the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official on the Visit of Prime Minister Noda of Japan

Via Conference Call

4:05 P.M. EDT
MS. BRADSHER:  Hi, good afternoon.  And thank you so much, everyone, for taking time out of your busy Friday to join us.  This call will be on background.  We have approximately 20 minutes.  And our focus of this call is on -- as the operator had said, on Prime Minister of Japan Noda’s visit, which will occur next week.
And with that, we’ll go ahead and let the briefer start.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you, Tanya, and thanks to all of you for taking the time to let me talk you through the plans for the upcoming visit of the Japanese Prime Minister.  I know there are a lot of other things going on in the world on Asia, but I hope you’ll indulge me and let me focus on Japan today.
Prime Minister Noda will be arriving in Washington on Sunday the 29th, and will be a guest of the United States Blair House.  The following day, Monday, he will have bilateral meetings with President Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.  And that will be followed by a working lunch that will allow the two leaders to continue the discussions.
Now, I’m not in the business of making announcements on behalf of the Department of State, so please respect their right to make the announcement, which I’m told is happening virtually concurrent with our telephone conversation.  But I happen to know that Secretary Clinton is planning to host a gala dinner for the Prime Minister of Japan.  And one of the reasons that I know that is that the Japanese are very, very pleased about that, and it’s going to be an interesting dinner.
I would say by way of context that to understand what comes out of the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan on Monday, it’s worth remembering that President Obama came to office convinced that the U.S. was underinvested in the Asia Pacific region and was determined to rebalance in a way that reflected the strategic priority that he placed on Asia Pacific, including because that region is such an important driver for global growth and for the future of the U.S. and its economy.
And in the context of the emphasis that President Obama put on the Asia Pacific region, he began by focusing on shoring up and strengthening America’s alliance.  So within a month of taking office, the very first foreign leader that President Obama welcomed to the White House and met with in the Oval Office was the Prime Minister of Japan.  So in a way, we’re coming full circle.
And then, not long after that, when he traveled to Asia his first stop in Asia was in Tokyo.  He gave a landmark policy speech at Suntory Hall, where he reaffirmed our commitment to Japan as a cornerstone of security in the Asia Pacific region, and talked about the strength of the ties that bind our two people. 
And then 2012 -- excuse me, 2010 was the year in which we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the alliance.  I know all of you are familiar with the tremendous effort made in support of the Japanese recovery effort in the aftermath of the March 11th triple disaster -- what we call Operation Tomodachi.
So I give you this context because it underscores that President Obama believes that a revitalized and an enduring U.S.-Japan alliance is critical for regional and international peace and stability and prosperity.  And so the goal for the upcoming visit is really to allow the two leaders to set out their common vision for the partnership and for the alliance throughout the 21st century. 
Yesterday -- you are all aware I’m sure -- the Secretaries of State and Defense, along with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense in Japan issued a realignment joint statement that described our plans for realignment force posture.  That’s been pretty well briefed by the State Department and the Pentagon, so I won’t go back over the details.
What I will say is that that dispels any concern in the region or in both countries about the resilience of our security alliance.  And as a practical matter, part of the relevance to the upcoming summit on Monday is that by breaking the stalemate on Okinawa, it frees up both leaders to concentrate on our long-term goals and priorities, particularly in the security arena.  So I think it’s safe to say that the U.S.-Japan alliance is stronger today as a result of the agreement that was announced yesterday.
Thirdly, I would say that the two leaders have a very rich agenda as befits the close allies and close partners that they are, representing two -- the first and the third-largest economies in the world.  What I would anticipate is that they will, in discussing bilateral relations, certainly review the progress that the two sides have made on alliance priorities, as witnessed by the agreement yesterday, but also talk more about how they believe that we can, together, develop our political and security cooperation going forward.
In regional, political and security issues, they similarly have a rich agenda.  I know that the Japanese Prime Minister recently hosted several Southeast Asian leaders, including the President of Burma.  And Burma is an area in which the U.S. and Japan both share an interest in promoting the dramatic reform and progress towards democratic change.  And so it seems probable that that may be one of the subjects that they will want to discuss.
Clearly, North Korea is an important issue on which the U.S. and Japan cooperate very closely.  And I have every expectation that the two leaders will discuss these ongoing strategies for dealing with and discouraging provocative behavior by North Korea, and will exchange their views on the situation in the Korean Peninsula. 
In terms of this international cooperation, a little further afield, I know the President is appreciative of the support that Japan provides to Afghanistan and the Afghan National Security Forces.  And I know that an important issue of common concern that typically they discuss is Iran, and the importance of encouraging Iran to behave responsibly and engage with the international community to find a solution. 
Clearly, both leaders put a huge priority on the economy -- on the global economy, of course, and also on bilateral trade and bilateral economic issues.  So I know that that will feature prominently in the time that they spend together.  That extends to a range of issues; energy, of course -- everything from renewable, clean energy sources to energy security.
And they may well pick up on the discussion that they had in November at APEC, when President Obama welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Noda of his interest in beginning consultations on TPP.  And I know that Japan's consultations with us and with others have been actively underway in the interim.  And there are other issues that could well come up, including their coordination on multilateral agendas in the G8 or in the G20.
So to sum it up, this is the third full meeting between Prime Minister Noda and President Obama.  Of course, they also have seen each other numerous times on the margins of meetings, such as the Nuclear Security Summit that took place last month in Seoul.  I would say that relations between the two countries are in excellent shape, and that, among other things, it reflects the fact that these two leaders have been able to work together very effectively.
So with that, in the few minutes that we have left --
MS. BRADSHER:  I have one administrative -- I am so sorry.  When the press release went out -- it is on background.  I know in the bottom left corner it said on the record, so I just wanted to clarify for all the reporters that this will be on background.  Thank you.
And we'll take our first question.
Q    Thanks for doing the call, and thank you for your service.  The BBC is reporting that Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is in the U.S. embassy in Beijing right now.  I'm wondering if you could please confirm or deny that.  And also, could you state your level of concern about the treatment of Chen Guangcheng by the Chinese authorities over the years?  Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Josh.  I have nothing for you on that subject, but I certainly have a lot for you on Japan.
Q    All right, in that case let me ask you, will there be a joint statement?  Will it include mentions of Japan's commitments to reduce its oil imports from Iran?  And will the U.S. offer Japan any energy concessions or benefits or incentives to make up for that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The two leaders are going to hold a press conference following the working lunch on Monday.  And so we'll leave it to them to discuss the specific issues, and also to read out what they talked about.  But Japan has made constructive statements about its intention vis-à-vis Iran, and specifically reduction of imports of Iranian oil.
The bigger point is that there’s close alignment between the U.S. government and the government of Japan on the issue of Iran and on the necessity of following through on a two-track approach that includes, frankly, pressure -- not pressure for its own sake, but pressure to make clear to the leadership in Tehran that they have to cooperate with the international community to try and allay concerns over nuclear ambition.
Q    Thank you.
Q    Yes, thanks for taking the call.  I was just wondering if there would be an expectation of any announcement on TPP.  You said consultations are continuing, but will there be any indication of whether the U.S. will either support Japan’s entrance into the talks?  Or whether Japan will say they are definitively interested in joining the talks?  And I guess the Prime Minister will be returning for the G8 Summit in a few weeks.  Will there be some sort of assignment where he will come back and maybe report further on the TPP and the level of interest that Japan has in joining?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, the President made a pretty clear statement welcoming Japan’s interest in the TPP when the two leaders met in November in Honolulu.  And what the President believes and what I expect you will continue to hear is that he thinks that eliminating the barriers to trade between the first and the third-largest economies in the world could be a historic opportunity and that it carries great potential benefits.
At the same time, what they -- the TPP countries have all said that they are prepared to meet the agreement’s very high standards.  And it is an extremely complicated process.  So I think that the pace of the process between the U.S. and Japan will be determined by how -- in the consultations that are underway -- folks in Japan find ways to address the key issues.  I know that they will -- or I believe that they will certainly discuss the issue of TPP.  I’m not expecting them to make a breakthrough announcement during this visit.
Q    And just quickly -- is there any sort of confidence-building measure that the U.S., the President might ask the Prime Minister to consider as far as increasing the chance for Japan to join TPP in terms of one of the these trade barriers?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think that is the project that the respective teams are embarked on.  Ambassador Kirk and his team have been holding consultations with the Japanese to discuss what would be entailed in a decision by Japan to enter negotiations on TPP.  And when both sides feel they have gotten to the point where they have something to say, you’ll hear an announcement.
Q    Thank you.
Q    Yes, thank you.  Two questions.  First, on yesterday’s U.S. and Japan joint statement, there’s a -- it mentions that the U.S. and Japan will share and join the facilities, and especially Guam and the Northern Mariana Island.  Could you elaborate that a little bit more?
And also, the second question is whether the President Obama and Prime Minister Noda will talk, discuss the issue of Diaoyutai/Senkaku Island?  Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, I believe that my colleagues in the Defense Department and State went through the elements of the realignment statement yesterday in fair detail.  What I would say is that the two countries are, in fact, considering options for cooperatively developing training areas, both in Guam and in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. 
And I think that’s an important example of the kind of creative and innovative approach to U.S.-Japan alliance cooperation that has become possible as the two sides have found ways to break through a long-standing impasse and move ahead on the Okinawa related basing issues.
So I'm not the source of the particulars on the actual development of training areas.  That’s something that is still being worked on between the Japanese Self-Defense Force and the U.S. military.  But I certainly would underscore the significance that it has, because it dispels any doubts that countries in the region may have held about the ability of the alliance to take creative and positive steps to advance security in the region, and also to develop further new opportunities for training. 
And I'm sorry, your second question?
Q    Yes, it’s on whether the President and the Prime Minister would talk about the Senkaku Island issue, Diaoyutai issue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Right.  I do not know, but the general subject of maritime security and of the peaceful resolution of disputes, including territorial claims in the Asia Pacific region, is an agenda item in both the multilateral organizations that the two leaders participated in -- the case in point being the East Asia Summit, where they both attended the leaders’ session where this issue was discussed.  But it also features in their discussion of the political and the security aspects of the Asia Pacific region.
Both the U.S. and Japan place a great premium, as trading nations, as important economies, on both the security and sanctity of international shipping lanes and the peaceful resolution of disputes.  So whether or not any particular issue related to maritime -- or territorial claims, or maritime security comes up, there is a great convergence of view and of interest between the two leaders.
Q    All right, thank you very much.
Q    Thank you very much for -- both all for the information and I guess for fitting in my question.  What I’d like to know is, in all of these discussions and new announcements, and what it seems like is a reevaluation of the U.S. and Japan security alliance, has there been any discussion or will there be any discussion of revisiting Article 9 in the Security Treaty and possibly allowing the Japanese to create their own standing army?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m not aware of any discussion of the question of the Japanese constitution between the President of the United States and Prime Minister Noda.  And I think that the issue of the Japanese constitution is one best addressed by the Japanese themselves.
Q    Okay, thank you very much.
MS. BRADSHER:  All right, thank you so much, everyone, for joining us.  Just wanted to let you know there will be a transcript of this call coming out.  I’ll try to get it out as soon as possible.  And we really appreciate your time.  Have a wonderful Friday.  Bye.
4:29 P.M. EDT