George W. Bush photo

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Camp David, Maryland

April 27, 2007

President Bush. Thank you. Welcome. Mr. Prime Minister, Shinzo, welcome to Camp David. I thank you very much for making the long journey. I also thank you for bringing your gracious wife to dinner last night.

The Abes and Laura and I had a really good dinner. It was very relaxed. The Prime Minister married very well. I was so impressed by Akie's compassion, her intelligence. And I will tell you, Shinzo, that Laura feels like she has a new friend now, and so do I. So we're really glad you're here.

We had a—the kind of discussion you'd expect allies to have. I would describe the talks as—first of all, Shinzo and I met alone for a good period of time. Our talks were very relaxed, but they were strategic. We think about the interests of our country, and we think about the interest of maintaining peace in the world. The alliance between Japan and the United States has never been stronger, and the Prime Minister and I will work hard to keep it that way. It's in the interests of our peoples that we work closely.

I told Shinzo one way to do so, of course, is to visit. I hope he comes to my ranch soon. I looked forward to welcoming him to Camp David, but I also look forward to taking him down there, where one might call it a little slice of heaven.

We talked about the fact that our alliance—and it is a global alliance—is rooted in common values, especially our commitment to freedom and democracy. We discussed ways we can continue to partner together. There's no more important partnership than that through the six-party talks. We spent a lot of time talking about North Korea and our mutual desire for North Korea to meet its obligations. Our partners in the six-party talks are patient, but our patience is not unlimited. We expect North Korea to meet all its commitments under the February 13th agreement, and we will continue working closely with our partners.

In Iran, we speak with one voice to the regime in Iran. Our nations have fully implemented the sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council in response to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Further defiance by Iran will only lead to additional sanctions and to further isolation from the international community.

Japan is the second largest donor to the people of Iraq and the third largest donor nation to the people of Afghanistan. And I thank you, Shinzo, and I thank the people of Japan for helping these young democracies survive in a troubled world. I firmly believe that we're helping lay a foundation for peace for generations to come.

Over lunch, the Prime Minister and I will discuss his upcoming trip to the Middle East. I will remind him, he'll be traveling into an important region, where extremists and radicals are trying to prevent the hopes of moderate people, of trying to stop the peaceful societies from emerging. I'm looking forward to hearing about your trip before you leave, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you after you've been there.

Shinzo and I talked about trade and the Doha round. We have a lot of bilateral trade between our two nations. Last year, it totaled more than $270 billion, and that's positive for the American people and the people of Japan.

Any time you have a lot of trade, there's always complicated trade issues. One such issue, of course, I brought up to the Prime Minister is, I'm absolutely convinced the Japanese people will be better off when they eat American beef. It's good beef; it's healthy beef. As a matter of fact, I'm going to feed the Prime Minister and his delegation a good hamburger today for lunch.

But we also talked about the World Trade Organization and the Doha round and how Japan wants to be constructive in getting this round completed, not only to enhance the prosperity in our own countries but to help the developing world, help lift millions of people out of poverty.

We talked about the environment and energy. I appreciated very much Shinzo's vision of using technologies to help our energy security, our economic security, and at the same time, be responsible stewards of the environment. There's a lot of work that Japan and the United States can do together, particularly in fields like emission-free nuclear energy, nuclear power. I mean, the truth of the matter is, if people really want to solve the issue of greenhouse gases, civilian nuclear power, powering our energy grids by nuclear power is the best alternative available. We can work on new technologies through our joint nuclear energy action plan and through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to bring technologies on the market as quickly as possible to assure people that we can deal with the waste, for example, in a responsible way.

We—over lunch I'm going to also remind Shinzo about my deep desire to have our folks driving automobiles powered by ethanol and biodiesels. And I'm going to share with him our strategy about reducing gasoline consumption in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years as a result of ethanol, as well as our cellulosic ethanol technologies that are, hopefully, coming to market quickly.

All in all, we've had a very constructive, strong dialog, and I am really pleased you came. Mr. Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Abe. Last night we were invited by George and Laura, and myself and my wife were able to enjoy a very wonderful time together. And today we had one-on-one meeting and also had a larger meeting. And we had very substantive discussions. The greatest—the biggest objective of this visit this time was to reaffirm the irreplaceable Japan-U.S. alliance and to make—grow this stronger as an unshakable alliance.

President and the—I would like to thank the President and the American people for their very warm welcome yesterday. I visited Bethesda Navy Hospital and the Arlington Cemetery and prayed for the repose of the souls of those who died for the cause of stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan and prayed for early recovery of those injured. And I would like to pay respect and express gratitude for the noble sacrifice the United States is making.

And in our meeting, the President expressed his strong determination to carry through the task of Iraq's reconstruction. And I told the President that Japan understands and supports U.S. efforts of further stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq, and Japan will carry on its own efforts to the same end. I also told him that Japan will be with the United States at all times and that we feel proud as an ally of the United States.

Through this meeting, I've renewed my determination to work with the United States on various challenges facing the international community on the basis of our common values. We were able to speak our minds with regard to our respective political convictions in the midst of this very open and free atmosphere at Camp David and I—and deepen our mutual trust.

I explained to the President that as the mission of my administration, I will strive to move Japan beyond the post-war regime. As part of this endeavor, I explained to the President that I launched on the eve of this trip a blue-ribbon panel for the purpose of reshaping the legal foundation for national security in a way that will benefit—that will befit the times, now that the security environment surrounding Japan is undergoing major change.

With regard to the economy, I told the President that I'm determined to carry it through, structural reforms in Japan, because Japan's growth is important for the growth of the United States as well as the entire world. And I received strong words of support from the President for this direction that Japan is seeking.

Now, we agree that we need to build on response to—we agreed that we need to build our response to the North Korean nuclear issue and the numerous challenges in East Asia on the Japan-U.S. alliance. And we agreed to step up cooperation in security, economic and cultural exchanges, and many other areas to further strengthen this irreplaceable alliance between Japan and the United States. And I welcomed the conclusion of documents that provide for the strengthening of concrete cooperation in such areas as the economy, cultural exchange, and nuclear energy.

We did take a lot of time to discuss North Korean nuclear issues. We agreed to work together to realize a more peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula by making North Korea completely give up its nuclear weapons and programs through the six-party talks.

With regard to the abduction issue, President Bush once again expresses unvarying commitment to support the Government of Japan, saying that to this day, the strong impressions he got when he met Mrs. Yokota around this time last year still remains. And I told President that before my departure this time, Mrs. Yokota had told me, ever since she last heard from her daughter Megumi that the most moving moment was her meeting with President. So President expressed his, as I said, unvarying commitment to support of the Government of Japan on this abduction issue.

We agree that the current state of the six-party talks as well as North Korea's attitude towards the abduction issue are regrettable. And we'll work for closer coordination between our two countries to achieve progress.

Let me also point out, as President mentioned earlier, that an important progress has been made on the climate change issue. And I finalized with the President a joint statement on the subject matter. It is gratifying that we agreed—Japan and the United States agreed at the leaders' level to study jointly an intensified dialog on ways and means to make progress towards the ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, to resolve the environmental issues, and to resolve the greenhouse gas issue. I believe this represents an important progress.

It is essential that the world community act on the climate change issue in concert, and Japan and the United States agreed to work together on this front. Thank you.

President Bush. Two questions a side. Deb [Deb Riechmann, Associated Press], would you start off, please?

Six-Party Talks

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Some people are concerned that you're going soft on North Korea. You said you had——

President Bush. Said—what did you just say? There's an echo in here.

Q. Some people say you're going soft on North Korea.

President Bush. Oh, okay. Yes.

Q. You said you had unlimited patience with the regime. They've missed their deadline on shutting down their nuclear reactor——

President Bush. No, I said our patience is not unlimited.

Q. Not unlimited. My question, sir, is how long are you willing to wait to have them shut this down? Are we talking days, weeks, months? And——

President Bush. No, I appreciate that very much. Do you want to ask the Prime Minister something too? It's an old U.S. trick here.

Q. Prime Minister Abe——

President Bush. Keep plowing through it. [Laughter]

Q. ——are you worried that America is softening its stance on Kim Jong Il?

President Bush. I have always believed that the best way to solve these difficult problems is through diplomacy. That's the first choice of the United States, to solve difficult problems diplomatically. I also believe that the best way for—and the difficult problem, of course, was to convincing the leader of North Korea to give up his nuclear weapons program.

I also felt the best way forward was not for the United States to carry this diplomatic mission alone, and, therefore, worked very hard and closely with our Japanese allies to convince others to come to the table beside the United States. And now we have what we call the six-party talks, which is the United States, Japan, and China and South Korea and Russia, all saying the same message to North Korea, that we expect you to honor agreements you made, which include not only stopping their—locking down their plant but also dismantling their programs—and all programs—giving up weapons programs and weapons. That's what they've said they would do.

We recently had a bump in the road to getting them to honor their agreement, and that is, there is a financial arrangement that we're now trying to clarify for the North Koreans, so that that will enable them to have no excuse for moving forward. And that's where we are right now.

The interesting thing about our position is that if it looks like the North Korean leader is not going to honor his agreement, if it looks like that there are reasons other than the financial arrangements that will cause him to say, "Well, I really don't mean what I said," we now have a structure in place to continue to provide a strong message to the North Korean. We have the capability of more sanctions. We have the capability of convincing other nations to send a clear message.

So I like our position in terms of achieving this mission in a diplomatic way. And I want to thank the Prime Minister for being a strong advocate of sending a clear message to the North Korean leader that there's a better way forward than to defy the world.

On all issues, there is a—whether it's this issue or any other issue—is that we will work with our partners to determine how long. But as I said, our patience is not unlimited. And that's the operative word for the leader in North Korea to understand. We hope he moves forward soon, obviously. Just like in—somebody asked me the other day, how long in Darfur? Well, the leaders will find out the definition of how long when we make it clear we're moving in a different direction. There's still time for the North Korean leader to make the right choice.

Prime Minister Abe. Well, today on this issue, we had very candid exchange of views. And our understanding of the issue and the direction we are pursuing, we completely see eye to eye on this matter. And completely with that same attitude, we'll continue to deal with the North Korean issue.

Well, we have to make the North Koreans understand that unless they keep up their promise, the difficult conditions they are—they find themselves under—the food situation and economic situation—they'll not be able to resolve those difficulties. And in fact, the situation would only worsen. So they need to respond properly on these issues; otherwise, we will have to take a tougher response on our side.

In agreement with the procedures set down by the six-party talks, we'll have to continue to watch whether the North Koreans will actually act. In our negotiations with North Koreans, we now have learned full well their negotiating ploys. And between Japan and the United States, we'll maintain close coordination for the resolution of this issue.

North Korea/Abduction of Japanese Citizens

Q. Once again, allow me to ask questions related to North Korea. In Japan, the interpretation is that the United States have become softer on the BDA, Banco Delta Asia issue, and some people are concerned. Now, Mr. Abe, in your meeting today, did you ask President Bush to step up the American pressures on North Korea?

And a question for Mr. President, I understand the United States has agreed with North Korea to start negotiations on lifting the terrorist state designation. And is it right to consider that a precondition for lifting would be the abduction issue resolution?

Prime Minister Abe. Well, to resolve the North Korean issues, of course, dialog is needed. But in resolving those issues and in negotiating with North Koreans, there is a need for pressure. And on that score, we—George and I—fully agree. And we reaffirmed that point today. Should the North Koreans fail to keep their promise, we will step up our pressures on North Korea. And on that point, again, I believe we see eye to eye.

As for the importance of the abduction issue, George and our American friends, I'm sure, are fully aware, and they understand our thinking, and they support our position. In resolving that abduction issue, as well, Japan and the United States will cooperate with each other—or we need to cooperate with each other. And the President thinks the same way.

President Bush. We have shown the North Korean leader that obstinance on this issue, that there's a price to pay. In other words, we have come together as a group of nations, all aiming to achieve the same objective, and that is for the leader to—of North Korea to verifiably give up the weapons programs that he has, just like he said he would do. And we have proven that we can work in a collaboration to deny certain benefits to the North Korean Government and people. That's what we've shown so far.

I think it's wise to show the North Korean leader, as well, that there is a better way forward. I wouldn't call that soft; I'd call that wise diplomacy. It's his choice to make, ultimately—not our choice—as to whether he honors the agreement he agreed to. Our objective is to hold him to account. But he's got different ways forward, and we have made that avenue available for his choice. And so the meeting today, of course, is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. We're hoping that the North Korea leader continues to make the right choice for his country. But if he should choose not to, we've got a strategy to make sure that the pressure we've initially applied is even greater. That's our plan.

And so it is—he ought to know that if he makes right choices, there is a way for him to be able to deal with a listing that our Government has placed on him; in other words, there's a way forward. And this is—what you're referring to is the beginning of a process; it's the beginning of an opportunity for him to be in a different position, vis-a-vis the United States Government, on a variety of fronts.

Any discussion about ways forward, however, shouldn't—should not obscure my strong sentiment about the abductee issue. The Prime Minister mentioned how Mrs. Yokota was affected by her visit to the Oval Office. Well, I was affected by her visit to the Oval Office. It broke my heart to be in the presence of a Japanese mother whose love for her daughter has not diminished over time, and her grief is sincere and real. I remember her bringing the picture of the child as she remembers her, right there where I go to work every day, and sitting it on the couch next to her.

So I'm deeply affected by her. She needs to understand that her visit added a human dimension to an issue which is obviously very important to the Japanese people. And I will never forget her visit, and I will work with my friend and the Japanese Government to get this issue resolved in a way that touches the human heart, in a way that—it's got more than just a kind of a diplomatic ring to it, as far as I'm concerned. It's a human issue now to me; it's a tangible, emotional issue. And thank you for bringing the question up.

Toby [Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters].

Emergency Supplemental Appropriations

Q. Mr. President, the Democrats have voted for a withdrawal timetable from Iraq, which you have said that you will veto. What ideas do you have for breaking this logjam going forward? And would you be willing to veto a second bill?

President Bush. Well, first of all, haven't vetoed the first bill yet. But I'm going to. And the reason why I'm going to is because the Members of Congress have made military decisions on behalf of the military. They're telling our generals what to do. They're withdrawing before we've even finished reinforcing our troops in Baghdad. They're sending, in my judgment, a bad message to the Iraqis and to an enemy and, most importantly, to our military folks. And so I made it clear, I'd veto.

And, by the way, they're adding spending that shouldn't belong in the bill in the first place. Maybe they're important issues, but they ought to be—these spending bills ought to be—or spending issues ought to be debated in the normal course of business. And so I've said this all along; my position has been consistent.

I'm sorry it's come to this. In other words, I'm sorry that we've had this, you know, the issue evolve the way it has. But nevertheless, it is what it is, and it will be vetoed, and my veto will be sustained. And then the question is the way forward. And my suggestion is that—and I invite the leaders of the House and the Senate, both parties, to come down soon after my veto so we can discuss a way forward. And if the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept a timetable for withdrawal—I won't accept one. I just don't think it's in the interest of our troops.

I think it—I'm just envisioning what it would be like to be a young soldier in the middle of Iraq and realizing that politicians have all of the sudden made military determinations. And in my judgment, that would put a kid in harm's way, more so than he or she already is. I really think it's a mistake for Congress to try to tell generals, our military experts, how to conduct a war.

And furthermore, the idea of putting all kinds of extraneous spending on a bill, the bill—purpose of which is to fund our troops, is—I just don't accept that. So if they want to try again, that which I have said was unacceptable, then of course I'll veto it, but I hope it doesn't come to that. I believe we can work a way forward. And I think we can come to our senses and make sure that we get the money to the troops in a timely fashion. It's important to have a political debate, but as I've consistently said, we don't want our troops in between the debate. And Congress needs to get this money to the Pentagon so the Pentagon can get the money to the troops and so our readiness will be up to par and people—training missions will go forward.

I know Congress, no matter what their position is on the war, doesn't want to affect readiness, and they don't want to affect the military families—I understand that— but they're going to if they keep trying to pass legislation that is—that just doesn't—that withdraws troops or micromanages the war.

And so I'm optimistic we can get a bill, a good bill, and a bill that satisfies all our objectives, and that's to get the money to the troops as quickly as possible.

Japan's Comfort Women

Q. Well, a question on the wartime comfort women issue. Mr. Prime Minister, on this issue, did you explain your thoughts to President Bush? And on this matter, did you talk about further factual investigations on the matter and any intent to apologize on the issue?

Also, a question for Mr. President on the comfort women issue. From the view— perspective of human rights and Asian history perceptions, I wonder if you could express your thoughts or views.

Prime Minister Abe. Well, in my meeting with the congressional representatives yesterday, I explained my thoughts, and that is, I do have deep-hearted sympathies that the people had to serve as comfort women, were placed in extreme hardships, and had to suffer that sacrifice; and that I, as Prime Minister of Japan, expressed my apologies, and also expressed my apologies for the fact that they were placed in that sort of circumstance.

Now, the 20th century was a century that human rights were violated in many parts of the world. So we have to make the 21st century a century—a wonderful century in which no human rights are violated. And I myself and Japan wish to make significant contributions to that end. And so I explained these thoughts to President.

President Bush. The comfort women issue is a regrettable chapter in the history of the world, and I accept the Prime Minister's apology. I thought it was a very— I thought his statements, Kono's statement, as well as statements here in the United States were very straightforward and from his heart. And I'm looking forward to working with this man to lead our nations forward. And that's what we spent time discussing today.

We had a personal visit on the issue. And he gave his—he told me what was on his heart about the issue, and I appreciated his candor. And our jobs are to obviously learn lessons from the past. All of us need to learn lessons from the past and lead our nations forward. And that's what the Prime Minister is doing in a very capable way.

Listen, we thank you all for coming. Appreciate your time. Have a nice weekend. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 11:09 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Abe; Chairman Kim Jong Il of North Korea; Yohei Kono, Speaker of Japan's House of Representatives; and Sakie Yokota, mother of Megumi Yokota, who was kidnaped by North Korean authorities. Prime Minister Abe and some reporters spoke in Japanese, and their remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Camp David, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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