JAPAN (March 16, 2021)—
FOREIGN MINISTER MOTEGI: Tony, welcome back to Tokyo. We have (inaudible) and I’m so happy that finally we are seeing each other face-to-face. I look forward to our close cooperation.
(Via interpreter) The Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. I highly appreciate the unwavering commitment of the Biden administration to the alliance and to the Indo-Pacific region. And as you rightly described, the Japan-U.S. alliance is indeed unbreakable. And through your visit, Tony, I want to forge an even stronger bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Also, March 11th of last week marked 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. And Tony, you kindly sent out a message in this regard. And I would like to reiterate our deepest gratitude to the assistance rendered by the United States, including Operation Tomodachi.
It is gratifying that Prime Minister Suga will travel to the United States in the first half of April as the first foreign leader to do so under the new administration, and hold a bilateral summit meeting. And I am confident that it will be a great opportunity to reaffirm and clearly send out a message on the robust Japan-U.S. alliance and broadly align our views so that Japan and the U.S. will cooperate and take the lead on regional situations, as well as issues common to the international community, such as COVID-19 or climate change. I have very much looked forward to working with you, Tony, for the success of this and of the summit meeting.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, thank you so much, and good afternoon, everyone. It is wonderful to be back in Tokyo, wonderful to be back in this room, and especially wonderful to be with you. I feel like we’re friends already from the phone conversations that we’ve had. It’s so gratifying finally to see each other face-to-face, and also mask-to-mask. (Laughter.) We’re working on that, all of us together. So thank you.
This is, as you know, my first in-person trip as U.S. Secretary of State. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, of course, is coming as well. We look forward to joining you and Defense Minister Kishi later this afternoon for our 2+2 ministerial meeting.
It is no accident that we chose Japan for the first cabinet-level overseas travel of the Biden-Harris administration. For more than 50 years, as you noted, our alliance has been a cornerstone for our peace, security, and prosperity – not only for our two countries, but for the region, and indeed for the world.
Secretary Austin and I are here for one central but important purpose: to reaffirm our commitment to the alliance, and also to build up Japan and the United States, our deepening cooperation, on the key issues of our time, the issues that actually affect the lives of our citizens – whether it is combatting climate change, dealing with cybersecurity, or dealing with global health security.
We’re working together to stop COVID-19, but also to prevent future pandemics, to help partners in the Indo-Pacific region as they work towards sustainable and resilient economic recovery, and to do more on decarbonization and other efforts ahead of the Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22nd.
We’re also standing together in support of our shared values. We believe in democracy, human rights, and rule of law. Because we’ve seen in our countries that those values actually make us stronger, and because they’re under threat in many places, including in the region – whether it’s in Burma or whether in different ways in China. But what brings us together, I think, is a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and we will work together as allies and friends to help achieve it.
One key element of this is the denuclearization of North Korea. We will continue to work on that as friends and partners. Toshi, we stand with you and all the Japanese people on the efforts to resolve the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea – an issue which is critical to the sovereignty of Japan, and the lives and safety of the Japanese people.
Finally, let me say that one feature of our own alliance is it provides a foundation for even broader cooperation. My next stop with Secretary Austin is in Seoul, and I hope we can find ways to strengthen our trilateral cooperation – something I worked on when I was last in government.
And of course, earlier this week, President Biden was honored to host the first ever leaders-level Quad summit with Prime Minister Suga, Prime Minister Morrison, and Prime Minister Modi. This was historic, and I think not just historic but also optimistic about what we’re able to do when we work together to meet the challenges before our people.
And finally, as you noted, on the 10th anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, we join the Japanese people in honoring those who were lost on that day. And we remember as well, as you said, how we came together in Operation Tomodachi to bring relief to those affected by the devastation. We have been there for each other – Japan for the United States, the United States for Japan – when it matters most. And in that spirit, I look forward to the work that we’re doing together. Thank you.
Source: Reuters and US Department of State