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Press Conference With Sec. Panetta and Japan's DM

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - October 25, 2011

            (Note:  Defense Minister Ichikawa's remarks are provided through interpreter.)

            MODERATOR:  (Through interpreter)  First we'll have initial remarks by Minister Ichikawa and Secretary Panetta, and first, Minister Ichikawa, please.

            MINISTER YASUO ICHIKAWA:  Allow me to go ahead.  It was a pleasure to welcome Secretary Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense of the United States, to the Ministry of Defense.

            A while ago we concluded the Japan-U.S. defense ministers meeting.  In the defense ministers meeting today, we discussed the following issues, and we had candid exchange of views of these major topics.

            First of all, between I and Secretary Panetta, we affirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and also agreed to further advance the agreement of the two-plus-two in June, such as common strategic objectives and security and defense cooperation in very wide-ranging areas. 

            We also heard very encouraging remarks from Secretary Panetta that the United States will, in spite of their difficult fiscal conditions, continue to maintain and further step up its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and effective joint exercises and the cooperation of air surveillance, and also broaden the choice of bases for such operations.  And for that purpose, we'll advance joint use of facilities and raise the level -- activity of our units, and demonstrate the presence and capability of our forces.  We agreed on this point.  And also in -- between myself and Secretary Panetta, we also agreed to further advance such a dynamic Japan-U.S. cooperation -- defense cooperation.

            On Futenma relocation, I explained that Japan is proceeding with the preparations to submit an environmental impact assessment statement before the end of the year.  And Secretary Panetta stated that he appreciates efforts on the part of Japan and also stated that the U.S. side will continue to work to advance the efforts for -- of the -- for relocation of Futenma Air Station, including relocation of the Marine Corps to Guam.

            On the basis of Japan-U.S. agreement, while gaining the understanding of the people in Okinawa and to remove as early as possible the risks accompanying the Futenma Air Station and to realize the return to facilities in the areas south of Futenma and south of Kadena and on relocation of Guam, that we will work as early as possible to advance relocation and the return of the air station. 

            And we also had discussions on space, cyber-security cooperation and also acquisition of airspace equipment, including ballistic missile defense. 

            So that is summary of what we discussed, and on the basis of the results achieved in our exchange of views today with Secretary Panetta, we'll continue to address firmly various challenges in order to further strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance.

            Thank you very much.

            STAFF:  Secretary Panetta will make a statement.

            Secretary Panetta, please.

            SECRETARY LEON PANETTA:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

            I'd like to begin by thanking Minister Ichikawa for hosting me here today. 

            And I'd also like to thank the people of Japan for the warm hospitality they've provided me on this visit.  This is my first trip to Japan as secretary of defense, although I've had the opportunity to come here a number of times in past capacities in government. 

            And the message that I want to send is simple.  The United States is and always will be a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.

            The forward presence of U.S. forces here is not merely a symbol of U.S. commitment to Japan, but also a symbol of our commitment to the peace and security that must exist across the Pacific region.

            Minister Ichikawa and I, we found out, share a bond beyond being defense ministers.  I was born in Monterey, California, and he comes from an area in which there is a sister city to Monterey.  And they in turn -- as we speak, there are young people from both communities that are engaging in an exchange, and it happens at the same time that the minister and I exchange our views with regards to many important issues.

            We -- we had a very good and productive meeting, and it follows on some very good sessions that I had with Prime Minister Noda and Foreign Minister Gemba.  Both Minister Ichikawa and I agree that the United States-Japan alliance is truly a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. 

            We also discussed a range of issues, as he pointed out, relating to the security and stability of this region, including North Korea's sometimes provocative behavior, China's growing military capabilities and the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. 

            I expressed my great admiration and conveyed the admiration of the American people for the resilience of the Japanese people in recovering from the terrible earthquake that struck this nation.  U.S. military was very proud to support the government of Japan in responding to that disaster.  And the success of these efforts by both Japan and the United States is a testament to the strength of this alliance.

            We also stated our desire to continue to work together to strengthen bilateral security cooperation with the Republic of Korea as well as with Australia to more effectively address the many shared challenges that we face.  Together we will also work to encourage China's emergence as a responsible and positive partner in building regional stability and prosperity, cooperating on global issues and upholding international norms and rules of behavior.

            Regarding the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, the minister assured me, as did the prime minister and the foreign minister, of the government of Japan's intention to move forward with the steps necessary for the Futenma replacement facility.  This is a critical initiative in our effort to maintain a strong forward-deployed presence in the Pacific region.  It's also important to the realignment of our forces in Japan.  And it's also important to reducing the impact of our bases in Okinawa.             

            For all those reasons, we are both very committed to the principles of the realignment road map, including the establishment of an operational Marine presence in Guam. 

            I want the people of Japan to know that America will continue to work with our regional allies and partners and, through Asia's emerging security architecture, to underwrite peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific area.

            It's no secret that the United States faces some very tough fiscal decisions back home.  But let me reassure the people of Japan, let me reassure you as secretary of defense that the one thing that we have determined in discussions as to our future strategy, the one thing we are agreed up on is that the Pacific will remain a key priority.  I will continue to strengthen our forces in this part of the world.

            I'm looking forward to working with Minister Ichikawa to further deepen our alliance, and I'd like to again thank him for his hospitality on my first trip here.  Japan is more than just an ally.  Japan is a great friend of America, and we will remain a great friend to Japan.

            MIN. ICHIKAWA:  (In English.)  Thank you.

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