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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Deputy Secretary of State > Former Deputy Secretaries of State > Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage > Remarks > 2004

Remarks and Q & A at the Japan National Press Club

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Tokyo, Japan
February 2, 2004

2:00 p.m. local time

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your kind remarks, Mr. Haruna. I am delighted to be back with you, and I'd like to thank all of you for coming here today. Sometimes, it seems to me that everywhere I go I can count on members of the Japanese press to follow me and keep me company. So today, I'm delighted to be able to be here with you and keep you company. And I want to thank, of course, the National Press Center for the kind invitation. I'd also like to thank Ambassador Howard Baker, not just for acting as a good host for me, but for acting as such an extraordinary emissary for my country. Sir, all Americans owe you a debt of gratitude for a lifetime of service. I think that we can be especially grateful that you answered President Bush's call. You've been here in Tokyo to help shape one of our nation's most important alliances at a time of testing and at a time of transformation. Thank you for all that you have done to make both of our nations safer and more secure.

Of course I'm always delighted to be here in Japan. That is especially true today at such an historic moment in the life of your nation, and indeed of our alliance. I believe that Prime Minister Koizumi has set a new benchmark, not just in the dispatch of Japanese Self Defense Forces to Iraq, but also in redefining Japan's role in the world, as well as finding a way forward for this country. The Prime Minister has a remarkable vision, and I believe the right vision at the right time. As he said on December 9th, "Now is the time indeed when we are to be tested, not only in our words, but in our deeds." A little over three years ago, I joined together with Dr. Joe Nye to chair a bipartisan panel on U.S./Japan relations. I don’t think that we anticipated that so much would happen so quickly. The events of the past three years have been dramatic. Indeed, my nation's entire frame of reference has shifted and brought the worldwide battle with terrorism to the fore. But I can tell you that the administration of President Bush has never lost sight of long-term priorities. So we can say today that much of the vision laid out in the Nye/Armitage report has become a reality. Of course, given how important this is to my country, as well as to me personally, I wish I could take more credit for these developments. But the fact is, it was our counterparts in Japan who were thinking along the same lines. It was Prime Minister Koizumi and the people of Japan who actually made this happen. In this time of change at home, in the region and around the world, Japan had not been caught standing still. Indeed, today Japan is putting it's skillful hands on the tiller of the international community, no longer content simply being a passenger, which I believe will chart a course to a direct and a rightful role in shaping a better future.

Now, that may sound to some of you like an overstatement. But there can be no exaggerating the importance of this new era of self-confidence for Japan. Certainly for Japan itself the benefits mean everything from a stronger economy to a safer region. But there are also important benefits for the United States, which is recognizing an equal partner in a mature relationship, and for the international community, in it's entirety, because Japan has a unique contribution to make to world affairs. History has handed the United States extraordinary wealth and power. As President Bush has said, "with great power comes great responsibility." We accept that responsibility. We will play our role. Japan too has great wealth and great power, as the second largest economy in the world, as the second largest donor of foreign aid, with a political and a cultural character that influences millions of people around the world every day. But as a country of such great significance, Japan has a different role to play. Certainly our roles are complimentary, for the simple reason that we share core regional and global strategic interests, as well as common political and common economic values. But on the other hand, we also have different strengths, and different approaches. I suppose there are still some in this country, as well as around the region, who believe that a self-confident Japan is something to fear. Those fears are ghosts of the past. They have no foundation in the present. Indeed, I see that the debate within Japan about changing the constitution is now picking up speed, without changing the unique character of this country. I believe we can say that this debate has never been more serious than it is today in discussing how to deal with collective self-defense, which many of us in the global community, and apparently increasingly in Japan, view as common sense, though clearly these are decisions that only the people of Japan can make.

At the close of the Second World War, there was one speech that Franklin Roosevelt never had a chance to deliver. It included a memorable phrase, quote: "More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all war." His was a vision of hope for a time when so much of the world was in wreckage. But in all the years since, the world has fallen fall short of that vision. Even as the community of nations has come together to limit the damage we can do to each other, through a vast network of international laws and international constitutions – the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – we've also seen some of the worse mass killings in the history of mankind in Cambodia, in Rwanda, in Kosovo, and, oh yes, in Iraq. Today we cannot afford to take it on faith that the end to war, and especially the end to the beginnings of war, is a proposition that will take care of itself. So today peacekeeping must not be an exercise in fatalism. Today we need a new approach, and we need policies that are proactive in building peace. From my perspective, from the viewpoint of my country, Japan clearly has a comparative advantage in establishing such an approach. Indeed, the Prime Minister of Japan has pointed out that the spirit and the ideals of the constitution call for Japan to be nothing less than a force for global peace.

I am quite well aware that much has been made of one single passage in the American security strategy that concerned the concept of preemption. While military action to prevent a terrorist attack has to remain an option, the fact is that the United States, just like Japan and the rest of the international community, must be prepared to take effective measures to keep peace, not just to wage war or to clean up after the fact. The cost of war is far too high in human misery, in instability and in scarce national funds, so we must be prepared to use the tools of national power to serve the national interests in global security and global stability. This call to peace means different things for different countries. For my country of the United States it means leadership. It means acting to promote our values and protect our interests. But it also means engaging in effective multilateralism. We simply cannot guard our own security, let alone build peace and prosperity in the world, if we attempt to act alone. For Japan it means acting as an advocate and catalyst for effective multilateral tactics. But it also means exercising leadership in the global community, and finding the will to be proactive on behalf of peace.

The costs of failing are clear. We can see the dangers of actions deferred in Afghanistan, and in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the brutal regime of the Taliban, a regime that sought to annihilate history itself, was horrific not just for the people of Afghanistan, but for every nation on the border, which endured wave after destabilizing wave of crime, of drugs and of refugees. With help of al Qaeda, which used the territory as both a staging point and a proving ground, the reach of Afghanistan's misery became global. September 11th was the breaking point. We all knew how lethal the situation was long before that, and yet we did little to effectively change the outcome. The international community now has a chance in Afghanistan to rectify our neglect of a gathering danger, and indeed both Japan and the United States are committing extensive resources to securing that country. Today there is cause for optimism as Afghanistan takes the right steps towards a better future.

Of course we saw a similar failure of international will in Iraq. It is a situation we had hoped would never come to military action. But we had reached a point where there was no other viable alternative. Saddam Hussein was murderous. He had unquenchable extra-territorial ambitions, and he was a tyrant who killed hundreds of thousands of his people. He never honored the terms of ceasefire with nations which defeated him in war. His control of the worlds second largest reserves of oil not only kept him in place, giving him in effect a blank check for a military buildup of unconventional and conventional arms, it also gave him the ability to destabilize the region and to threaten international interests out of all proportion to his real power. In twelve years of trying, the international community found no way to change that situation. Make no mistake, we all knew that as long as Saddam Hussein continued to defy every resolution of the United Nations Security Council, a day of reckoning was inevitable. The day of reckoning came, and now it is time for the world to turn to the task of helping Iraq. We must succeed, not just for the long-suffering people of Iraq, but for our own people, because this is also a matter of our own national interests, both for the United States and for Japan. The price of failure would be far too high. Indeed, it is in the vital international interests to see that this nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very cradle of civilization and a possible mainstay of the modern economy, can not only cease to be a threat to the region and to the world, but can become a source of stability, and a success on today's terms.

So now Japan is part of a great coalition of some 63 countries, which are now working to reach that goal. And indeed we have made considerable progress in repairing the human and the physical infrastructure of Iraq. For all of you in the journalism business, when you report the bad news – the stories of roadside bombs and suicide attacks – keep in mind that Iraq is a country of 24 million people, with many other stories to tell. It is only a relative handful of the population that is today attacking prospects for a better future. Indeed, the people of Samawah are certainly hopeful, and they have expressed great faith in Japan. These are people who ultimately want what we all want – to put food on the table and put children in school – without living in fear. So it is understandable that their enthusiasm arises not just from the benefit the Self Defense Forces will bring to their security, but from the constructive touch for which Japan is so rightly famous. That is a tremendous compliment to the unique Japanese contribution to world affairs. Now there is no absolute safety anywhere in the world, and certainly Iraq is still not a safe place – as you are all well aware, unfortunately. Japan suffered a great loss with the murders of Mr. Oku and Mr. Inoue, and I hope that you will permit me to offer the solidarity of the people of my country in this time of sorrow, to offer that solidarity to the people of Japan, and to the grieving families of these two extraordinary men. We will always remember their courage and remember their determination, and we must never forget that they put their own lives on the line in order to help the people of Iraq.

I recently went to Iraq, and I visited some of our troops and some of the diplomats stationed there. While they remain concerned about the security situation, they have a deep sense of purpose, and they refuse to yield to terrorism. They understand that to secure a free Iraq, and a Middle East that is stable and at peace, we have to be willing to shoulder the risk. That is the only way to reach an outcome we all want to see. Japan's pledge of $5 billion made at the conference in Madrid will be crucial to turning around the fortunes of Iraq. But if Japan were to hold itself apart, to only underwrite the risk of others, it would not share fully in the decisions that are made, or the results that are reached. Japan would be unlikely to earn the full respect of those who take the risks for peace. Moreover, avoiding risk does not necessarily mean achieving peace.

So yes, Iraq is not a safe place. But for that matter, neither is Japan. After all, you live in a region with nuclear-armed neighbors, the risks of which were made so clear by North Korea's 1998 test of a Tapedong missile over Honshu. Indeed, Japan has been the victim of a terrorist attack from within, as has the United States in Oklahoma City. Keeping to the status quo will not necessarily bring us security. Failing to address difficult issues will not necessarily keep us safe. But it may close down our options, as we saw in Iraq.

The international community cannot afford to keep coming back to a point of no return, where difficult situations are left with no effective solutions. This is true of Iran, for instance, where the international community has a choice, as in Iraq. We can hold Iran's leadership accountable for their behavior, for fulfilling their responsibilities and fully cooperating with the IAEA. We can stand with the people of Iran, who have legitimate aspirations for true democracy. Or we can deal with the consequences of having another repressive and autocratic nuclear-armed state. But the importance of effective solutions is evident in other places as well, from Libya, where strong British and American diplomacy has helped the ruling regime make the right decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction, to tiny Sri Lanka, where assertive Japanese diplomacy taken together with the facilitation of Norway and a supporting role from the United States, is helping to give the people of Sri Lanka the first hope for peace in a generation. The situation is still precarious, of course, but we are continuing to look for ways to support peace and to support the people of Sri Lanka.

These are the stakes and the potential results of acting decisively on behalf of peace. That is why the world can welcome the more active leadership role that Japan has taken and continues to take, not just in the global war against terrorism, but also closer to home in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan and the United States certainly share an interest in keeping the relationship between Taiwan and China on an even keel, and more generally in helping to shape what sort of country China will choose to be in this century. In the case of North Korea, Japan is already playing an important role. North Korea is a country that supports itself largely through counterfeiting, smuggling, trading in drugs and missiles and other weapons, a pattern of behavior that has included the cruel abductions of Japanese citizens as well as nuclear threats. It is a dangerous and unstable situation in one of the most dynamic and heavily populated regions in the world, and unfortunately all of the stopgap measures we tried in the past to end North Korea's nuclear programs failed. But the stakes are too high. We simply cannot allow the situation to continue to slide in the wrong direction. As President Bush said during the recent State of the Union address, "We are committed to keeping the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous regimes." President Bush has made it very clear that he believes diplomacy can work in this instance, and he has indicated the United States is willing to document security assurances for North Korea in a multilateral context if North Korea will completely dismantle its nuclear programs in a way that is irreversible as well as verifiable. In addition to being North Korea's immediate neighbors and its past and potential trading partners, the countries in this group – Japan, the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, and Russia – account for some 50 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product and four of the world's largest defense budgets. All have clearly stated their opposition to nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, as well as their conviction that a nuclear arms program does not enhance North Korea's security. I believe it is the strength and unity of this particular coalition that will, with wisdom and with patience, lead to an end of North Korea's nuclear threat. But I also want to make it clear that, as President Bush said to Prime Minister Koizumi, "The United States will stand squarely with Japan until all Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea are fully accounted for."

In the region and beyond, a proactive approach can also mean more than moving decisively to meet threats and to meet challenges. Japan has a key role to play in seizing the tremendous opportunities of the time for expanding trade and investment; for sharing in the benefits of intellectual property, agricultural productivity, and information technology; for turning back the march of infectious disease, including HIV/AIDS, the effects of which can be as devastating as any war; and for countering the global reach of pollution, of poverty, and of hunger. We both have a range of tested and new tools to support such efforts, including my country's Millennium Challenge Account and Japan's Consolidation of Peace Initiative and Human Security Concept. Moreover, I believe the optimism and the energy of the American spirit, combined with the far-reaching generosity for which Japan is so well known, can be an indispensable combination for a better future.

Now I think I've probably this afternoon mapped out a rather ambitious agenda, but I believe the key to our success lies in the longstanding strength of our bilateral alliance. Japan can count on America, and increasingly, America can count on Japan. Certainly a more self-confident Japan, with its own unique style of global leadership, can only add to that equation, both in the economic opportunity for our peoples and in advancing our shared global interests. Indeed, Japan already has been instrumental in keeping the six-party talks on track and in helping to smooth the way for a new United Nations role in Iraq. For that matter, the United States can afford to have full confidence in a Japan that has confidence in itself, not just in what we can accomplish together, but also in what we, as true allies, can accomplish apart.

Today in Baghdad, there are children who are going to school for the first time in many years. Children like 14 year-old Mohammed Sabah, who never learned to read and write because his family could not afford the routine bribes of school officials. There are Kurds around Halabja who are receiving medical care for the first time since Saddam Hussein poisoned the air with nerve gas. Kurds like Hawjen Latif, who as a child watched her mother and brother die an agonizing death. There are villagers around al-Hillah who for the first time have a road that connects them to the rest of the country, thanks to the efforts of Mahmoud Janabi, who helped build the seven-mile stretch of tarmac. This is what reconstruction means to the people of Iraq – a recovery of hope, and the discovery of possibility. That is precisely what the Self-Defense Forces have come to mean for people all over the world – to children playing in the streets of East Timor – to farmers in the fields of Cambodia – to refugees who fled Rwanda - and soon, to the people of Samawah, Iraq. To them, the flag of Japan means not only that the people of Japan are with them, but that the world is with them. That is the spirit of the Self Defense Forces, and that is something in which the Japanese people can take great pride. It is also that spirit that is animating a new Japanese leadership for a new era. And I firmly believe that not only will our 150-year friendship be the stronger for it, so will the prospects of peace across the Asia-Pacific region, as well as around the world.

So I thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.

QUESTION: Kageyama of NHK. I have a question regarding the dispatch of Self Defense Forces to Iraq. As you said, this is an historic decision for the administration in Japan. There is no doubt about that. But still the public opinion is split. Those agreeing and those against say that the task of the SDF is very dangerous, and there is a danger that the SDF may be engulfed in a very dangerous conflict situation. So regarding the degree of the danger of the task of the SDF, what do you think about that? And what is the task of the SDF – how long will it remain, how long is the task to continue for Self Defense Force in Iraq?


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: As I've said, Iraq is not a safe place. There are some parts of Iraq that are safer than others. There are some parts that are not safe. Our job, those in the coalition, is to make the entire nation of Iraq safe. Second, as to how long the Self Defense Forces will be employed, this is a decision for the government of Japan. For the United States, we're staying until the job is done. Our President has made it very clear. And finally, on the question of divided public opinion, as a foreigner it's not for me to dictate what your public opinion should be or can be or even how to change it. But I do note that, at least as far as I'm concerned, leadership doesn't necessarily mean following public opinion. Leadership, it seems to me, means shaping public opinion, and explaining the equities and the interests involved.

QUESTION: Nakai from Yomiuri newspaper. I have a question about Iraq, particularly the process involved in the transferring of sovereignty. There is a governing council and there is a discussion going on as to how the election should be held, and Shiites are demanding direct election. But just the other day, just yesterday, the Kurds' office was attacked. As shown by those events, difficulties still continue in Iraq. So are there any new steps that are being thought of by the administration? An agreement has been made to send a fact-finding team about the election, together with the U.N. and so forth. Are there any new steps that are being contemplated by the U.S. administration?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Sir, you refer to the 15 November agreement that Ambassador Bremer reached with the interim governing council of Iraq, and this agreement requires that we along with the Iraqis develop a basic law by the end of February, and that we will turn over sovereignty to a transitional Iraqi government by the 30th of June. This does not mean, by the way, that our troops, the U.S. troops, will leave 30 June. This will be a subject of discussions between the transitional government and the United States to see if their troops are still needed. And I suspect they will be, clearly. We are awaiting the results of the political team which Secretary General Kofi Annan sent to Baghdad and sent out to Iraq. They will come back and brief their masters at the UN Security Council as well as ourselves on what they think might be appropriate next steps to have a more transparent and a more open system of choosing the transitional government. So there's no new step other than we're waiting for the report. Finally, you correctly point out that there is always the specter of some communal violence. I have a perspective on that I'll share with you. Our military commanders, the U.S. military commanders, tell us that the violence they are seeing has changed in character. Previously the majority of the violence was conducted by former regime elements. Right now it appears as if the majority of the violence is being effected by outsiders, foreigners. This indicates two things. First, it indicates that Iraqis themselves are more and more deciding to bet on their own future and a more positive and hopeful future in a free Iraq, and being less inclined to attack the coalition. And it means foreigners, foreign elements, terrorists, are desperate that this not happen, that an Iraq that is free and stable does not exist, because then they'll not have a safe haven. I think that's what you're seeing going on. There's a change in character to the violence.

QUESTION: Yoshida from Mainichi newspaper. I have a question regarding the situation in North Korea. Since last year, six-party talks have been going on, and China is taking control in preparing that. There are some people saying that mid-February will be the time of the six-party talks. Do you have any prospect or outlook on the holding of the talks, if there are any obstacles? What will be the main obstacles preventing the six-party talks from happening?

Another point, in your opening remarks you talked about the abduction issue and how until the situation is clarified the U.S. administration will support the position of Japan. What kind of measures can the United States take, and is it possible that the abduction issue can be taken up at the six-party talks?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  We're quite hopeful. I've just come from Beijing and I think it's fair to say to both the Chinese and the U.S. sides are quite hopeful that talks will take place soon. I would note that mid-February, the 16th of February, is the birthday of Kim Jong Il, and I don't think it's very likely that we'll be celebrating his birthday by having six-party talks. But I think we will have them soon, and it'll become clear in the not too distant future. On the question of abductees, I'm going to have the honor for the second time to meet with the families of the abductees this afternoon. It's important that the United States make sure that in the six-party talks all issues, all issues, are available to be discussed. When you talk about an obstacle, I don't think that there is a specific obstacle. I think generally, on the face it, diplomacy is relatively slow. It sometimes appears to move glacially. Hopefully, however, like a glacier it moves all the obstacles in its path away. Speaking just for the United States, the main obstacle has been hostility and suspicion for almost 60 years. Certainly for 55 years. And that doesn't go away overnight. It doesn't go away in the minds of our North Korean interlocutors, and it certainly doesn't go away in the minds of Americans. So it's not a specific obstacle. It's more a general atmospheric obstacle. We're working on it, and I think the North Koreans are working on it.

QUESTION: Suzuki from TV Asahi. Welcome to Japan again, and good to see you again, sir. My question is again about Iraq and the Self Defense Forces to be dispatched there. A great majority of the Japanese did not support the war in Iraq, mainly because they did not believe the war was justified in the absence of any discovery of weapons of mass destruction. Yet, our Prime Minister has told us repeatedly that the government has decided to dispatch the Self Defense Forces to Iraq in order to show its strong determination to the U.S./Japan alliance, as well as to international cooperation. Mr. Secretary, in your view, how far will we go in strengthening the strategic alliance between our two countries when we have two thousand Japanese boots on the ground and run the risk of losing some of our men and women in uniform? Do you believe that with the latest action Japan has taken a step forward in introducing the notion of collective self-defense as suggested in your report?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Thank you. Japan made this decision to participate in Iraq because of Japan's national interest. A sovereign nation, Japan made a decision that they didn't want Iraq to be a haven for terrorists. A sovereign Japan made a decision that they wanted to be part of a solution to an Iraq which would not be a threat to its neighbors and destabilize a very important area for Japan. A sovereign Japan made a decision to try to affect for the better the future of Iraq and have to some extent a positive influence on the process and the search for peace in the Middle East. And finally, I think Japan made this decision because of your own energy dependence, and your need to assure continued flows from the Middle East. These are all reasons that Japan made the decision. Now you've asked will it strengthen alliance cooperation? Of course it will. We'll become more interactive. We've had Self Defense Force personnel and our military personnel interact in a new way. I can speak for the diplomatic community, though I'm rarely accused of being a diplomat, that it's had a remarkable effect in terms of our interactions, whether we've talking about the Embassy in Washington or here in the strategic dialogue that I'm going to take part in tonight and tomorrow. So it can't help but strengthen the alliance. But the reason Japan did this was because it was in Japan's national interest. I frankly don't like . . . I get the question a lot. It's usually put a little bit different – "Isn't Japan just responding to the United States and just following the United States?" Well that's not the Japan I have to sit across the table with and negotiate with. That's not the Japan that I know. If you took that point of view, you'd say the United States is following Japan around. We're the ones who are supporting the international thermal nuclear experimental reactor – this was something Japan wanted – standing up to many of our European friends and allies to that. So look, there isn't leader/follower in this relationship. I used in my remarks, very deliberately, talking about a more equal and mature partnership, and I think that's where we've come.

QUESTION: Le Jean from RTL France.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  I saw you smiling when I said the ITER.

QUESTION: My question is related to the issue of intelligence gathering. What are the improvements that your administration will request or require in the future? Does it lead to a new philosophy or new generation? I mean, does it lead to more secure international cooperation to address, for instance, the issue of terrorism?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Your opening sentence I missed, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: My question is related to the issue of intelligence gathering.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  You're referring, of course, to David Kay's recent comments about President Bush? I think that, first of all, intelligence, as a general matter, is not an exact science. It's not quite an art, it's not quite a science – it falls in between. The question of Iraq, we knew and I think the world knows of Saddam Hussein's intentions, and he had capabilities – he'd demonstrated them against his own forces. You're quite correct, we have not yet found stockpiles of weapons, and whether we do or not we'll see as we move forward. The intelligence was correct in many estimates or many parts of the equation of Iraq, for instance in the development of missiles that far exceeded those allowed by the United Nations Security Council resolution and in the development of remotely piloted and pilotless vehicles, air-borne vehicles, for which there was a program in Iraq. So the intelligence turns out to be a mixed picture. I think in the future that clearly we'll be more alert to it, and it can't help but make us improve our intelligence gathering and our analysis of it. But I point out that every major intelligence organization in the world, including the French, had come to the exact same conclusion. The exact same conclusion. So we may all have a lot of work to do.

QUESTION: I am Tamura, freelance member of the club. The SDF is being dispatched to Iraq, which means Japan has cleared one big barrier. Japan would have become an ordinary country in the world, and we also like to see the good functioning of the alliance between Japan and the United States. We need to clear the problems of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution and the collective defense and so forth. Any observation on any of them as to the agenda faced by Japan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  My first observation is that this is a debate which the Japanese must have among themselves. Second, the decision on what you do, if anything, with the constitution is going to be one that only the Japanese decide, and that's completely understandable. Having said that, in the report which Dr. Nye and I authored three years ago, we had some rather strong comments about the constitutional prohibition, and we noted that it was an impediment, to some extent, to alliance cooperation. Having said that, the United States has made an agreement with Japan. We have a treaty. That treaty would require any attack on Japan, or the administrative territories under Japanese control, to be seen as an attack on the United States. Whether or not Japan changes its constitution or changes the interpretation of Article 9, that still stands. Nothing's going to get in the way of that.

Having said all that, I personally, as an observer for 25 years now of the Japanese political system and I think at least for my part tried to work hard to better Japan-U.S. relations, I think this is a very healthy debate for Japan to have. It's a very cleansing debate, and we ought to let politicians talk about it. This is a political question. They ought to talk about it, study it and seek opinions from other Japanese think tanks, (inaudible) etc. I think it's a very healthy proposition, because at the end of the day I believe we're going to have a Japan that's more involved in the world, a more active participant in the world in all the aspects of global living, and this cannot help but be a positive thing.

QUESTION: I am Ichinose of NHK. I have a question about weapons of mass destruction. About a year ago, Secretary Powell made a powerful presentation that Saddam Hussein had WMD. Now we are hearing from your own man that still we don't find any stockpiles of WMD. So how can you convince us that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD, and specifically I would like to ask your opinion about whether the U.S. government should have some kind of independent committee set up to investigate whether they had WMD. Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: First of all, the facts on the ground are going to convince us one way or the other whether there were simply programs, which we certainly believe there were, or whether there were stockpiles. I was putting out the facts. The facts will be known publicly at the end of the Iraqi survey group's efforts who's looking for these things. We can all make judgments in hindsight as to whether our intelligence should have been better, where it didn't do as well as it should, and where we need to concentrate our efforts in the future. As I said, intelligence is inexact, it's not hundred percent clear, it's not black and it's not white. We just have to, along with every other country who came to the exact same conclusion the United States came to, determine why we went wrong. I think if I were to concentrate simply on the Iraq situation we could have a very robust debate. There are other aspects of our intelligence that proved to be absolutely correct. For instance Libya, which had a very good program, and we, along with the British, have worked for the past nine months to try to get the Libyan government to come to the conclusion that they finally came to, that they can give these up safely. So intelligence is a mixed picture.

As to trying to convince you in the future, I think each situation which we encounter will be suigenerous, and it will not look like any other. You and your other colleagues will have to make your own opinions up whether you believe it or not, whether you find it credible or not. From our point of view, regarding Iraq, our President said that his view was that there was a clear and gathering threat. He was not going to sit back and let this nation be attacked one more time while we just sat there. That was a decision he made. He is not sorry that he made it, and I would say that probably 23 million and 800 thousand Iraqis are not sorry he made it, because they can go to bed at night free from the fear of the midnight knock of the Mukhabarat and the disappearance of family members etc.

QUESTION: My name is Nirasawa, former editorial member of Nikkei and now a critic on international matters. Talking about the U.S. Department of State, it seems that the neoconservatives are now gaining power within the department and Secretary Powell is loosing ground. That is what we hear. What is the truth?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  The opposite. Secretary Powell hasn't lost any ground. Whenever you turn around, I think on the international scene, to whom do people turn? They turn to the Secretary of State, to the United States. Regarding the so-called neoconservatives, and the liberals or whatever you want to call those of us who are in the Department of State, I think on all the great issues that affect our country, our President wants to have a spirited debate. He doesn't want everyone to come to the table with the same view. He'd make a terrible mistake if that were the case. So he encourages us to have different views, and I think for us as a nation, and I think for the world, that's a very healthy phenomena. This is not a tennis game. We are not looking to see who's up forty-thirty or thirty-love. We just come to work every single day and try to do our very best for our President and for our country. And every night we go home, secure in the knowledge that we've tried our very best. We'll continue like that, and let others decide what the score of the tennis match is.

QUESTION: Nishimura from Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper. May I ask a question in English? The Ground Self Defense Force, which is going to be dispatched to Iraq, is resident in the Hokkaido area, and there are many concerns about the security in Iraq in the Hokkaido area. There are many yellow flags in houses and buildings, which is the symbol of hoping for their safety. So I'd like to ask you who has the responsibility for their security, the Self Defense Forces, or America? Which do you think? How do you explain it to the families of the Self Defense Forces, who are very anxious about their security? In terms of Iraqi's security, how do you improve it?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Regarding yellow ribbons, as a sign of hoping that the loved ones will be safe, I could wear a yellow ribbon. I have the exact same hope for members of the Self Defense Forces, as well as for members of my own military. As I have said, there is no completely safe place in Iraq. Some places are safer than others. I think the area in Samawah is OK, but the reason the Jietai carries weapons while they are reconstructing, while they are helping the people of Iraq to rebuild, is so they can provide security for themselves. Having said that, the United States will do whatever it can to assist, to help, to aid in anyway the Ground Self Defense Forces on their mission, or, God forbid, that they get into trouble.

In explaining to the people of Hokkaido why their loved ones are sent away to a foreign land, I think the best I can do is to reiterate what the national interest of Japan is, as I tried to a few moments ago in answer to a previous question. I hope no harm comes to them. I know that as human beings they're acting in the highest sort of generosity of spirit, as they are risking their lives to help other people repair and rebuild their lives. God forbid that something happens to a single one of them. But I know, just as I know in the case of Mr. Oku and Mr. Inoue, their sacrifice was the most noble generosity of spirit that I could imagine – trying to help their fellow man. It doesn't matter, it seems to me, whether we help an American, or a Japanese or an Iraqi, because we are all part of the human family. Any suffering in that human family causes harm and hurt to us all.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you very much. Up until now, no words have been heard from Ambassador Baker, but as you have heard the discussion so far, can we receive a comment from Ambassador Baker, if it is all right? (The moderator is referring to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard H. Baker, Jr.)

AMBASSADOR BAKER: A pleasure to be back here, and especially a pleasure to be here with Secretary Armitage, who's a distinguished public servant and a distinguished leader in our country. I admire what you do here in offering opportunities for prominent figures to state their views, and then an opportunity to try to answer your questions. I commend the Secretary for his forthright and straightforward replies. I think that the answers and the questions have been a major contribution to a better understanding of the situation as it faces both Japan and the United States. Thank you very much for letting me be here.

(applause)

QUESTION: Mr. Armitage, can you accept one more question, one last question?

MODERATOR: All right, this will be the last question.

QUESTION: Julianna Gittler of Stars and Stripes. I am curious if, as part of your talks here in Japan, will you be discussing anything about base realignment, reduction of forces in Okinawa or the Status of Forces Agreement with the United States military?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  I will not be talking about the Status of Forces. I will be talking certainly about the regional security issues, and more broadly the Middle East and places like that. But since I'm no longer a member of the Department of Defense, I try to very carefully stay on my patch, although occasionally I am accused on straying into the defense field. But they stray into my field occasionally too. (laughter).

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. It is exactly three o'clock. Could we have one more question? This is going to be the last one.

QUESTION: Jiji Press news agency. What role, what specific role do you envision for Japan that can engage in collective self-defense, like specific regions you want Japan to cover or the kind of operations you want Japanese SDF to undertake? Thanks.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Well, I think that there's a misperception that we want Japan to go out and do things in far flung locations from Japan as part of a . . . if there were a prohibition on collective self-defense. It's actually much easier than that. Under the present situation, if an American ship was out in the Sea of Japan, outside the territorial waters of Japan, and was attacked, you are technically not allowed to help us. You are technically not allowed to help us. So if some country attacked us, you would not be able to come to your ally's assistance. That doesn't seem to be entirely reasonable. By the same token, if anyone attacks Japan or any of the territories under your administration, we absolutely will come to your assistance, even though we don't get the same exact thing in response. We're just looking for a little more flexibility so that U.S. and Japanese colleagues in the Self Defense Forces would be able to come to each other's assistance should it be necessary in places that are not actually with "boots on the ground" here in Japan. We're looking for a little more equity in the situation.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Armitage.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Pardon me, let me make one thing clear though. As I said before, if there's a change in your view toward collective self-defense or not, there will not be a change in our view of our responsibilities toward Japan. They stay the same. We will be faithful to our responsibilities, and you can take that to the bank.


Released on February 2, 2004

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