is here at the ministry of defense and we're very please to receive him. This was the first defense ministerial talks with him. A very significant exchange of views took place in today's meeting that the Japan and U.S. alliance is important to secure peace and stability of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. And that to further strengthen deterrents and response capabilities of the alliance Japan and the United States work together. These points have been confirmed.
We exchanged opinions on the regional situations, evolution of North Korea's nuclear and missile development is for the Japan and the U.S. and for the region's security a grave threat. We agreed on this understanding.
Also China's activities in the East and South China Seas are a security concern for the Asia-Pacific region. This concern has been shared between us. Secretary Mattis said the Senkaku Islands are under the administration of the government of Japan, and fall within the scope of article five of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
He said that the United States opposes any unilateral action to attempt to overthrow Japan's administration of the Senkaku Islands.
I said that freedom of navigation operations and other actions by the U.S. forces in the South China Sea contribute to maintaining maritime order based on the rule of law, and that I support these efforts. We agree that including capacity-building initiatives, we will enhance engagement in the South China Sea.
I conveyed my thinking that for the regional peace and stability Japan continues to play a proactive role.
Secretary Mattis communicated to me about the U.S. obligation to defend Japan and its ironclad commitment to extended deterrence. Based on the Japan-U.S. guidelines deterrence and the response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance need to be further reinforced. We agreed to this understanding. Realignment of the U.S. forces in Japan is an important project to mitigate the impact on the local communities, including Okinawa.
I asked Secretary Mattis for cooperation in steady progress for realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. Secretary Mattis said he would like to move ahead with it in cooperation with Japan.
Also I told him that relocation and the return of MCAS Futnenma needs to be realized as soon as possible. We agreed that relocation of it to Henoko is the only solution, and we will continue to cooperate.
I requested cooperation for mitigating the impact on Okinawa. We agreed to cooperate to ensure stable stationing of U.S. forces in Japan.
Lastly, I would like to say having had this opportunity to talk with Secretary Mattis today, these talks were frank, and candid and significant. This pleases me tremendously, and based on today's talk I will continue to work hard to strengthen and deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance.
STAFF: Next, we'd like to invite Secretary Mattis, please.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Good morning, everyone. And thank you for being here. And thank you, Minister Inada, for hosting me.
I'm very pleased to be visiting Japan on my first trip overseas as secretary of defense. It's been many years since I first served in Japan as a young lieutenant in the Marines, but I have fond memories and good friends from that time.
It's clear that much has changed since those years. But one this is certain: The alliance between the United States and Japan is enduring and will remain as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
Let me assure you that President Trump's administration places a high priority on this region, and specifically on long-term allies like Japan.
As I told Minister Inada, the United States remains committed to the defense of Japan under the Treaty of Mutual Security, and we stand ready to enhance our alliance to the benefit of regional peace, prosperity and freedom.
Today the minister and I discussed the security situation and I made clear that our longstanding policy on the Senkaku Islands stands. The United States will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands, and as such article five of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies.
As the Japanese people know so well, jointly we faced many security challenges in this region. From the threat of nuclear and missile provocations by North Korea to increasingly confrontational behavior by China in the East and South China Seas we recognize the changing security situation.
In our meeting together Minister Inada and I confirmed out intention to continue close coordination on these and other security issues.
I also expressed the United States appreciation for Japan's stabilizing and strengthening efforts with Southeast Asian partners, which contribute to the regional peace, prosperity and freedom.
The U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to ensuring that this region remain safe and secure, not just now, but for years to come.
The 2015 defense guideline in Japan's peace and security legislation lay the foundation for us to do much more together, to increase interoperability between our forces and to bolster Japan's capabilities from peacetime to contingency if needed.
I am certain that the coming years will see important strides on both sides to realize our mutual goal of a strong defense of Japan and a stable regional environment in which all nations play by the broadly accepted international rules and can prosper free from fear.
The United States has invested in the alliance by deploying our most advanced capabilities to Japan, and by maintaining a robust force structure.
I also mentioned to Minister Inada that the United States remains committed to mutually agreed upon realignment plans. These include relocating Marines to Guam, and reducing our footprint on Okinawa, while maintaining the capabilities needed to keep Japan and the region secure.
During my discussions here we agreed that our mutual efforts to build the Futenma replacement facility will continue as it is the only solution that will enable the United States to return the current Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma to Japan.
Japan has made noteworthy contributions to regional security and to the alliance, and the United States deeply appreciates these contributions.
But make no mistake, in my meeting with Japanese leaders both our nations recognize that we must not be found complacent in the face of the emerging challenges.
As our alliance grows it will be important for both of our nations to continue investing in our defense personnel and capabilities. In this manner we will ensure that we are true partners together today and in the years to come. The United States stands with our friends and allies.
Thank you again, Minister Inada, for hosting me. It is a pleasure to be back in Japan, and I look forward to hosting you in Washington. Thank you.
STAFF: Next we'd like to move on representative questions.
In the interest of time we'd like to entertain two questions from each, Japan and the United States.
Those of you who ask questions, please raise your hand. When designated please come to the standing mike in front. Please state your name and affiliation before asking a question, either to Minister Inada or Secretary Mattis -- state which person your question is directed to. And after asking the question please return to your seat.
First I would like to take up one question from the Japanese side.
Q (through translator): My name's Nakamura with NHK. Thank you.
With Secretary Mattis, and to Minister Mattis I would like to ask both of you this question: What are your thoughts on the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and the roles of the respective countries. Does your understanding that Senkaku Islands of Okinawa prefecture is within the scope of (inaudible) security pact remain unchanged?
In South and East China Seas maritime advances are strengthened by China. Nuclear and missile development is promoted by DPRK. How will you respond to them? How are you going to work on relocation of MCAS Futenma. Thank you.
STAFF: First, Minister Inada, please.
MIN. INADA (through translator): First, with respect to Japan-U.S. alliance and its importance this is unshakable. For Japan's peace and security and for the entire region's peace and stability and prosperity, and for the regional's future this is very important. This point was once again reaffirmed in today's talks, and the U.S. side many times said that the Senkaku Islands are government of Japan's -- under the government of Japan's administration, and it is within the scope of article five of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
And in the new administration Secretary Mattis clearly stated that they are within the scope of the treaty. And through the continued presence of the United States the U.S. will strengthen its commitment to the region, and now the security -- the environment surrounding Japan is increasingly difficult. And against this backdrop the U.S. commitment I believe is very significant.
And also with respect to DPRK and China, you also asked the question about this. Now there's a need to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance's deterrence and response capabilities. We agreed on this point, and for the regional peace and stability. Japan will play a proactive role and also we will strengthen our role in the alliance. This point has been communicated to Secretary Mattis. China is a very important neighbor for Japan, and so constructive dialogue -- for the constructive dialog we are always open. Our door is always open. This was also communicated.
With respect to MCAS Futenma, the relocation of it to Henoko is the only solution, and this position was once again reaffirmed with Secretary Mattis and the -- as far as the government of Japan is concerned we have an intention to steadily move ahead with the work toward relocation. Based on the results of today's talks we would like to further solidify the ties of the Japan-U.S. alliance which is unshaken based on the trusting relationship. There's an attempt to change the status quo by force, but -- for -- in order to establish peace and stability and the rule of law I would like to work with the countries that share that value.
STAFF: Secretary Mattis, please?
SEC. MATTIS: (Off mic) stated the alliance is unshakeable, and between the two of us standing together we're stronger together. We're strong with South Korea, and yet there is no complacency in terms of the alliance. We know we have got to adjust to the changing security situation. We will do so in measured steps working together. And I don't see any reason right now to think we cannot maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific region, especially with China.
But at the same time we have to recognize that the rules-based international order must be maintained. And so our focus, immediate focus is perhaps principally on the North Korea nuclear and ballistic missile threat, but we also must stand together in support of the international order that is rules based, and no one nation shoulders another aside or shreds the trust in terms of conviction over maintaining a rules-based approach to solving any sorts of disputes.
STAFF: Next we'd like to have a question from the U.S. side, please.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It's Robert Burns of Associated Press. The White House a few days said that it was putting Iran on notice. The question is on notice for what? And as defense secretary, are you going to put more military muscle behind those words? For example, by deploying a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, or making other military contingency moves? Otherwise aren't those just empty words, to put them on notice?
And if I may ask you in a related question you said earlier, including at your confirmation hearing that you felt that the counter-ISIL campaign should be accelerated. I'm wondering as it pertains to recapturing Raqqa will this possibly involve sending more U.S. troops to Syria?
If I may ask a question of Minister Inada. You mentioned in your opening statement that Japan intends to increase and strengthen its role on the alliance. Is Japan prepared to address U.S. concerns about contributing more financially to hosting U.S. forces in Japan?
STAFF: As far as Iran goes, this is single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and I think it is wise to make certain that Iran recognizes that what it is doing is getting the attention of a lot of people, and we have responsibility, along with the rest of the nations that want to maintain stability to be absolutely clear with Iran in this regard. It does no good to ignore it. It does no good to dismiss it. And at the same time I don't see any need to increase the number of forces we have in the Middle East at this time. That's not in the cards right now. We always have the capability to do so, but right now I don't think it's necessary.
But I would also just say that we do not have a situation, vis a vis Iran, that shows respect, again, for the rules-based international order. We have seen their misconduct, their misbehavior from Lebanon and Syria to Bahrain and to Yemen, and it's got to be addressed at some point.
STAFF: Next Minister Inada, please.
MIN. INADA (through translator): The Japan-U.S. alliance, this is for Japan and also for the future of this region is a very important alliance, and the importance is increasing I believe. Against this background, in this alliance, what kind of roles Japan will play. And also proactive playing of roles was mentioned under the Abe administration, the peace and security legislation and also through the Japan-U.S. Security guidelines.
For example, we are able to protect the U.S. assets and also -- limited exercise of force would be allowed. So within the permission of the Japan -- Japanese constitution, we are contributing to the peace of the world, and also we are doing activities to contribute to the Japan-U.S. alliance.
And furthermore, when -- in the administration the -- the national defense program guidelines have been revised and -- and now. Before the Abe administration the -- the defense expenditure was growing negatively, but after the Abe (inaudible) came into place, every year this has been growing.
So, the Japan's defense capabilities have been strengthened steadily and securely. Now, the strengthening of Japan's defense capabilities and also to the countries that share the values that we also providing the capacity building, and also for the region we are playing a proactive role also in the Japan's alliance.
And also with the secretary, with respect to the burden on the costs for the U.S. forces in Japan, there was no discussion whatsoever. So based upon the agreement between the two countries appropriate burden sharing is happening.
STAFF: The second question from the Japanese side please.
Q (through translator): My name's Onuma with Jiji Press.
To both Secretary Mattis and Minister Inada, as was mentioned by Minister Inada, President Trump during the campaign referred to increasing Japan's burden of cost for stationing U.S. forces in Japan.
On this point, Mattis -- Secretary Mattis now, you have expressed your intention to ask the allies to increase the burden of costs. Now, how are you going to respond to that?
And also, what do you think of Japan's defense budget, which accounts for about 1 percent of GDP?
STAFF: To Minister Inada first, please.
MIN. INADA (through translator): Right. Regarding the point of cost of burden for stationing U.S. forces in Japan, as I said before, in these talks there was no discussion on that particular point.
And also the burden sharing in the alliance, not really restricted to the financial aspects. And also, regarding the defense-related expenditures, again, as I mentioned before, we have midterm defense build-up program, covering from fiscal 2014 to 2018 based on this midterm defense build-up program.
In five years, on average, the plan is to increase it by 0.8 percent on average. So we will endeavor to develop the defense capabilities steadily and continuously. And in my talks with the secretary, based on the security environment that is increasingly becoming more difficult, both the qualitatively and quantitatively, Japan, we're strengthening defense capabilities, and expand the role that the Japan can play. This point has been communicated.
STAFF: Secretary Mattis, next please.
SEC. MATTIS: Japan has been a model of cost sharing, of burden sharing. We have constant dialogue about this. We've worked through the details, but we can point to our Japanese-American cost-sharing approach as an example for other nations to follow. And we have watched as the security situation worsened, and watched the budget grow under Prime Minister Abe and the minister of defense guidance, and I think it's prudent that we take those steps and we adapt the military, both our military positions, to the security situation we face today and anticipate tomorrow. And I think Japan is on the right track.
STAFF: Lastly, the second question from the U.S. side please.
Q: (Inaudible) from Financial Times.
Secretary Mattis, the U.S. has made little progress in recent years, urging China to slow down or to stop its activity -- it's construction activity in the South China Sea. Do you think the U.S. needs to adopt a more assertive policy in the South China Sea? And if so, what kind of military measures do you think should be tried?
And for Inada (unintelligible).
(through translastor): The DPRK threat is becoming increasing. Now if the U.S. side proactive attack, if that's communicated to Japan, what would be the response, the reaction of the Abe administration?
Sorry, I didn't get the assumption. If the U.S. side asks, announces to Japan that there's -- well, first well the -- the attack to the DPRK what would be the reaction of the Abe administration?
STAFF: Starting with Secretary Mattis please.
SEC. MATTIS: (Off mic) watched in the South China Sea, as China has shredded the trust of nations in the region. Apparently having to have a veto authority over the diplomatic, and security and economic conditions of the neighboring states. And the point behind a rules-based international order, what those words mean, is that we all play by the rules, and if we have disputes, we take them to arbitration. We don't settle them by taking military means and occupying land that is subject to question, to say the least about who actually owns it, or is it international waters.
So, what we have to do is exhaust all -- all efforts, diplomatic efforts, to try and resolve this properly, maintain open lines of communication. And certainly our military stance should be one that reinforces our diplomats in this regard.
But there is no need right now at this time for military maneuvers or something like that, that would -- that would solve something that's best solved by the diplomats.
At the same time, freedom of navigation is absolute, and whether it be commercial shipping or our U.S. Navy, we will practice in international waters and transit international waters as appropriate.
So, at this time, we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all.
STAFF: Next, Minister Inada please.
MIN. INADA (through translator): Right. Regarding DPRK, last year the two nuclear tests were conducted and also with respect to missiles, 20 -- more than 20 missiles, were launched from submarines, as well as Musudan and also from the same place, three missiles were -- actually landed in the waters simultaneously.
So DPRK's missile threat is now in a new stage. And also, how are we going to respond to that? We had a conversation with the secretary, and so we have to have a missile-defense capabilities, and also important neighbor is -- ROK with Korea, long-standing issue. (unintelligible) has now in place -- is now in place. So, the Japan-U.S. alliance and also Japan, U.S. ROK, these three countries need to cooperate and will cooperate steadily. I think because this is very important.
And beyond that, Japan has article nine of the constitution and we have a defense-only posture. And we have strike capability -- we don't have strike capability. On this point, between Japan and the United States, we have division of roles, but first we have to make sure that this kind of a situation will not happen. We have to cooperate.
And furthermore, in this region, the Japan and U.S. has ties and we have to strengthen the alliance. The U.S. has strike capability. This is a deterrence, so including all of this to the DPRK, we have to confront the nation.
STAFF: Now the time is up. I'd like to conclude the joint press conference. The two ministers are leaving the stage. Please remain -- I would like to ask the press corps to remain seated.