"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Joint Press Conference by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan and President Barack Obama of the United States of America

[Place] Tokyo
[Date] 13 November 2009
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Full text]

Note: The translation of statements in Japanese has been prepared based on the simultaneous interpretation into English provided during the press conference, with certain modifications and additions for clarity or completeness. As such, it is not necessarily a word-by-word translation of the record of the press conference found on the Prime Minister's Office Japanese-language homepage. The statements in English are as actually delivered during the press conference.

1. Opening statements

(1) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

President Obama, welcome to Japan--I welcome you most sincerely. All the people of Japan are very happy that, despite the tragedy of the mass shooting, Barack was able to visit Japan. I am very happy that today we had the opportunity to hold a very intensive 90-minute discussion. We have grown quite accustomed to calling each other Barack and Yukio.

We covered a lot of ground today. First, I stated that the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone for Japan’s entire diplomacy. I proposed that in line with changes in the times and the international environment we should further deepen and develop the Japan-US alliance and build a new alliance that is even more constructive and future-oriented.

Next year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty. I proposed that today we start a new process of talks that would continue over the coming year. President Obama expressed full support to this idea.

Looking at the security dimension of the Japan-US alliance, I believe we need to create various types of new security systems, including extended deterrence, information protection, the modalities of missile defence and the use of outer space, amongst others. The Japan-US alliance is not limited to the security dimension, and we agreed that we could deepen the Japan-US alliance through bilateral cooperation in various areas as disaster prevention, health, education and the environment, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.

We also discussed global issues. I raised the topic of support to Afghanistan. To assist Afghanistan, rather than conducting replenishment support activities, Japan would instead enhance its support to improve the public welfare of the Afghan people. I explained that Japan would provide around five billion dollars over the coming five years. This would be spent primarily to improve the daily livelihoods of the Afghan people, including for support in the areas of agriculture, the building of social infrastructure and schools, and also to improve security conditions in the country, such as through support for the police force and vocational training of former combatants. President Obama stated his appreciation for this new assistance and expressed his wish to take decisions on policy concerning Afghanistan by consulting directly with me to the extent possible.

We also discussed climate change. Japan and the US have concurred on a major goal--that the two countries would each reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. They also agreed to cooperate for the success of COP15. As for various issues that need to be resolved, including that of China['s stance on this issue], we agreed to cooperate and collaborate closely.

With regard to nuclear disarmament, again we have pledged to cooperate with one another.

We have issued joint statements on nuclear disarmament and climate change, and I believe that these are quite ground-breaking developments. The fact that these areas were discussed as at the main subjects of our summit meeting is highly noteworthy.

Economic matters were not a major topic this time. This might reflect the tide of recent times. We look forward to further discussions over dinner, mainly on economic matters.

President Obama raised the issues of North Korea and Iran in connection with nuclear issues. I expressed my wish for [continued] close Japan-US cooperation. President Obama noted the possibility that Special Representative [Stephen W.] Bosworth may visit North Korea shortly, but this was premised on the [resumption of the] Six-Party Talks. I told the President that I shared and supported this position.

With regard to Iran, I expressed support to the approach of both engaging in dialogue as well as applying pressure, and undertook to strengthen our collaboration with the United States vis-a-vis Iran while attaching importance to Japan's historical relationship with Iran.

President Obama stated that the US has a vital role to play in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in East Asia. I fully agreed with that perspective and explained that I am advocating an East Asian community initiative precisely because the Japan-US alliance exists as a cornerstone of the region. I expressed my great expectation on the US increasing its presence in Asia. We reaffirmed our conviction that further progress in Japan-US cooperation throughout East Asia at various levels would contribute significantly to the peace and stability of East Asia as well as to its economic development.

I believe that this summit meeting was extremely meaningful. I would like to once again to thank President Obama, as Prime Minister and on behalf of the Japanese people for making time in his very busy schedule to visit Japan first in his [first] trip to Asia [as US President].

(2) President Barack Obama

Well, good evening. It is a great honor to be making my first trip to Japan as President of the United States. I have fond memories of visiting Japan in my youth and I have been looking forward to this trip for some time. I'm only sorry that Michelle and the girls could not join us. The girls have been studying Japan in school, and so they have a great interest in Japanese culture. Hopefully I'll be able to bring them next time.

I want to thank the warm welcome that Prime Minister Hatoyama and the Japanese people have extended. I appreciate the graciousness with which you understood the delay that took place as a consequence of the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas.

Japan is my first stop as President in Asia. I began my trip here in Tokyo because the alliance between the United States and Japan is a foundation for security and prosperity, not just for our two countries, but for the Asia-Pacific region. In a few months we will be marking the fiftieth anniversary of our alliance, which is founded on shared values and shared interests, that has served our people so well and has provided peace and security for the region in an unprecedented way. That anniversary, as Prime Minister Hatoyama pointed out, represents an important opportunity to step back and reflect on what we have achieved and celebrate our friendship, but also find ways to renew this alliance it and refresh it for the twenty-first century.

Both Yukio and I were elected on a promise of change. But there should be no doubt, as we move our nations in a new direction, our alliance will endure and our efforts will be focused on revitalising that friendship so that it is even stronger and more successful in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. It is essential for the United States, it is essential for Japan, and it is essential for the Asia-Pacific region.

Throughout my trip and throughout my presidency, I intend to make clear that the United States is a Pacific nation and we will be deepening our engagement in this part of the world. As I said to Prime Minister Hatoyama, the United States will strengthen our alliances, build new partnerships, and we will be part of multilateral efforts and regional institutions that advance regional security and prosperity. We have to understand that the future of the United States and Asia is inextricably linked. The issues that matter most to our people--issues of economic growth, job creation, non-proliferation, clean energy--these are all issues that have to be part of a joint agenda, and we had very productive discussions about these issues this evening.

It is true that because of the strength of our economic ties, that was not the first item on our agenda, but we are fortunately going to have the opportunity to spend a lot of time discussing that in Singapore in the coming days. As the world's two leading economies, we have spent a lot of time working together in the G20 to help bring the world back from the brink of financial crisis, and we are going to continue to work to strengthen our efforts so that we can expand job growth in the future. We will be discussing with our APEC partners how to rebalance our deep economic cooperation with this region to strengthen our recovery.

The Prime Minister and I discussed our cooperation on Afghanistan and Pakistan. I did thank the people of Japan and the Prime Minister for the powerful commitment of five billion dollars over the next five years to support our shared civilian efforts in Afghanistan as well as the commitment of a billion dollars to Pakistan. This underscores Japan’s prominent role within a broad international coalition that is advancing the cause of stability and opportunity in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I shared with the Prime Minister our efforts in refining our approach to make it more successful in the coming year.

We discussed our shared commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately seeking a world without them. Since I laid out a comprehensive agenda in Prague to pursue these goals, Japan has been an outstanding partner in those efforts. Together, we passed a historic resolution in the Security Council last September. We are building a new international consensus to secure loose nuclear materials and strengthen the non-proliferation regime. To that end, we discussed both North Korea and this situation in Iran, recognising that it is absolutely vital that both countries meet their international obligations. If they do, then they can open the door to a better future. If not, we will remain united in implementing UN resolutions that are in place and continuing to work in an international context to move towards an agenda of non-proliferation.

Finally, we discussed our partnership on energy issues and climate change. The United States and Japan share a commitment to developing the clean energy of the future and we are focused on combating the threat of climate change. This is an important priority for us. I know it is an important priority for the people of Japan. We discussed how we can work together to pave the way for a successful outcome in Copenhagen next month.

So, I believe that we are off to a very successful start. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation during dinner as well as we both travel to Singapore. I am confident that we will continue to strengthen the US-Japan alliance so that it serves future generations. Thank you very much.

2. Q&As

QUESTION: Prime Minister Hatoyama, you have called for "an equal Japan-US relationship". In your talks today, you held discussions on Japan's policy on assistance to Afghanistan and also the cessation of the replenishment support activities, climate change, and efforts for nuclear disarmament. Do you think that you were able to make your points as an equal partner and gain sufficient understanding on these points? Especially with regard to the Japan-US alliance, there is the view that as time passes it will become increasingly difficult to reach an agreement between Japan and the US on the issue of the relocation of the Futenma air base. What did you explain to President Obama on your principles for the future and the timing of resolving this issue?

President Obama, you are a proponent of a nuclear-free world, and it has been reported that you stated your wish if possible to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki while in office. Do you in fact wish to do so? How do you perceive the historical meaning of the two atomic bombings of Japan in the past? Do you currently view this as having been the right decision? Also, in light of the North Korean situation, what kind of collaboration in concrete terms should Japan and the United States undertake in the areas of reinforcing the US-Japan alliance and nuclear disarmament? As for the Futenma relocation issue, which is connected to reinforcing of the alliance, by when do you think the issue should be resolved? If Japan were to defer its conclusion still further until next year, or if Japan were to make a choice that deviates from the existing Japan-US agreement, would you accept such an outcome?

PRIME MINISTER YUKIO HATOYAMA: As for an "equal" relationship between Japan and the United States, let me say that President Obama himself said before I spoke about this that of course the relationship should be an "equal" one. It was in this context that I talked essentially as an equal about assistance to Afghanistan, responses to climate change, and furthermore, the elimination of nuclear weapons and other matters. That is to say I raised a range of issues from my side as did the President.

On the issue of the relocation of the Futenma air base which you asked, I stated that this should be resolved as early as possible, by setting up a high-level Working Group, and I expressed my resolve regarding this issue. As a preface to that, I explained why we take our current position, stating that: the present Japanese government takes the US-Japan agreement reached under the previous government very seriously; however, during the election campaign, we stated to the people of Okinawa that we would consider relocating the base outside Okinawa or even outside Japan; as a result, the expectations of the people of Okinawa have been raised. There is no question that this is a very difficult issue, and I am aware it will become even more difficult to resolve as time passes. This is even more the case so far as the residents of the Futenma district are concerned. As we are conscious about the time factor, we understand the need to resolve the issue as soon as possible within the Working Group. I told President Obama that I would personally work proactively so that various discussions to be held would further reinforce and develop the Japan-US alliance.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, first of all, I am impressed that the Japanese journalists use the same strategy as American journalists in asking multiple questions. [laughter]

Let me, first of all, insist that the United States and Japan are equal partners. We have been and we will continue to be. Each country brings specific assets and strengths to the relationship, but we proceed based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and that will continue.

That's reflected in the Japan-US alliance. It will be reflected in the resolution of the base realignment issues related to Futenma. As the Prime Minister indicated, we discussed this. The United States and Japan have set up a high-level Working Group that will focus on implementation of the agreement that our two governments reached with respect to the restructuring of the US forces in Okinawa, and we hope to complete this work expeditiously.

Our goal remains the same, and that's to provide for the defence of Japan with minimal intrusion on the lives of the people who share this space. I have to say that I am extraordinarily proud and grateful for the men and women in uniform from the United States who help us to honour our obligations to the alliance and our treaties.

With respect to nuclear weapons and the issues of non-proliferation, this is an area where Prime Minister Hatoyama and I have discussed repeatedly in our meetings. We share, I think, a vision of a world without nuclear weapons. We recognise, though, that this is a distant goal, and we have to take specific steps in the interim to meet this goal. It will take time. It will not be reached probably even in our own lifetimes. But in seeking this goal we can stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We can secure loose nuclear weapons. We can strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, we will retain our deterrent for our people and our allies, but we are already taking steps to bring down our nuclear stockpiles and, in cooperation with the Russian government, we want to continue to work on the non-proliferation issues.

Now, obviously Japan has unique perspective on the issue of nuclear weapons as a consequence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And that I'm sure helps to motivate the Prime Minister's deep interest in this issue. I certainly would be honoured-it would be meaningful for me-to visit those two cities in the future. I don't have immediate travel plans, but it's something that would be meaningful to me.

You had one more question, and I'm not sure I remember it. Was it North Korea?

QUESTION: Whether or not you believe [it was appropriate] that the US dropped a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, there were three sets of questions, right? You asked about North Korea?

QUESTION: I [asked about] North Korea as well, yes.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes. With respect to North Korea, we had an extensive discussion about how we should proceed with Pyongyang. Obviously we were disturbed by the testing that took place, some of the belligerent actions that had taken place in an earlier period of this year. We have continued to say that our goal is a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. That's vital for the security of East Asia. The United States and Japan, with the other members of the Six-Party Talks, will continue to work to show North Korea that there is a pathway, a door, for them to rejoin the international community that would serve their people well and I believe enhance their security over the long term. They have to walk through that door. In the meantime, we will continue to implement the sanctions that have already been put in place, and we will continue to coordinate closely with Japan and the other Six Party members in helping to shape a strategy that meets our security needs and convinces Pyongyang to move in a better direction.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister. President Obama, how can you assure the American people that a trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now that your administration has decided will take place in a civilian court in New York, will be safe and secure, but also not result in an innocent verdict for him?

And on Afghanistan, if I might, can you explain to people watching and criticising your deliberations what piece of information you're still lacking to make that call?

And if I could add one to the Prime Minister, please. Can you explain why your country decided not to continue refueling ships going to Afghanistan?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: With respect to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I believe that the Attorney General is going to be making an announcement this morning in the United States-this evening here. I don't want to preempt his news conference. This is a prosecutorial decision as well as a national security decision.

Here's the thing that I will say. I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice. The American people will insist on it and my administration will insist on it. And I'm sure we'll have additional things to say after the Attorney General's press conference.

With respect to Afghanistan, I don't think this is a matter of some datum of information that I'm waiting on. It's a matter of making certain that when I send young men and women into war, and I devote billions of dollars of US taxpayer money, that it is making us safer, and that the strategies that are in place not just on the military side but also on the civilian side are coordinated and effective in our primary goal, which is to make sure that the United States is not subject to attack and its allies are not subject to attack by terrorist networks, and that there is a stability in the region that helps to facilitate that larger goal.

And I recognise that there have been critics of the process. They tend not to be folks who I think are directly involved in what's happening in Afghanistan. Those who are recognise the gravity of the situation and recognise the importance of us getting this right. The decision will be made soon. It will be one that is fully transparent so that the American people understand exactly what we're doing and why we're doing it and what it will entail. It will also I think send a clear message that our goal here ultimately has to be for the Afghan people to be able to be in a position to provide their own security, and that the United States cannot be engaged in an open-ended commitment.

So I am very pleased with how the process has proceeded. Those who participated I think would acknowledge that it has been not an academic exercise, but a necessary process in order to make sure that we're making the best possible decisions.

PRIME MINISTER YUKIO HATOYAMA: We have considered the assistance that Japan should provide to Afghanistan within a broad context. Certainly it is necessary to take measures to eradicate terrorism. However, the question that needs to be asked is what form of countermeasures it is right for Japan to take. We considered assistance mainly in the field of public welfare, which would eliminate the root causes of terrorism, to be the most suitable for Japan. This is the first point that I should like to make.

In addition, when one looks at the frequency of replenishment support activities that have actually been conducted, this has been in decline recently. As for last month, there was only one replenishment operation, of a single ship. So the question is how much of a role there really is for these activities. When we considered how meaningful logistical support for maritime interdiction operations was, we judged that there were other forms of assistance more suited to Japan. For example, saving the people of Afghanistan from poverty and conducting new activities related to security [within Afghanistan]. In addition, giving vocational training and thus new job opportunities to former combatants including members of the Taliban would give them a better purpose in life. We decided to formulate an assistance package which does not include replenishment assistance operations based on the conclusion that the types of assistance to which I just referred were indeed those which befit Japan.