Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Chief of Mission Residence
QUESTION: Okay. Japan and the U.S. just have agreed to take a tougher stance on China’s aggression and threats, but economically Japan and China are enormously intertwined, and Japan has not been able to decouple from China. Would the U.S. be satisfied with this situation?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think both the United State and Japan share a deep concern about what we’ve seen in recent years, which is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, including particularly in the region, whether it’s with regard to the Senkaku Islands or Taiwan, the South China Sea. And based on my conversations here in Tokyo, that’s clearly a real concern to both of us. And it’s important that we work in solidarity to deal with some of the challenges posed by China, and I am confident we’ll do that.
QUESTION: At some point, Japan may no longer be able to stand by the U.S. (inaudible) stance towards China. To what extent could the U.S. allow Japan to take a different approach?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: This is not about standing against something or someone; it’s about standing up for the values and principles and interests that we share and making sure that when those values, when those interests are being challenged, we work together to defend them. That’s what this is about.
The relationship with China is a very complex one: It has adversarial aspects; it has competitive aspects; it has cooperative aspects. But the common denominator in dealing with each of those is to make sure we’re approaching China from a position of strength, and that strength starts with our alliance, with our solidarity, because it’s really a unique asset that we have and China doesn’t – the alliance, the cooperation among likeminded countries. And when we’re working together, when we’re acting together, when we’re making clear our concerns together, that carries a much heavier weight than any one of our countries acting alone. And that’s the spirit with which we’re going to go forward.
QUESTION: As for the alliance, you stated that real partnership means carrying burdens together. What exactly are the burdens you are referring to?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’ve had an extraordinary alliance and partnership for decades that really is a cornerstone of peace and stability for both of our countries, for the region, and indeed in many ways for the world. But that requires investments. It requires investments in our defense, in our security.
The United States over the years has made very significant investments in our collective self-defense and in our security. We’ve benefited tremendously from the incredibly generosity of Japan as a host nation to our forces. And of course, I’m very pleased that we were able to extend the existing agreement for a year to give us some time to work through what I hope and expect will be a multi-year agreement on so-called host nation support.
But I think we both know that when it comes to the defense of our people, our values, and our interests, there is a burden that comes with that, and that is the investment we have to make in resources, including human resources, to stand up for our interests and our values. And we’re both, I think, determined to make those investments.
QUESTION: How do you expect Japan to fulfill its role?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think that’s happening virtually every day. The cooperation, the coordination, the work we’re doing together in so many different areas – not just security – is remarkable. And the relationship that’s evolved over many decades, when you look at the way it’s evolved, we started out being focused on bilateral issues between us, and then increasingly we started to work together on regional issues, and now the United States and Japan are truly partners when it comes to global issues. Whether it’s the work we’re doing together to combat COVID-19 and put in place a better global health security system, whether it’s dealing with climate change, whether it’s dealing with the proliferation of weapons, the United States and Japan are global actors, and we’re joined together in that. And that’s a great source of strength for both of us.
QUESTION: Okay. And as you know well, the Japan-South Korea relationships are at the worst state. So when we come to a point where we cannot solve the issue by ourselves, would the U.S. play a mediating role between two countries?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’ve long urged our close friends in Japan and South Korea to work through difficult issues of history with a goal of reconciliation and understanding, and I hope that that continues.
I can tell you that from the United States perspective and President Biden’s perspective, we’re deeply invested in re-engaging with and reinvigorating our alliances, and that includes not only our relationship to our allies but the relationship of our allies to one another. That’s an important part of this alliance system.
I’ve seen with – from firsthand experience. When I was last in government, I spent a lot of time working on trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea, and we made extraordinary progress working together on dozens and dozens of different issues, which just brought home to me that our three countries have so much in common when it comes to basic values we share and the basic interests we share.
And so I think it’s ultimately profoundly in the interests of both Japan and South Korea that on the many issues that we have ahead of us that they work closely together even as they work through any remaining issues of history.
QUESTION: Okay. And as you said before, we are still facing the threat of COVID-19, and the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July. So what conditions would be needed to be met in order to stage the Tokyo Olympics as scheduled?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we really defer to the Government of Japan, and we’ll support whatever decisions it makes. In terms of how the United States would participate, that’s really a question for our own Olympic Committee as well, of course, for the International Olympic Committee.
QUESTION: If the Games are held as planned, will the U.S. send a delegation as usual?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, again, I’d really refer you to the American – the U.S. Olympic Committee. These are decisions that it will make. But as I’ve said to my colleagues in Japan, we’ll certainly support the decisions that it makes about the Olympics.
QUESTION: Okay. And is there any possibility the U.S. will boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’ve heard the many concerns around the world about the prospect of those Olympics given the actions that China has taken both at home in terms of its abuse of human rights when it comes to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, other minorities, or, of course, what’s happening in Hong Kong, the increasing tensions as a result of its actions on – with regard to Taiwan. And we’ve heard a lot of those concerns, and we will continue to talk to other countries around the world to hear what they’re thinking, and at the appropriate time we’ll decide what to do. But for now, we’re just listening to the concerns we’ve heard expressed from many countries around the world.
QUESTION: Okay. And yesterday you said you received moving and powerful letters from family of the Japanese abductees by the North Koreans.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: And when you have a chance to talk with your North Korean counterpart, would you bring up the abduction issue as one of the main topics?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes. It was a very powerful, very moving letter. We’re in full solidarity with the families and with the Japanese people on the question of abductees. And I can tell you that whatever happens going forward with North Korea, we will keep that near and dear to our hearts as well.
QUESTION: And the Japanese Government is seeking a comprehensive solution to the abductions, nuclear weapons, and missile issues. So does the U.S. support this position?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We are in lockstep when it comes to the importance of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula; when it comes to dealing with, as well, North Korea’s missile programs, which are increasingly threatening to both of us; and when it comes to human rights and including the abductees. So I think we’re in very close synchronization and coordination.
We’re in the midst of a policy review on North Korean right now, but a big feature of that review is making sure that we have the insights and input from our closest partners, including Japan and South Korea, because their interests, their concerns are directly at stake. And so I think we’ll continue to work through that review and in the weeks ahead complete it, and look forward to working in very close coordination with Japan and with South Korea going forward in dealing with North Korea.
QUESTION: Okay. We are almost out of time. We have to end there. So thank you very much indeed to – for being with us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you so much. Very good to be with you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
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