Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken co-host the 2023 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting. Representing Japan are Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada.

TRANSCRIPT

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good evening, everyone.  Very good to see you all.  And let me say first, Secretary Austin and I just concluded a very productive and wide-ranging discussion with our colleagues – Foreign Minister Hayashi, Defense Minister Hamada – and this of course is ahead of President Biden hosting Prime Minister Kishida at the White House on Friday.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance.  For more than seven decades, it’s been the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific – ensuring the security, the liberty, the prosperity of our people and people across the region.

One of the Alliance’s enduring sources of strength is our ability to adapt it to meet the evolving challenges as well as the opportunities before us.

Japan’s new national security strategy, national defense strategy, and defense buildup program reflect the scale and scope of that transformation.

These new strategies make clear Japan’s commitment to invest in enhancing its capabilities, to take on new roles, and foster even closer defense cooperation with the United States and our mutual partners.  We applaud Japan’s pledge to double defense spending by 2027.

Japan’s strategies align closely with our own National Security Strategy – both in the key challenges we identify as well as in how to effectively address them.

We’re committed to upholding shared values of democracy and human rights, defending the international rule of law, continuing to lead the world in tackling global challenges that no one country can solve alone, like the climate crisis and deadly viruses.

We agree that the PRC is the greatest shared strategic challenge that we and our allies and partners face.

We stand together with Ukraine against President Putin’s war, which threatens the principles at the heart of the international rules-based order – including that all nations should be able to chart their own path, and have their sovereignty, their independence, their territorial integrity respected.

In the face of these and other challenges, today we discussed ways to deepen our coordination, including on allied command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, joint and shared usage of facilities, and increased bilateral exercises.

More than ever before, we’re buttressing the U.S.-Japan Alliance through deeper cooperation with other allies and partners, through both regional and multilateral bodies.

In the face of the DPRK’s unlawful and reckless missile launches – including the launch of a long-range ballistic missile over Japan in October – we’re deepening our trilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea to deter and, if necessary, defend against aggression.  That’s a pledge the leaders of our three countries underscored in their November trilateral summit.

Today we held our first formal dialogue in this 2+2 format on extended deterrence – namely, to enhance the capability and credibility of our allied defense against a wide range of threats.

In June of 2022, Prime Minister Kishida became the first Japanese leader to attend a NATO summit.  Japan is spearheading the NATO Asia Pacific partners’ group – demonstrating the growing synergy between our Atlantic and Pacific alliances.

We’re working together with our G7 partners to impose coordinated sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, and to help Ukraine repair, restore, and defend its embattled energy grid.  We look forward to Japan’s leadership in driving an ambitious agenda on these and other priorities during its presidency of the G7 this year, culminating in the Hiroshima Summit.

Japan has also stepped up to help our European friends diversify their LNG supply in response to President Putin’s weaponization of energy.

We’re working to advance peace and security through regional bodies like ASEAN, whose centrality is vital to the Indo-Pacific; and through the Quad, including by working with India and Australia to expand what we call maritime domain awareness, basically giving our partners a better ability to detect and respond to challenges in their territorial waters like illegal fishing, trafficking, climate-related disasters.

At the United Nations, we’re rallying member states to defend the rights at the core of the United Nations Charter.  It’s been less than two weeks since Japan took its non-permanent seat at the Security Council; already we see its leadership on key priorities, like peacebuilding, Afghanistan, and the ministerial that the foreign minister will chair tomorrow on the rule of law.

And because our National Security Strategy is so bound up in our economic and energy security, we’re strengthening our cooperation in these spheres as well.  In May we joined a dozen other economies that represent 40 percent of global GDP to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which sets out a roadmap to help our economies grow faster and fairer, so that all of our people can reach their full potential.

Last month we kicked off the first Japan-U.S. Energy Security Dialogue; tomorrow our governments will co-host the Fifth Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Tokyo.

We’re constantly expanding the horizons of our cooperation – beyond even our planet.  Later this week, the foreign minister and I will sign a new agreement on U.S.-Japan cooperation in space.  This agreement has been a decade in the making; it covers everything from joint research to working together to land the first woman and person of color on the Moon.

The bottom line is this: We and our people are always stronger and more secure together.  Today we’ve taken yet another step toward tightening already incredibly strong bonds.

With that, Yogi, the floor is yours.


FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  (Via interpreter) Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Minister Hamada, and I have just come out of the Japan-U.S. 2+2 meeting, which we had in person, where we engaged in extremely meaningful exchange of views.  During the past year since the previous 2+2 meeting, Russia’s aggression of Ukraine, an event that shakes the foundation of international order, occurred, placing the international community at historical crossroads.  In the midst of elevated severity in the security environment, today’s Japan-U.S. 2+2 took place at a timing shortly after the release of strategic documents by both countries.

Today’s meeting delivered three major outcomes, and let me go through them one by one.

First, based on the strategic documents of our two countries, we were able to hold in-depth discussions to confirm the alignment of the recognition on both sides over the regional strategic environment thoroughly and in detail.  Specifically, first of all on China, China presents an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge.  Its foreign policy to recreate international order to serve its self-interest is a grave concern for the Japan-U.S. Alliance and for the whole of the international community.

Upon confirming such shared recognition, we confirmed that Japan and the U.S. will continue to be united in raising objections against China’s attempts to change status quo in the East China Sea, including its behavior that seeks to undermine long years of administration by Japan of the Senkaku Islands.

We also confirmed our strong opposition against unlawful claims and coercive and provocative efforts and actions by China in the South China Sea.  We reaffirmed that the basic positions of our two countries over Taiwan remains unchanged, and confirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability of the Taiwan Straits, which is an essential element for the safety and prosperity of the international community.  At the same time, we concurred that there have not been any changes to our policies to strengthen communication with China, including in the area of security.

On Russia, we reaffirmed our notion that aggression of Ukraine shakes the foundation of international order; accused Russia for its reckless nuclear rhetoric and attacks against civilian infrastructure; and concurred to continue our strong support to Ukraine.  In addition, we shared our concern over the enhanced military cooperation between China and Russia.

Further, on North Korea, we strongly accused them for the launch of ballistic missiles during the past year at unprecedented frequency, and reaffirmed our unwavering commitment towards the complete denuclearization of North Korea based on UN Security Council resolutions.

With our positions perfectly aligned, we agreed to continue to work closely together in responding to the North Korea issue, including the pursuit of immediate resolution of the abduction issue.  And we agreed about deepening the trilateral cooperation between the three countries.

Secondly, we affirmed the further endeavors to bolster the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance in view of the new strategies based on the increasingly severe security environment.  I welcomed the U.S. resolve to optimize the force posture in the Indo-Pacific, including Japan, and we decided to continue close consultation how to further optimize the U.S. force posture in Japan, including the readjustment of the USFJ realignment announced this time.

Extended deterrence was one of the agenda, and there was in-depth discussions at the ministerial level.  Spending some time having discussed that, we reaffirmed the strong U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan, underpinned by the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear.  Furthermore, there was an affirmation of strong support by the U.S. on the new security policy of Japan in that it will fundamentally reinforce the deterrence capability of the Alliance.

In addition, we agreed on the importance of deepening our cooperation in the areas of space and cyber, the promotion of technological cooperation, the further strengthening of information security.  The fact that we were able to agree on the announcement of the applicability of Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty on attacks on others in outer space was a significant achievement in terms of the reinforcement of deterrence capability of the Alliance as a whole.

Thirdly, we once again affirmed the importance of the reduction of the impact on the local communities, including Okinawa.  We also reaffirmed that in order to avoid the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the relocation to Henoko is the only solution.

Furthermore, I once again requested the U.S. side on safe operations with utmost consideration to the impact on the local communities; appropriate responses to incidents and accidents, including sharing information in a timely manner; and on environmental issues, and confirmed our close coordination.

The joint announcement – the joint statement issued as a result of this 2+2 is a presentation of the vision of a modernized Alliance (inaudible) posture to win in the new era of strategic competition.  The vision will be executed speedily, and together with Minister Hamada, Secretary Blinken, and Secretary Austin, we will constantly bolster the Japan-U.S. Alliance.  Thank you.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone, and thanks to everyone for being here.  At the outset, let me thank my friend and colleague, Secretary Blinken, for hosting today’s U.S.-Japan 2+2 Ministerial Meeting.  Thanks, Tony.

Minister Hamada, Minister Hayashi, I want to underscore my support for the bold decisions that Japan has made in your 2022 national security strategy, your national defense strategy, and your defense buildup program.  There is clear strategic alignment between the visions of President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida.  It is a shared commitment to uphold the rules-based international order and to strengthen resilient partnerships around the globe.  And the essential U.S.-Japan Alliance is at the center of these efforts.  Our respective defense strategies provide a strong foundation for our ongoing work to modernize the U.S.-Japan Alliance.  In addition, Japan’s commitments to substantially increase its defense spending and to invest in defense institutions and infrastructure and capabilities will accelerate our Alliance’s efforts.  I’m grateful that we’re meeting at such a consequential time, as Japan strengthens its own defense and further contributes to regional peace and stability.

Today we welcomed an historic Alliance decision to optimize U.S. force posture in Japan by forward stationing more versatile, mobile, and resilient capabilities.  These actions will bolster deterrence in the region and allow us to defend Japan and its people more effectively.  In an increase – in an increasingly challenging security environment, we’ve decided that the 12th Artillery Regiment would remain in Japan and be reorganized into the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment by 2025.  We will equip this new formation with advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, as well as anti-ship and transportation capabilities that are relevant to the current and future threat environments.  These posture updates adhere to the basic tenets of the 2012 realignment plan, and they will strengthen our Alliance’s ability to maintain regional peace and stability.

We also discussed updating our Alliance’s roles and missions so that Japan can more actively contribute to regional security alongside the United States and other likeminded partners.  And so in our meeting today we strongly endorsed Japan’s decision to acquire a counterstrike capability, and we affirmed that close coordination on employing this capability will strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance.  We also discussed a number of key issues including our shared interest in peace and stability in the East and South China Seas and around Taiwan and our commitment to – to the denuclearization of North Korea, and our efforts to increase multilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea, Australia, and other likeminded partners and our growing cooperation across all domains, including space and cyber.

Now, as you’ve heard me say before, the People’s Republic of China is a pacing challenge for the Department of Defense.  Japan and the United States remain united in our concern over China’s destabilizing actions, and I want to reaffirm the United States ironclad commitment to defend Japan with the full range of capabilities, including nuclear, and underscore that Article V of the mutual security treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands.  And tomorrow Minister Hamada and I will sign new arrangements that will increase opportunities for the Japanese and the United States defense enterprises to closely cooperate on advanced technologies as well as increased linkages between our respective industrial bases.  And our close consultations today have advanced our Alliance’s efforts to address common challenges ahead of President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida’s meeting at the White House this week.

I’ll close by reiterating that the U.S.-Japan Alliance remains a cornerstone of our Indo-Pacific strategy, and it’s critical to upholding a free and open regional order.  Our Alliance is stronger than ever, building on a foundation of teamwork, trust, and shared values that has underpinned our relationship for decades.  And so there is no challenge that we can overcome if we continue to work shoulder to shoulder.  Thank you.

DEFENSE MINISTER HAMADA:  (Via interpreter) At the outset, I extend my deepest appreciation to Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, and members of the U.S. side for having organized this meeting.  My three colleagues have already mentioned the severity of the security environment surrounding us.  As we live in this age of intense competition, in order to sustain a new rules-based international order and free and open Indo-Pacific, the role that the Japan-U.S. Alliance must play has never been so enormous.  The national security and defense strategies of our two countries that have been prepared most recently are highly consistent at a degree never seen before and will serve as a strong infrastructure for our bilateral cooperation.

What is noteworthy is the importance attached to the – attached by both countries to integrate all means and approaches to deter a situation from occurring.  Alignment of our positions as such has been significant.  At the same time, strategies don’t end by just preparing them.  In light of the severity of the security environment, both Japan and the U.S. is expected to put their strategies into action swiftly and steadily.

Based on the new strategy, in order to expeditiously achieve the fundamental reinforcement of Japan’s defense capabilities, I am committed to making maximum efforts to gain new capabilities, including counterstrike capability and to enhanced persistent warfare capability.  I am much encouraged by the strong support shown by Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken as I shared with them such resolve.  Japan and the U.S. must properly engage in discussions on strengthening partnership.

During today’s consultations, we agreed on the need to realize division of roles and missions assuming the fundamental reinforcement of Japan’s defense capabilities.  The four of us agreed to promote initiatives in extensive areas, including effective operation of counterstrike capability based on bilateral cooperation, strengthening collaboration in space and cyber, and deepening cooperation in equipment and technology.

We also agreed to deepen cooperation with partners, including Australia, ROK, ASEAN, and Europe, to expand partnership and based on our Alliance, because in the increasingly important extended deterrence in the region, I have listened to the extensive viewpoints of the U.S. from Secretary Austin.  Based on that, in order for the U.S. extended deterrence to be even more reliable and resilient, we discussed what the two countries need to do in order to optimize the U.S. force posture in Japan.  The current realignment plan was coordinated in 2012, but in order to deal with the increasingly severe security environment, both Japan and the U.S. have decided to readjust the plan while maintaining the fundamental principles.

Keeping the 3rd Marines Division command and the 12th Marines Littoral Regiment in Okinawa will allow the forward-deployed U.S. force posture to have more versatile capabilities, be more resilient and more mobile.  This effort will significantly strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and at the same time it will demonstrate the robust commitment of the U.S. to the defense of Japan.  In order to execute these plans, we will coordinate closely with the U.S. side.

I also mentioned that for the stable stationing and activities of USFJ, the understanding by the local community such as Okinawa is crucial.  We will continue to work on the reduction of impact on Okinawa.  It was extremely significant that, at a timing so soon after the two countries had formulated the strategic documents that will guide the future national security and defense policies, that the four ministers responsible for defense and foreign policy got together and had the opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions on how to implement their respective strategy.  I shall continue the discussions in order to bolster our Alliance.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  We’ll now turn to questions.  We will alternate questions per side.  We will start with Shaun Tandon of the AFP.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Good evening.  Thanks for this.  Can I follow up on a couple of things that you just announced?  Speaking about the Marine littoral regiment, both of the defense – both the Defense Secretary and defense minister spoke of the increasing – the increasingly challenging security environment.  Can you be more specific in what you’re responding to?  Is this specifically China?  Is these – are these contingencies in Taiwan or potentially in the Senkaku Islands, North Korea?  And also you mentioned the impact in Okinawa.  Is there any concern that this could aggravate tensions locally in Okinawa?  Will this result in a net increase in the forces there?  And if you don’t mind, could I also ask about space?  There have been some reports that space will now be included as part of the defense partnership.  Could you comment on that?

And for – on the American side, if you don’t mind – if you don’t mind a couple of questions that are a little bit off topic.  To Secretary Austin, the situation in Ukraine – Soledar.  There have been lots of reports the Wagner Group has claimed to control it, and there’s been another shake-up in the Russian military command.  What do you make of this?  Do you think that it’s fallen?  What significance do you see?

And Secretary Blinken, a couple of days ago – you were just in Latin America yesterday, but a couple of days ago in Brazil there was, of course, the unrest.  Former President Bolsonaro remains in the United States.  There have been some calls from the Democratic Party to make a persona non grata.  How tenable is it to – for him to stay in Florida despite what happened a couple of days ago in Brasilia?  Thanks very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  You want to start?

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  So I lost count – I lost count on a number of questions, but we’ll try to knock them down.  If we miss one, then we’ll double back.

First, let me begin with the question you asked on Soledar and whether or not it’s fallen to the Russians.  At this point, we can’t corroborate that reporting.  Of course, I’ve seen some of that reporting, but you know that this has been a very fluid, dynamic environment, dynamic fight in that area.  It’s gone back and forth a number of times, and it really is some pretty brutal fighting.  But the Ukrainians have acquitted themselves very, very – in a very impressive fashion as a – they’ve fought a very – continue to fight a very determined fight.

We are focused on doing everything we can to help make sure that the Ukrainians have the capabilities that they need to be successful in their efforts to defend their sovereign territory.  We’ve been – we talk – I talk to my counterpart routinely.  We’re going to conduct another Ukraine Contact Group – Defense Contact Group meeting next week in Germany, where we’ll get another – we’ll get 50 or so ministers of defense together to talk about what Ukraine’s needs are now and what they need to be successful going forward.

So you’ve heard us say over and over again that we’re going to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, and from everything that I can see from our allies and partners, they feel the same way.  So we remain united in our efforts.

On the Marine littoral regiment, we believe that this brings – this capability brings a tremendous capability to the Alliance.  We’re replacing an artillery regiment with an outfit that’s more lethal, more agile, more capable.  And as you have seen from what’s been published on this particular formation, it consists of a combat element, which is a battalion-size element; a long-range fires element, which allows us to – gives us an anti-ship capability, which I think is very, very important; and also a logistical element that helps sustain the overall regiment there.

So I think this is going to contribute in a major way in our efforts to help defend Japan, and also promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.  And that’s really our focus.  Japan – we share a common vision with Japan to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, and all the things that we’re doing points towards that direction.

So I’m going to stop there and allow Minister Hamada to comment, if you’d like.

DEFENSE MINISTER HAMADA:  (Via interpreter) Regarding the current topic, our position is, in Okinawa, that there are realignment in many other comments referred to.  With regard to these aspects, we understand – and together with the U.S. forces, including the coordination, our discussion will have to take place.  But at any rate, regarding the matters in Okinawa, that there is the relationship with the local communities, and we will have to continue our effort to explain in order to overcome these challenges.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Shaun, just to respond, I think, to a couple of other questions you asked.  First, in terms of the security environment that we’re dealing with, there’s – I think it’s no secret that it is a more challenging one, and we see different challenges to the status quo coming from different countries – including China, including the DPRK, including of course Russia.  Even though that aggression against Ukraine is happening in Europe, it has profound implications for countries around the world, including in Asia – because this is not only a challenge to Ukraine and the lives and livelihoods of its people, it’s a challenge to the entire international rules-based order and the very principles that underlie that order that are so important in every part of the world: sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, the right to shape your own future.  That’s why Japan, from day one, has been such a strong partner with us and many other countries in seeking to uphold that order, whether it comes to Russia’s aggression or in any other areas.

You asked about our cooperation in space.  Well, there’s cooperation in cyberspace and there’s cooperation in outer space.  We’ll be putting out a statement, if it’s not already out, that reflects the additional steps that we’ve taken.  But this is very significant.  We’re working to deepen our cooperation across every realm – land, sea, air, and yes, space, cyber and outer.

The outer space component of this is important to the security and prosperity of our Alliance.  We agreed, as you’ve heard, that attacks to, from, or within space present a clear challenge, and we affirmed that depending on the nature of those attacks, this could lead to the invocation of Article V of our Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.  That is significant.  We’ll sign, as I mentioned, a space agreement a little bit later this week at NASA.

On cyber, we have emphasized the foundational importance of cyber security and information security for our Alliance.  We agreed there as well to deepen our collaboration.  This is a challenge that we both face, other countries face; it’s important that we work on it together.  We’re all learning lessons in dealing with the challenges that come in cyberspace.  Being able to share best practices, being able to support one another, is more important than ever.

We’re also committed in that light to bolstering technology cooperation as well as making joint investments in emerging technologies to try to further sharpen the competitive edge of the Alliance.

Last question, as I heard it, with regard to Brazil.  As President Biden told President Lula, we stand with the people of Brazil.  We stand with Brazil’s democracy and its institutions.  The President will have an opportunity to confer directly and closely with President Lula when he visits Washington in early February, and the President looks very much forward to that.

President Lula has called for an investigation of the events of January 8th.  I’m not going to get ahead of that.  We’ve not received any specific requests from Brazilian authorities.  Of course, if and when we do, we’ll work expeditiously to respond, as we always do.

And then with regard to individuals, we’re talking now about people who are private citizens.  We’ve heard various public statements that have been made by those individuals about their plans, but we really don’t have anything to add, and it’s not appropriate for us to comment on any individual’s visa status.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Next, from the Japanese press, Miki-san of Nikkei newspaper company.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) My name is Miki of Nihon Keizai Shimbun company.  I have a question to both foreign and defense ministers of Japan and the United States.  In East Asia, there are concerns of unilateral change of status quo by force, and there are those who point out the Taiwan contingency risk.  You’ve mentioned the southwest defense bolstering, but what agreement have you reached in the 2+2 to upgrade the response and deterrence capability?  And how will you go about in terms of integrated operations between SDF and U.S. forces?

And in the renewed national security strategies, both countries positioned China as being a challenge for the international community.  How do you assess the risk in terms of security by China in East Asia, and how will you respond?

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  (Via interpreter) First of all, on Nansei Islands, with severity of the security environment surrounding Japan increasing, in order to reinforce the defense of our nation, including the Nansei Islands, strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of our Alliance is an urgent mission.  At today’s 2+2, we concurred on the decisive importance of joint initiatives at peacetime to deter armed attack against – and attacks that undermine regional stability.

Based on such shared recognition, the joint statement issued today refers to concrete initiatives – for example, in the area including the Nansei Islands, joint use of Japan-U.S. facilities will be expanded and joint exercises and training will be increased.

On Taiwan, I refrain from responding to a hypothetical question on contingency in Taiwan.  It has been the consistent policy of Japan that peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait is important not only for Japan’s security, but also for the stability of the international community at large, and that we hope to see Taiwan-related issues be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

Now, on China, as explicitly mentioned in the new national security strategy, present external posture and military orientation of China are grave concerns for Japan and the international community.  As we strive to secure peace and stability of Japan and the international community and strengthen international order based on rule of law, China presents an unprecedented and the greatest challenge.  At the same time, Japan and China both bear important responsibility for regional and global peace and prosperity.  Establishment of a constructive and stable relationship by Japan and China is essential for peace and stability of the international community, including the Indo-Pacific.

Defense Minister?

DEFENSE MINISTER HAMADA:  (Via interpreter) Yes.  As mentioned by Minister Hayashi, that is our position.  Based upon the mutual recognition of Japan and the United States in the area including Nansei Islands, we will expand the joint use of facilities of Japan and the United States, and we’ve committed to increase joint exercises and joint trainings.  In such form, we will upgrade the deterrence and response capabilities of our Alliance, which is necessary, and we will continue to work in close coordination with the United States following today’s meeting.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I have little to add because my colleagues have covered it so well.  Suffice to say that first, we are united in ways that, at least in my experience over the last 30 years, we’ve never been before.  There’s greater convergence in our approach, greater alignment in our approach – both in terms of the way we see the challenges and how we propose to respond to them – than ever before.  And I think that’s very significant, and you’ve heard both ministers speak to it.  The statements that we’re putting out – or we’ve already put out this afternoon – will reflect in detail that alignment, that convergence between Japan and the United States.

When it comes to Taiwan, I think it’s very important to note that what we’ve seen from China in recent years – not recent months, recent years – is, unfortunately, an effort to undermine the longstanding status quo, a status quo that’s maintain peace and stability for decades.  We, on the other hand, want to sustain that status quo; we want to bolster it.  We oppose any unilateral change to the status quo by either side.  We’ll continue for a calm, resolute approach to uphold peace and stability.  Japan in the United States are united in that effort.

As you’ve heard us say, our Alliance is a cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.  And the steps that we announced today will strengthen the Alliance’s ability to uphold the rules-based order that we are both very much committed to.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  I think that my colleagues have – did a – have done a tremendous job of outlining the key points here, and so I won’t plow that ground again.  But I would just say that we really do remain committed to enhancing resiliency and interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces and deepening the operational cooperation.  So the things that we touched upon today, especially the agreement to increase bilateral exercises and training, I think are a real powerful statement of that commitment.  So I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on these issues going forward.

MR PRICE:  Our next question goes to Ryo Kiyomiya from Asahi Shimbun.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  I’m Ryo Kiyomiya from Asahi Shimbun, Washington, D.C. bureau.  I have questions for each of you.  First, Secretary Austin, while U.S. and Japan share the concern about the – China’s military aggression, how can the U.S. manage the relationship with China and avoid miscalculation leading to the contingencies?  And last October you said that you don’t see an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China.  Do you still hold that view?

And also, if I may, Japan decided to establish our self-defense force joint headquarter.  From your perspective, what would be the ideal Alliance command and control relationship between U.S. and Japan to enhance interoperability and readiness?

And Secretary Blinken, regarding U.S.-China relations, how do you plan to manage and build the relationship with China during your upcoming engagement with China?  And also, what kind of role do you expect Japan to play in diplomacy to manage this relationship?

And finally, to Minister Hamada and Minister Hayashi, there is a growing sense of risk about China’s invasion of Taiwan.  In the previous 2+2 meeting, U.S. and Japan welcomed the robust progress on bilateral planning for contingencies.  How would you evaluate the current progress on bilateral planning for contingencies so far with the U.S.?  Also, from the perspective of deterring China’s aggression, how do you evaluate the recent U.S. announcement of reorganization of Marines in Okinawa into the Marine littoral regiment?  Thank you.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Okay, thank you.  I think your first question was: how do we avoid miscalculation?  You’ve heard me say a number of times that it’s absolutely critical that leaders of great powers maintain open lines of communication and be able to talk with each other.  In that way, we can avoid miscalculation wherever possible.  And you see us continuing to try to ensure that we keep those lines open, and I would invite my colleagues in China to meet us halfway there and work hard to keep those lines of communication open.  And that is the primary and best way to avoid that miscalculation.  Of course, I believe that our forces are trained and disciplined, and to the degree that they’re going to do everything within their power to avoid any kind of misunderstanding or miscalculation.  But again, that dialogue is enormously important.

So – and then your second question was regarding whether or not China is – whether or not an invasion of Taiwan by China is imminent.  I won’t second-guess Mr. Xi, but what I will tell you, what we’re seeing recently, is some very provocative behavior on the part of China’s forces and their attempt to re-establish a new normal.  So we’ve seen increased activity in – aerial activity in the straits.  We’ve seen increased surface vessel activity around Taiwan.  And again, we believe that they endeavor to establish a new normal, but whether or not that means that an invasion is imminent, I seriously doubt that.

So we will continue to watch and we will continue to work with our allies and partners to do everything that we can to ensure that we promote peace and stability in the strait and in the region overall.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And just quickly to – more broadly to add to that on China, as you know, President Biden, President Xi had a very open, candid conversation during the last G20 meeting in Bali, and they spoke about our intentions.  President Biden shared our intentions and our priorities, and we got some sense of that from President Xi as well.  As the Secretary of Defense just said, these lines of communication, starting with the presidents but also including many of us, are vitally important – vitally important to keep open and, I would hope, to deepen, because, as the Secretary of Defense said, what we don’t want is for any misunderstanding to veer into conflict.

I will have an opportunity to travel to China in the coming weeks to follow up on the President’s discussions precisely to move forward on those lines of communication between us.  We – both of our countries, Japan and the United States – have complex and consequential relationships with China, and there are clearly aspects of intense competition between us.  There are aspects as well of cooperation, and it’s important to see if we can pursue those.  We hear from countries around the world the desire for the United States, China, Japan to manage this relationship responsibly and, if there are areas where we can cooperate that would be to the benefit not only of our own people but of people around the world, whether it’s in climate, whether it’s in global health, whether it’s in dealing with drugs, we should pursue them.

But we are going to compete vigorously.  The President’s been very clear about that.  We’re not looking for conflict.  We’ll manage the competition responsibly, but we will compete vigorously.  And we will seek to keep these lines of communication open and do all that we can to establish guardrails to prevent competition, as I said, from veering into conflict.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  (Via interpreter) First of all, U.S.’s commitment and optimization of the posture in the Indo-Pacific, including Japan, is very much welcome.  And including the recoordination of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan in order to optimize posture of USFJ, we decided to continue our close consultations.  And this may not be a direct response to your question – I may have misunderstood your question – but if your question is implying on guideline, there was no discussion over U.S.-Japan guidelines.  Regarding the necessity of review of the Japan-U.S. guidelines, of course, it is being constantly studied.  But we don’t assume that it will be immediately necessary.  Thank you.

DEFENSE MINISTER HAMADA:  (Via interpreter) On the U.S.-Japan bilateral planning, in 2015, based upon the guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, the Japan-U.S. governments are to prepare and renew bilateral planning.  And we very much welcomed the steadfast progress of this task.  And in order to respond to the very severe security environment in Japan, by maintaining the remaining Marine Corps in Okinawa after the realignment decision was made to keep the 3rd Division of the Marine Corps and the 12th Regiment of the Marine Corps and agreed to realign into MLR by 2025, we believe that this will bolster the USFJ posture in Japan.  And this also is a demonstration of the unwavering commitment of the United States towards the defense of Japan.  And together with the fundamental reinforcement of defense capabilities of Japan, this will significantly elevate the deterrence and response capabilities of our Alliance against attacks – armed attacks – to Japan.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) This will be the last question.  Tajima-san, Asahi Shimbun newspaper.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Tajima, Asahi Shimbun.  Thank you.  During this meeting, I believe the new national security strategy and the new defense strategy were the main topics, so I asked Minister Hayashi and Minister Hamada – so the reinforcement of defense, including counterstrike capability and the meaning and the goal of significant increase of defense expense, how did you explain to the U.S. side, please?

And then, Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin, if I may, the strengthening of Japan’s defense capability, what is your assessment?  And the new strategies of both countries have been evidence coming forward – the deterrence and the response capability of the two countries.  How do you intend to elevate?  Earlier Minister Hayashi referred to the guideline, about the possibility of the need to revise the guideline.  What is your view?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  Please allow me to start.  At the 2+2 today, the – based on the new strategy, we affirmed the future activities in order to bolster the defense response capabilities of the Alliance under the new strategy in light of the increasingly severe security environment.  I mentioned that the fundamental reinforcement of Japan’s defense capability will lead to further effective exercise of U.S. capabilities, and that in turn would mean a further reinforcement of the deterrence response capabilities of the bilateral Alliance and would play a huge role for the peace and stability of the region.  The U.S. in response expressed firm support.

As I mentioned earlier, as a result of the 2+2, the joint statement to be released, this presents a vision of the Alliance in the new era of strategic competition.  The plans will be implemented speedily, and together with Minister Hamada, Secretary Blinken, and Secretary Austin, we will constantly bolster the bilateral Alliance.

DEFENSE MINISTER HAMADA:  (Via interpreter) If I may, regarding the fundamental reinforcement of Japan’s defense in order to speedily realize about the significant increased defense, we will acquire new capabilities, including war sustainability and counterstrike capability, and I expressed my very strong commitment.  As Minister Hayashi just mentioned, the U.S. side mentioned that they will strongly support Japan’s new strategy, that it is a major evolution of the bilateral Alliance.

Based on today’s discussion, in this most severe and complex security environment after the war, we will fundamentally reinforce the defense capability, including the counterstrike capability.  And together, in order to make the U.S. Alliance be a contribution to peace, stability, and prosperity of the region and the world, we will continue to work with Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, and Minister Hayashi to strengthen the Alliance.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you for the question.  It’s very simple:  We heartily welcome the new strategies, especially because there is, as I said and we’ve all said, remarkable convergence between our strategy – strategies – and Japan’s.  We applaud the commitment to increased investment; to enhanced roles, missions, and capabilities that you’ve heard; to closer cooperation not only between the United States and Japan, but as well with other allies and other partners on a bilateral basis but also on a trilateral and multilateral basis.  We already have a strong foundation.  That’s only going to grow.

As we read them, these new documents really reshape the Alliance’s ability to promote peace and protect the rules-based order in the region but also beyond, around the world.  I think what you’re seeing in real time is an Alliance that is modernizing, and the United States and Japan are working in lock step to be prepared for the emerging challenges in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

So we could not be more pleased with the work that we’re doing together, but also, and I have to say for Japan’s extraordinary leadership, I know President Biden will have an opportunity to share that appreciation with Prime Minister Kishida when he welcomes him here to Washington later this week.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  I certainly agree with Secretary Blinken.  There is clear strategic alignment between the visions of President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida.  You see that reflected in the strategies as you put them side by side.  We are all focused on maintaining a rules-based international order and promoting peace and stability in the region.

So what you’ve heard us talk about today – the things that we discussed in the meeting – really bring that strategy to life.  Optimizing force posture, agreeing to increase our bilateral exercises and training events – all of those things are real good indicators that all of us are committed to making sure that, as Prime Minister Hamada has said previously, we don’t just write strategies, we do the things necessary to be able to execute them.  And this is work that’s never finished, okay, so we will continue to work to optimize force posture and increase interoperability so that we maintain a credible deterrent force.  And I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to do that, what I would call hard government work.  But thank you very much.

MR PRICE:  Thank you, Your Excellencies.  Thank you, everyone.  That concludes the press conference.

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