Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin With Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Before Their Meeting

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Tokyo, Japan

Kantei (Japanese Prime Minister’s Office)

PRIME MINISTER SUGA:  (Via interpreter) I would like to extend my sincere welcome to Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin for visiting Japan as your first overseas travel.  I would also like to welcome that President Biden has declared that America is back, and is promoting policies that value relations with its allies and partners.

Last week, we held the first ever Quad leaders video conference, and we were able to send a strong message to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.

I have just been reported that during today’s 2+2, the four of you had very constructive discussions towards the further strengthening of deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

I will soon visit Washington to meet with President Biden, and I hope to make it a significant opportunity to reaffirm the bond, the kizuna, of the alliance with your President.

Please.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for such a warm welcome.  I remember well when you were a cabinet secretary the wonderful hospitality you showed me when I was deputy secretary of state.  It’s wonderful to see you again.  It’s an honor to be with you, together with my friend and colleague, Secretary of Defense Austin.

He and I are making the first cabinet-level overseas trip of the Biden administration together.  And we come to Japan because the alliance between Japan and the United States has been a cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity for our countries, for the region, and the world for more than 60 years.  And thanks to the work we can do together, it will remain so.  Our work together today has been to reaffirm the alliance and to make sure we keep delivering for our people.

Together, Prime Minister, our countries will tackle the most urgent challenges facing our people, including COVID-19 and climate change, and we’ll stand together in defense of an open and free Indo-Pacific region, as you did so eloquently in the Quad leaders summit (inaudible).

We’ll discuss all of this and more in the time we have together.  Thank you so much for hosting us today.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Well, thank you, Prime Minister Suga, for a warm welcome and for the gracious hospitality of the people of Japan.  It is indeed a pleasure to be here in Japan on my first international trip as Secretary of Defense, and especially so alongside my colleague, Secretary of State Blinken.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of our strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.  And it is resolute and resilient thanks to the strong spirit of teamwork and cooperation between our two countries.  I look forward to working with your team to advance our shared interests and preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Thank you again, Mr. Prime Minister, for hosting us today.  It’s a real pleasure to be here.

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    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has increased its resources to enforce a prohibition on importing goods made with forced labor, but has not determined its workforce needs. CBP formed the Forced Labor Division in 2018 to lead its efforts, and increased expenditures for the division from roughly $1 million in fiscal year 2018 to $1.4 million in fiscal year 2019. However, CBP has not assessed and documented the staffing levels or skills needed for the Forced Labor Division. For example, the division suspended some ongoing investigations due to a staff shortage and has plans to expand and train its workforce; however, the division has not assessed the number, type, locations, or specialized skills of positions it needs to achieve programmatic results. Without assessing its workforce needs, the division lacks reasonable assurance that it has the right number of people, with the right skills, in the right places. CBP has increased forced labor investigations and civil enforcement actions, but managers lack complete and consistent data summarizing cases. CBP detained shipments under 13 Withhold Release Orders (WRO) from 2016 through 2019, as shown in the figure below. However, the Forced Labor Division uses incomplete and inconsistent summary data to monitor its investigations. For example, data were missing on the sources of evidence collected for almost all active cases. Incomplete and inconsistent summary data on the characteristics and status of cases may hinder managers' effective monitoring of case progress and enforcement efforts. Figure: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Forced Labor Withhold Release Orders, 2016 through 2019 With regard to criminal violations, DHS's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased its resources to investigate allegations of forced labor, including those related to U.S. imports. ICE coordinates criminal investigations of forced labor, conducted in the U.S. and abroad. ICE reported spending about $40 million on forced labor investigations in fiscal year 2019, an increase of over 50 percent since 2016. Forced labor investigations often involve a range of criminal violations, including violations that are not related to the importation of goods. As such, reported expenditures include costs for cases on related issues, such as human trafficking. Forced labor is a global problem in which individuals are exploited to perform labor or services. The International Labour Organization estimates that forced labor generates profits of $150 billion a year globally. CBP is responsible for enforcing Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the importation of goods made with forced labor. CBP has authority to detain shipments when information indicates that forced labor produced the goods. ICE is responsible for investigating potential crimes related to forced labor, and importers may be subject to prosecution. GAO was asked to review the status of DHS resources for implementing the Section 307 prohibition on forced labor imports, following an amendment of the law in 2016. This report examines (1) the extent to which CBP assessed agency needs for the enforcement of the prohibition on forced labor imports, (2) the outcome of CBP enforcement activities and monitoring of such efforts, and (3) ICE resources for investigations on forced labor. GAO reviewed CBP and ICE documents and data, and interviewed agency officials. This is a public version of a sensitive report GAO issued in July 2020. Information that CBP deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO is making three recommendations, including that CBP assess the workforce needs of the Forced Labor Division, and improve its forced labor summary case data. CBP concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.
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  • Mauritius National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]