Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan in Tokyo

April 17, 1996

Prime Minister Hashimoto. Right in front of you, I and President Clinton signed two documents. One is the message to the peoples of Japan and the United States that lays down the direction in which the two countries should, together, proceed towards the 21st century. And the second is the Japan-U.S. Declaration on Security.

The message to the peoples of Japan and the United States summarizes how important the Japan-U.S. bilateral relationships are for our peoples and how our two countries will cooperate on a future agenda by referring to the preciousness of democracy and freedom, bilateral cooperation on regional issues, cooperation for U.N. reform, and on disarmament and on our economic relations and how we shall cooperate with each other in these respects.

The Japan-U.S. Declaration on Security reaffirms that the Japan-U.S. security setup will continue to play an important role, as in the past, in preserving security, peace, and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and notes that it will be the starting point for our bilateral cooperation into the future.

Our meeting covered a wide ground: security, economic, and other bilateral issues, as well as various problems of the international community and the consolidation, realignment, and reduction of military facilities in Okinawa. Both Governments are making sincere efforts to reduce the burden on the Okinawa people by paying our utmost consideration to the feelings of the Okinawa people.

We once again expressed our appreciation for the contents of the interim report of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa announced the day before yesterday and mutually confirmed that it will be important to ensure proper and expeditious implementation of the measures spelled out in that report, that both of us will continue to do our utmost to arrive at a final agreement in November of this year.

On the Japan-U.S. economic relations, I explained that Japan current account surplus is on a declining trend and that the Government of Japan is working on economic structural reform, including deregulation. And I suggested that we engage in discussions on individual economic issues whenever necessary by building on our past track record.

We'll also discuss the importance of Japan and the United States cooperating with each other to stand up against the threats to humankind and to the global community. We confirmed that, to that end, six new areas will be added to our cooperation on so-called Common Agenda, such as on antiterrorism initiative and on emerging and reemerging diseases, et cetera, and that we shall further foster such cooperation with the participation of the private sector and other countries.

We also decided to study together a 21st century-type development that will be in harmony with nature. Within the little time we had, we also exchanged views on the situation in different parts of the world—China, the Korean Peninsula, Russia, the Former Yugoslavia, the Middle East—and discussed our respective policy there, too.

My candid impressions of the meeting today are that today's summit meeting was supported by very firm and large pillars and by a big roof, the large pillars being mutual understanding between the peoples of our two countries. And I put to the President my determination to create opportunities for many, many more American youths to visit Japan in the future so that these pillars will grow even larger.

The big roof is the values that our two countries have shared together to date. Japan and the United States, both built on universal values of democracy, human rights, an open economy, among others, have mutually built a relationship that is indispensable for the future of the world.

I will end on the note that the essence of the meeting today was the reaffirmation of this extremely important relationship. And I would like to yield to President now.

President Clinton. Thank you, Prime Minister.

Let me begin by thanking the Imperial Family and the Prime Minister for their hospitality to me and the First Lady and to all of our American delegation, and thanking the Japanese people for a wonderful welcome in this beautiful springtime.

I'm here primarily to celebrate the extraordinary partnership between our two nations over the last 50 years and to strengthen our alliance to meet the demands of this time of exceptional change. The Prime Minister and I strongly agree that as two of the world's strongest democracies and leading economies, Japan and the United States have a special responsibility to lead.

This is a moment of remarkable possibility for our people to make the most of their own lives, but it is also a moment of stern challenge. More and more, problems that start beyond our border can become problems within our borders. No one is immune to the threats posed by rogue states, by the spread of weapons of mass destruction, by terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking, by environmental decay and economic dislocation. But together we can turn these collective challenges into common solutions.

For the past 3 years our two nations have been doing just that. Now when you look at the great diversity of our ties in security, in trade, in our Common Agenda partnership, the conclusion is clear: The relationship between the United States and Japan is better and stronger than ever.

Our security alliance is key to maintaining a Pacific at peace, especially at this time of profound regional change. The security delegation—excuse me—the Security Declaration that the Prime Minister and I just signed is a result of more than one year's hard work and careful study. It strengthens our alliance for the 21st century.

The United States will maintain our troop presence in Japan at about current levels. We will deepen our cooperation with Japan's selfdefense forces, and we will reduce the burden of our bases on the Japanese people, and especially on the people of Okinawa, without diminishing our defense capability.

Our trade relationship is also on the right track. That's good for all of our people. When I took office, there was real frustration in the United States about the difficulty we had selling our goods and services in the Japanese market. Since then, our two nations have signed 21 separate trade agreements, covering everything from auto parts to medical supplies to computers. Our exports in those sectors are up dramatically, about 85 percent. That means in America more jobs and better pay and in Japan lower prices and greater choice.

Free and fair trade is a win-win proposition. Now there is more work to be done, of course, in areas like insurance and semiconductors and film. None of it will be easy. But for the first time, I want everyone to be clear, we have established a process to resolve problems that do arise in a patient and pragmatic manner.

The partnership between our countries is also making a real difference around the world. In Bosnia we have joined forces to help people rebuild their lives and their land. I want to thank Japan for the extraordinarily generous $500 million relief and reconstruction package that Japan has just announced. This is evidence of a powerful commitment to lead the world toward peace and freedom.

The Prime Minister and I reviewed many other initiatives we are taking under our Common Agenda. We're working to wipe out polio by the year 2000. We're working to reduce the devastation of natural disasters through our earthquake disaster reduction effort, to protect the world's forests and oceans, to lift people's lives through advanced technology, to complete and sign a comprehensive test ban treaty this year, to bring the blessings of peace and freedom to more people than ever before.

I also thank the Japanese Government for reaching out for greater educational and cultural exchanges with the American people, and I particularly appreciate the efforts the Prime Minister has made in this regard.

In this time of challenge and change, the partnership between our two nations is more important to our people and to the world than ever. If we realize its full potential, that partnership can be a powerful force for progress and peace for our own people and all around the world.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Hashimoto. Questions and answers. Those of you who have questions, please raise your hand.

Yes, over there.

Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements

Q. President Clinton and Prime Minister, we appreciate your work. The question for Prime Minister Hashimoto: You stated your candid impressions with regard to the meeting you just had. On individual issues, amidst the end of cold war, in this new relationship, situation here in the world, I believe one of your important themes was to reaffirm the importance of Japan-

U.S. relationship, and I wonder—I think you reaffirmed that the guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation will be reviewed as well. But in this connection, I believe there will be a need for coordination of views between Japan and the United States with regard to the exercise of collective self-defense, which is a matter that could impinge on the Japanese Constitution. And I wonder how are you going to address that problem now, Mr. Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Hashimoto. Last year we modified the national defense outline and came up with a new outline of national defense program in order to organize Japanese defense capabilities in accordance with the new prevailing international circumstances. And it goes without saying that since there have been changes that we have to engage in various studies in response to those changes.

I truly believe that it is because of Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that for 51 years since our defeat in the Second World War, we have been able to lead peaceful lives, and we did not think much about a contingency situation. And in case that emergency arises—there might be a need to rescue Japanese in certain areas of emergency; we might also have to receive refugees— now, we were very fortunate; we didn't have to think about those contingencies. Today, however, we have to consider those possibilities and study what can be done, what cannot be done. We have to study these very clearly. I think there is a true need to engage in that sort of study.

Now, there's a tendency for people to say that this is a matter of interpretation of the Constitution or a matter of emergency legislation and so on. People are bogged down in conceptual discussions. But I think there are certain things that we can do under the present Constitution, and I think it is our responsibility to make clear what can be done and what cannot be done.

So I would like to appeal to people, taking advantage of this occasion, and in case a crisis really emerges, we have to make sure that the Japan-U.S. security setup will function properly and will be operated efficiently. And to that end, we also have to engage in studies as to what can be done and what cannot be done by Japan. That is how I really see it.

Next question, please.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Terry Hunt, with the Associated Press. The Prime Minister said that you spoke about the Middle East. Mr. President, what can you tell us about U.S. efforts to broker a truce between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas? Are you making any progress? And who do you hold primarily responsible for this violence?

President Clinton. Let's begin at the beginning. I think that clearly the truce was violated by Hezbollah violating the agreement that had previously been brokered in raining the Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. That was obviously what provoked this.

Now having said that, I think it is important that we do everything we can to bring an end to the violence. And even though we're here in Japan and we are working on a very important issue here, we've been quite active in the Middle East. The Secretary of State has spent an enormous amount of time on this issue in the last several days, and we will do what we can to bring an end to the violence and to try to reestablish a workable agreement. But I have no progress to report on that at this time.


Q. President Clinton, in the bilateral talks held earlier, have you touched any issues regarding the recent tension in the Taiwan Strait? Because in the declaration, we couldn't find anything like that had been mentioned. Since you emphasized that the security treaty is not only to protect Japan but also to protect the Asian-Pacific region, does it mean clearly that Taiwan is under such a protection? Thank you.

President Clinton. Well, the Prime Minister might want to comment on this as well. But yes, we discussed Taiwan and China extensively, as well as the recent tension in the strait. It is obvious that our partnership is designed to try to preserve the peace for all peoples in this region. And I believe that I can say we both agree that, while the United States clearly observes the so-called one China policy, we also observe the other aspects of the agreement we made many years ago, which include a commitment on the part of both parties to resolve all their differences in a peaceable manner. And we have encouraged them to pursue that. Therefore, we were concerned about those actions in the Taiwan Strait.

I do see some hope in the last few days that there is a return to a more orderly and peaceful relationship, and that is certainly what we are urging both the Chinese and the Taiwanese to do.

Mr. Prime Minister, do you want to say anything?

Prime Minister Hashimoto. When the situation across the Taiwan Straits became very tense, we asked both parties to exercise self-restraint. And also, since the Japan-China declaration, we have supported the Chinese position that there is only one China. Having said that, we also believe that the two parties should resolve this problem in a peaceful manner.

Korean Peace Process and U.S. Troops in Japan

Q. I would like to ask a question of both of you. Before coming here, Mr. President, you visited Korea and suggested that four countries, U.S., China, Republic of Korea, and North Korea, engage in quadrilateral discussions for peace on the peninsula. In that quadrilateral discussions, I wonder how Japanese will participate in discussions. How would you see Japanese role in that process? And what sort of roles would Japan suggest to U.S., China, Korea, and North Korea?

One other thing: In this joint declaration, you said clearly that the 100,000 troop level would be maintained in East Asia. But I believe you did not specifically refer to 47,000 in Japan. Of course, I believe looking at future peace in East Asia—would you believe that the 47,000 troop level in Japan is something that is fixed or something that you can be flexible on?

President Clinton. Well, first of all, let me answer the second question first. We are committed to maintaining a constant level of troops in East Asia. How many troops we have on any given day and any given week in Japan or in Korea will vary from time to time, depending on what other things are going on in the world and in the area.

But we believe we should maintain our participation at more or less the same levels here in Japan, and we believe we can honor our commitments that Secretary Perry and the Prime Minister have just announced, that the Prime Minister took such a leading role in trying to—in bringing about, with regard to Okinawa and on the other issues, and still keep about 47,000 people here.

Now on the Korea issue, I want to make it clear that the proposal that we made was that these four nations would enter into the peace negotiations because the United States and China were parties to the armistice agreement in Korea 43 years ago. But it is obvious to everyone, I think, that there will never be a peace between the Korean people until they agree to the peace. Ultimately, I think that means that it will have to be supported by all the friends and neighbors of Korea that will have a large say in what kind of future any peaceful resolution would bring about.

So I was very gratified when the Prime Minister expressed his support for the proposal that President Kim and I made yesterday. And I hope that others in the region will do so as well, and then I hope they will be a part of encouraging North and South Korea to make peace and discussing what might come about after it's over if they do make peace.

Prime Minister Hashimoto. When I heard the announcement of that proposal, I was truly happy to learn the contents of that and the substance of that proposal against the background of the situation in the Korean Peninsula. For the four countries, including U.S. and China, to come to dialog without any preconditions I hope would lead to a true solution.

And in that process, if Japan is asked, I believe Japan should play any role it can. Having said that, today there exist the two countries, North Korea and the Republic of Korea; there is a borderline between them. And the United States and China that participated at the time of the armistice agreement would participate in that discussions, but it is not for Japan to go out and say we want to do this, we want to do that. That is my view. But we should earnestly play the role that we are asked to play. Certainly, that is what we ought to do to help each other.


Q. I'd like to ask a question with regard to the Common Agenda you have agreed to. You agreed to add new areas for bilateral cooperation, and I would like to invite comments by President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto. Amongst the new areas, there is a counterterrorism initiative, and it calls for strengthened cooperation between Japan and the United States. As you know, in Japan last year there was an unprecedented large-scale terrorist incident, the Aum Shinrikyo incident, the nerve gas attack. Now, faced with these terrorist attacks, how would Japan and the United States actually try to, shall we say, cooperate and fall in step in countering these activities? Would FBI, CIA, and Japanese police authorities consider regular meetings, regular exchanges?

President Clinton. Well of course, the details would have to be worked out, but let me just, if I could, sketch a framework that I would be thinking about.

Nations like ours, as borders become more open, money and information are transferred in a millisecond all across the world, and we become more integrated, we become vulnerable to two kinds of terrorism: first of all, what you might call homegrown terrorism, what you experienced in the Japanese subway, what we experienced at Oklahoma City; secondly, terrorism that is generated or at least involves interests from beyond your borders, such as what we experienced at the World Trade Center in New York and a number of the proposed attacks that we were able to thwart.

It is obvious to me that these kinds of attacks present a genuine threat not only to the lives of the innocent civilians who may be killed in them but to the whole idea of an open, civilized society in a global economy. Therefore, I think we ought to cooperate in two ways. First of all, there's a lot of information we ought to be sharing with regard to international terrorism, and there's a lot of work we can be doing together.

Secondly, we can learn a lot from each other about how to deal with homegrown terrorism, and even that may have an international aspect. Are people learning, for example, from the Internet how to make the same sort of trouble in the United States that was made in Japan with sarin gas? Isn't it a concern that anybody anywhere in the world can pull down off the Internet the information about how to build a bomb like the bomb that blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City? How can we work together to learn from each other about how to prevent these things before they occur, when they're purely domestically driven, as well as sharing information and technology and law enforcement about the international terrorist networks that are out there?

I predict to you that every great nation will have to face this for the next 20 years at least, and we just want to be on the cutting edge of showing that we can work together to save lives and to preserve freedom.

Prime Minister Hashimoto. Well, if I could add a word to what the President has already said, we already have cooperation on the moneylaundering problems and narcotics trading. We already have cooperation in law enforcing. But how we publish these activities, please don't ask us to do that. But as in the case of law enforcement against money laundering, there are areas where cooperation is already underway. And of course, in terms of counterterrorism, I'm sure there are various ways we can engage in cooperation.

U.S. Troops in Japan

Q. Paul Basken, with United Press International. Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, for both of you: The joint declaration you have just signed describes the U.S. military role in Japan as essential to protecting the security of Asia. How have you concluded the U.S. military is essential here, and what circumstances need to change either in Japan or elsewhere in Asia before U.S. troops can safely go home?

President Clinton. Well, first of all, I believe that our presence is needed here as long as people have any fear at all that some countries might seek to dominate others or that Asia might become a battleground for any sort of security problem that would affect the freedom and independence and the safety of the people of Japan or our other allies in the area. When that time comes to an end I think will largely be for the people here to determine, although obviously we would want our views heard as well.

One of the most gratifying things to me as President is that where we are involved in security partnerships, as we are in Asia, I believe that we are seen as a force of stability by our very presence there because of the capacity of our military and the fact that everyone knows we have no ulterior motive. That is, we seek no advantage; we seek to dominate no country; we seek to control no country; we seek to do nothing in any improper way with our military power. We are only here with our allies in Korea and Japan, obviously, and to serve as a source of security and stability to others throughout this region.

And as long as there is any concern about that, I think we should be here, if the people here want us here. When that time is over, we will probably all know it, but I think that definition should flow primarily from the people who have been our allies over the decades and whose security we care so deeply about.

Prime Minister Hashimoto. Let me pick up the thread where the President left it off and give my answer. The presence of the U.S. forces in this part of the world is welcome. We welcome their presence, and we believe that is serving the stability of Asia and the Pacific. And that is of the foremost importance.

The cold war is over. The days of confrontation between East and West is over. And with the end of the cold war, true, large sources of confrontation has disappeared, but regional conflicts have increased for various reasons. We see numerous areas of instability around the globe, and in this part of the world there still remain large amount of weapons of mass destruction.

Against that background, would it be possible for Japan alone to defend itself? To do that, a major effort will be required and also probably will not be able to lay to rest international concerns vis-a-vis such Japanese endeavors. The United States is putting its presence in this area in the form of the American youth, and I believe it can be understood clearly how precious a presence they are for the security of this part of the world.

Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements

Q. A question for the President. I believe the agreement law on security this time will mean a very major turning point for Japan-U.S. security, and I wonder if you have any comments to share with us.

President Clinton. My view is that it will reinforce our community—excuse me—our security relationship, not represent a turning point but a maturing of it. For example, when the Prime Minister asked us to consider the concerns of the people of Okinawa and I became acquainted with them as a result of some of the unfortunate incidents that you know well about, it bothered me that these matters had not been resolved before now, before this time. And again, I want to publicly say what I said to the Prime Minister last night: I want to thank him for giving the United States the opportunity to respond in an appropriate manner to try to resolve these matters. But we did it in a way that did not in any way undermine our own security or defense capabilities and, therefore, permits us to cooperate with Japan in whatever way may be necessary as challenges come along in the future and as Japan defines its own security agenda.

So I don't see this as a dramatic departure. I see this as the relationship between two old friends maturing, dealing with things that needed to be dealt with, and adjusting to the challenges of the world that we now face.

Ebola Virus

Q. Brian Williams, with NBC News. Mr. President, are you up to date on the apparent discovery of the Ebola virus in Texas? And what can the Federal Government do, I guess, via the CDC to make sure that no kind of scare develops from this?

President Clinton. Yes, I have been briefed on it this morning. The CDC is on top of it. We are working with the Texas health officials. We believe, based on what we now know, that there is no substantial threat to the general population of the people there or the people of the United States generally.

So I can say that I would urge people not to overreact to this. It's a serious matter; we are on top of it. If the facts change and we think there is something more to be concerned about, you may be sure we will inform the American people as soon as we can. But for now, I am confident that the Federal Government is taking appropriate action, and that we're on top of it, and there's nothing for the people to overreact to at this moment.

Prime Minister Hashimoto. President Clinton, thank you very much. And with this, we conclude the press conference. Thank you very much for coming.

NOTE: The President's 119th news conference began at 1:45 p.m. at the Akasaka Palace. Prime Minister Hashimoto spoke in Japanese, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan in Tokyo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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