Ambassador Baker Addresses Foreign Correspondents' Club
December 4, 2003
MODERATOR: It is my great privilege to formally thank the Ambassador for coming. I yield the floor to you, Ambassador Baker.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Myron, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to appear before your club for the fourth, ah, third time, and ...
AMBASSADOR BAKER: The fourth is still coming. (laughter) But I always do whatever Myron says, so I'll let it go at that. I should tell you, first of all, that I want to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the two Japanese diplomats who lost their lives on November 29 in Iraq. I join President Bush, who talked to the Prime Minister and expressed the condolences of our nation. I had the privilege of talking to Foreign Minister Kawaguchi, who also said that she had just talked to Secretary Powell, who also expressed our deep regret at this loss of life. We share in the grief of the families and all of the Japanese people in this loss of two brave public servants. It seems that I am destined, my friends, to express condolences. I recall that when I returned from the United States in the wake of 9/11, that when I arrived at the American Embassy, I saw a long line of Japanese citizens at the gate and extending down the street and around the block to express their condolences for the loss of, not only Japanese lives, but American lives in that tragic and terrible event. I knew at the time, as I know now, that the world had changed, because that was the emergence of this new era of terrorism, which we continue to struggle with today. The loss of these two Japanese diplomats is a further illustration of the terrible nature of terrorism, not only in Iraq, but around the world.
My friends, I could relate the story about my arrival, as Myron pointed out, in July almost three years ago, when my friend and DCM Dick Christenson met me at the airport in Narita. I barely knew Dick at the time, but he said, "Now we must go down on the tarmac and talk to the press about Okinawa." And I said, "Dick, I don't k now anything about Okinawa." (laughter) He did not say, but I knew he thought, it's not necessary for you to know anything about Okinawa. (laughter) He gave me a piece of paper, and I went down the steps onto the tarmac - there was an absolute sea of reporters there - and he said, "Just read the paper." And I just read the paper. Then he said, "You don't need to answer questions," and I left. And I thought, I would never get by with this in America. (laughter) You would not let me leave. But that was first experience with Japan, my first experience with the Japanese press corps, and I came away silently expressing my gratitude that you treated gently with a brand new American Ambassador to Japan.
That was my introduction to Japan. It was a difficult one. But I must also tell you that in my experience in America, in public life and in private life, I've always found many friends in the corps of journalists. In a way, I guess, politicians and journalists sort of share the same outlook. We sort of understand each other. We don't always like each other (laughter) but we understand each other. So it was a pleasant experience to have the opportunity, early on, to get acquainted with the Japanese press corps. I continue to do that, and to admire what you do, and to express my appreciation for your friendship and cooperation.
In that regard, I want to thank the membership of the Foreign Correspondents Club for this opportunity to speak today. I have prepared remarks, and if you're lucky, or not as the case may be, I may read them. (laughter) In my public experience, I have been known to deviate from the script from time to time, and to . . . I see my staff is sitting here in great concern about what I'm going to say. (laughter) You should also know that when I was in the Senate, a young man named Lamar Alexander was on my staff. He'd just graduated from law school. He later became governor of Tennessee, he later became president of the University of Tennessee, and is now United States senator from Tennessee. But Lamar was then a very junior member of my staff. He came in after a few weeks, and said, "Senator, we have a problem." I said, "I don't think so. What is our problem?" He said, "Our problem is, I keep researching and writing these speeches, and you keep not giving them." (laughter) And I said, "Lamar, we don't have a problem. You see, you write what you want, and I say what I want." (laughter) That has, I'm afraid, become an established tradition. My staff never fully appreciates that, but they've learned to adapt to it, and to understand it, I think.
But I do express my appreciation for the chance to be here, and acknowledge that I've always had a pleasant relationship with the press. I'll tell you one more story. You mentioned, Myron, the line that I used in the Senate Watergate hearings. Let me tell you how that happened. This is a true story. A fellow named Ron McMahan was my press secretary, and he's a very good press secretary. We were having lunch one day during the hearings, and I said "Ron, this hearing is going nowhere, it has no theme. I'm going to ask this question to try to focus the hearing. I'm going to ask the next witness 'What did the President know, and when did he know it?' And Ron said, 'Nahhh, that's got no zing to it.'" (laughter) "'Don't use that.'" But now it will probably be engraved on my tombstone. (laughter) Ron doesn't like me to tell that story (laughter) but it's a true story. It does not detract from his vigor and integrity as a great press secretary.
This is a good time to be with you today, as we approach the end of 2003. It's been an eventful year for the United States, for Japan, and for our bilateral relationship. The engagement of North Korea has resulted in the establishment of a multilateral forum that shows promise. The economy, in both Japan and the United States, is showing distinct signs of recovery, and business confidence seems to be improving. President Bush, in the State of the Union address, announced a new initiative to attack the global scourge of AIDS. A successful donors conference for Iraq took place in Madrid. And Japan hosted a meeting on Africa with new initiatives to address many of the priority issues of that continent. Throughout the year, Japanese and American officials met to discuss the numerous issues on our bilateral agenda. My friends, I think our relationship, that is the bilateral relationship between Japan and the United States, is the best it has ever been. I told President Bush that when I briefed him in preparation for his meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi in Crawford, Texas. I said, "Mr. President, the Japan-U.S. relationship is the best it has ever been in history. But you should know it's still a high maintenance operation." And indeed it requires careful attention, diligent tending. And that's what we do at the U.S. Embassy. We try to take account of the requirements that Japan has and America has, and to translate that into useful policy that will be beneficial to both countries.
Last year when I spoke before the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan on September 10, because my appearance came one day before the first anniversary of the horrific terrorist acts that I previously described, I noted the tragedies that had occurred in New York, in Washington and in Pennsylvania, all on 9/11. I expressed appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy from the Japanese people, and I argued that they were not merely trying to console friends in their moment of grief, but also they were a manifestation of the close friendship and understanding between Americans and Japanese. The Japanese people are aware that in addition to the thousands of Americans who lost their lives, their countrymen were among the dozens of other nationalities who were victims that day. It is that way today as we share in the grief of the Japanese people for the loss of two distinguished Japanese diplomats. 9/11 changed all of our lives, and subsequent events in Istanbul, Bali, Casablanca and Iraq have brought home to us more than ever that no one is safe against a fanatical minority that would give their lives to disrupt the lives of those who oppose them. Terrorism is the scourge of our times, and uncertainty the reality that we must all deal with. We've learned these lessons painfully. Each tragic episode in which the innocent are killed inspires debate as to whether it is better to confront the terrorists or to rationalize and retreat. And I understand that. It is easier to argue that events far away, however awful, are not our concern, than to contemplate the possibility of exposing ourselves to the same danger. The world is a dangerous place. Terrorism knows no boundaries. Terrorism respects no people, an underlying truth that justifies and embellishes the importance of the relationship between conscientious men and women and great nations around the world as we join to fight the scourge of terrorism.
Americans continue to debate their role in the world, as many of our countrymen accept our responsibility as the sole superpower, but with little relish. But we do accept that responsibility. We do understand the need and the importance of working together so that the challenge, the threat of terrorism will not go unanswered. Terrorism has no boundaries. The world is not a safe place. The Bush administration has been steadfast in its conviction that the only way to deal with terrorists is to stand together and push back against those who would destroy all that we hold dear. We've been heartened by Prime Minister's equally steadfast support of coalition action in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the war on terror. His response this week to the deaths of the Japanese diplomats was consistent, firm and clear - Japan would not surrender to terrorism. His constancy and resolve is not only welcomed but admired throughout the world. His political courage is often remarked on around the world. Like any democratic state, the Prime Minister has been questioned about the need for a direct Japanese role in Iraq, and he has heard arguments that Japan should be more cautious in supporting the war against terror and the effort to help Iraq reconstruct their country. In each instance, the Prime Minister has shown leadership by explaining the national interests involved and the role Japan can play to make a contribution to the peace and stability of the region.
This was most evident in March this year when the Prime Minister eloquently explained to the Japanese people on national television why his government has supported the coalition's initiative of military action against Saddam Hussein and his brutal dictatorship. Subsequently, the Koizumi government passed enabling legislation that extended Japan's support for the fight against terrorism, and more recently offered $1.5 billion in grants, this year, for the reconstruction of Iraq, and 3.5 billion more over five years. Japan also expressed its intention to send Self Defense personnel to assist in the building of crucial infrastructure, such as the provisions for clean water, the construction of hospitals and other tasks. Totaled together, Japan's contribution in monies alone place it in the top five countries in the world who are assisting in Iraq.
While the headlines of the day are understandably focused on the most dramatic events, that too often involve terrorist attacks that result in casualties, there is also more mundane news from Iraq that is positive. I think it's important to note these accomplishments and these positive aspects of our combined, coalition efforts. To point out that schools are open in Iraq, including 22 universities. That all 240 hospitals are operating in Iraq, 60 primary health clinics have been renovated, and more than 600 clinics have been re-equipped to provide lifesaving health services. Phone service is being restored. Nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are functioning, and for the first time in more than a generation, the judiciary is fully independent. Dozens of NGOs are being funded to deliver local services, and to build a civil society. Today there is religious freedom in Iraq, for Shiites as well as Sunnis. Japan's contribution, as well as that of more than 70 other countries and 20 international organizations, have pledged $33 billion toward Iraq at the October donors conference in Madrid. The Prime Minister's vision of a confident and outward looking Japan, standing side by side with the United States to deal with the challenges in Iraq and elsewhere, is one we support, and symbolizes the quality of our relationship between the United States and Japan.
In May I had the opportunity, at President Bush's invitation, to join him at his ranch in Texas for a summit meeting between the President and Prime Minister Koizumi. As I've already said, I told the President that the U.S.-Japan relationship has never been better. When the President visited Tokyo in October, I told him the same thing. I told him that when I uttered those words in Crawford, Texas that I believed them to be true, and when I repeated them in October I am certain they were true. In a brief period of time, through several meetings, a true friendship has developed between President Bush and the Prime Minister, and that friendship has contributed to facilitating the dialogue between our two countries. Some remark from time to time that personal relationships are no longer important. But they are. Personal friendships are vital as our two countries attempt to address the issues of the day. The relationship between George Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi is a great facilitator of our common interests and our common defense. Among the highest perks that an American president can confer on a visiting countryman, perhaps, is an invitation to his home, which he does not do often. President Bush not only invited the Prime Minister to his ranch, he also invited Prime Minister Koizumi to sit in on his daily intelligence briefing, which certainly is a reflection of his personal friendship, of his personal confidence in the Prime Minister, and of the state of the bilateral partnership between America and Japan. I've had the opportunity to serve here, but previously I've also had the opportunity to serve President Reagan as his chief of staff, and before that to serve in the Senate of the United States. And I can tell you that I never before saw a president invite a foreign dignitary to sit in on the most delicate, sensitive part of the President's day, that is, the daily intelligence brief. It was a tribute, not just to the friendship between Koizumi and Bush, but also to the relationship between Japan and the United States.
Parallel to the rapport between our two leader, I've been surprised by the depth of the friendship between our two peoples that buttresses our political alliance. I belong to a generation of Americans who came of age with a different point of view. I was a young ensign in World War II, at the very ending part of that terrible conflict. And I may tell you that it came as a surprise to me to see, especially when I came here, that not only has the hostility between our two nations subsided, but that a friendship has taken its place. Not only do we have an alliance between our two countries for our mutual self defense, but we also have an understanding of our common adjectives. Not only are both nations now prosperous, but we share a talent for self government. It is from that energy of self government, and the talent of the Japanese people, and the American people, to make it succeed, that the energy and dynamism of our relationship will flow, and guarantee our futures. The fact that we are friends, let alone allies, in such a brief time since the end of that great Pacific conflict, is in my view little short of a miracle. But it is also a tribute to the American personality, and to the Japanese personality as well. We are not only allies, but we are friends. We are not only the world's two strongest economies, we also have an instinctive sense of responsibility to lead and provide for the security of the free world.
Having achieved our economic goals, both in America and in Japan, since the end of that conflict, it's important that we continue to address the political issues, and to consider in detail our relationship, not only to each other, but our place in the world. This great sovereign nation of Japan, that has accomplished so much, to bring wealth and prosperity to its own people, has initiated a dialogue about its responsibilities and how it can contribute to peace and stability in other regions of the world. Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush give voice to these native aspirations and these visions in both countries.
Basically, I think there's something very important going on in Japan. There are many things going on, in the further evolution and development of your economy, in your place in the world. But I believe the most important thing that's going on in Japan right now is its effort to redefine itself. Japan's future is bright. Japan's opportunities are almost endless. But Japan's responsibilities are great as well, because along with opportunity goes the challenge of responsibility. I believe that the Japanese people want to assume their rightful place on the world stage. Having developed a vibrant economy, having created so much wealth, having evolved and developed their governing system, Japan is prepared now to take its place as a great nation state, to sit on the world stage and to participate in the great decisions that confront mankind. In furtherance of that, Japan seeks, and the United States supports, membership of Japan as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We have long advocated that. Some say it's impossible, given today's United Nations. But nothing is impossible. I think Japan should continue to strive for that, and America should continue to support that, because you are a great super power, and your responsibilities and challenges are great as well. To channel them into world institutions, including the Security Council of the United Nations, is not only appropriate, but I believe it is vital.
In the meantime, we look forward to working with the Koizumi administration, and we applaud the new mandate the Prime Minister has gained as both the leader of his party and as head of his government. We expect he will continue on with his policies of reform and change, while maintaining Japan's close association with the United States on so many fronts, including foreign and defense policy. We applaud his methods and share his goals. I believe the Prime Minister is truly a change agent, and he's fully up to the challenge of defining Japan's role as a great nation. His popularity, I think, reflects the yearning of the Japanese people that he succeed in this effort to transform this country and raise its profile in the global community. I have no illusions about the difficulty of the task the Prime Minister faces, nor about the challenges we hold in common. The terrorists' objective is to create chaos and spread fear. Ours is to build a structure that will improve the lives of our people and bring hope to others.
My friends, I am by nature an optimist, and I believe that the American and Japanese people, at heart, are generous. We have been blessed with the fruits of the hard work of both countries, and with the inspired vision of our leaders. But the greatest challenge is still ahead, because the world has changed. No longer does the threat come just from nation states, as on the Korean peninsula, but more often than not from non-national threats, such as international terrorism. But even so I am optimistic. After all, in a relatively brief period of time our two countries have managed to overcome differences of culture, history, a turbulent past, and come together to forge a relationship that is a model of cooperation for mutual benefit to all free people everywhere. Having accomplished what few thought possible just decades ago, why shouldn't we have large dreams about what we can do in the era ahead? In eradicating poverty, in addressing the great medical issues of our time, to raise the standard of living, not only in America and in Japan but in the world, to substitute hope for despair. Working together with other like-minded people, I'm also confident that the coming year will bring progress in Iraq and the war on terror, which today, in our moment of sorrow, we might find difficult to imagine.
These are dangerous predictions, my friends. They are optimistic, because I am optimistic, but these results are not assured. An improvement in the human condition, a contribution to our mutual security and defense, will occur only if we face the challenges of our time. It will occur only if we adopt the policies that will guarantee that we stand as a bastion for freedom and opportunity. This bright vision of the future will occur only if we know who we are. We are free men and women, and we have the obligation not only to our own people, but the entire world, to see that when we leave this planet it is a better place than that which we inherited.
Thank you very much.
Question and Answer period
MODERATOR: Mr. Ambassador, just as you packed eleven words into one poignant question, I commend you objectively for packing into a thirty minute speech a substantive review of the past, and what we normally do not get, a realistic projection into the future during, as you say, very difficult times. I would now like to open the floor to our members and to guests, but first, as is tradition, we'll have questions from what we call the working press. I'll start with Rebecca MacKinnon of CNN, and I will work my way around. And one thing, I know Rebecca will follow the advice as always, but please identify yourself and your organization. I don't expect people to keep questions to eleven words, but please keep them to the point, and no speeches. We had one speech today, and that was from our guest of honor. Rebecca?
QUESTION: To follow the instructions, Rebecca MacKinnon of CNN. Mr. Ambassador, the Japanese press today is reporting, quoting from Japanese government sources, that the Prime Minister had decided to convene a Cabinet meeting, most likely early next week, and will approve the basic plan to dispatch Self Defense Force troops to Iraq. According to some of the reports, this dispatch could happen, say, January, February framework. I'm wondering if you are aware of such a plan, if Japan and the U.S. have been consulting on this plan, and about the fact that it's going to be approved very soon, and if you have any further comments on the nature of the plan and whether you think this will fulfill what the United States was hoping for.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Rebecca, thank you very much. You have focused on the very heart of today's issues, and I will do my best to try to answer them. My father told me once, when I tried a lawsuit early in my legal career, that I should guard against speaking more clearly than I think. (laughter) So I must tell you that I will guard my words carefully and not tell you more than I know. (laughter)
What I do know is that there are extensive conversations and consultations going on between the United States and the government of Japan. I do know, as well, that I am confident that the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and the Japanese government are seriously considering how it can go forward in concert with the United States and other nations in the coalition to succeed in Iraq, to bring peace and prosperity and stability to that region, and what role, what specific role, Japan will play. I'm encouraged to think that there may be a decision, an announcement on the specifics of that before very long, but I cannot say because I do not know when that will occur or exactly what it will be. Except I do feel confident that they cooperation of Japan and the United States will continue, and even be embellished and extended as Japan goes about the business of deciding on its commitments in Iraq. But I think soon, I think soon.
On the question of whether it might be as early as January or February, I have no estimate about that. Soon is as good as I can do on the decision, and if the decision is to go forward with the deployment of Japanese forces in Iraq, that's really up to Japan to decide. But once again, I would be optimistic that Japan will be fully supportive.
QUESTION: Jake Adelstein, Yomiuri Shimbun. I'll make the question very short. I actually had a light, fluffy, benign question prepared, but my mother-in-law, who's Japanese, wanted me to ask a tough question. So I will. There have been reports that Japan has been targeted for acts of terrorism by al Qaeda, and that, whether the reasons for that are because Japan is going to send the Self-Defense Forces, or because there's pressing solidarity with America or probably irrelevant, but there certainly have been those reports, and many people in Japan are worried about them. The question is, what will the United States, the U.S. Embassy and the armed forces in Japan do to help prevent such a terrorist attack, how will they do it. Judging from the way the Japanese police handled the Aum event, there is a little lack of confidence in Japan's ability to do it all by themselves.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well first of all, I must say, as I have said previously, terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. It's not limited to the United States or to Japan or to anyplace else. Terrorism knows no boundaries, and the potential for evil is as pervasive as mankind. I have seen the speculation that terrorists might, al Qaeda might, try to target Japan, but we have those almost daily in America. Even to the place where we have created a system of levels, of colors and conditions where we describe it. But it is true that terrorism knows no boundaries.
What can Japan do about it? I think Japan can do many things about it, and Japan will decide that in its own time. But it can be resolute and determined not to give in to the terrorists, number one. That it joins with others, including the United States, to make it clear to terrorists that there are consequences for their actions. That we address the issues of potential threats, wherever they occur, whether it is a terrorist threat or some other threat, as in North Korea with their nuclear capability. But the ultimate deterrent to terrorism is strength and resolve and determination. And that's the way we do that.
QUESTION: Nori Onishi from the New York Times. Ambassador Baker, as you said, it looks like the government will probably be making a decision soon about sending SDF forces to Iraq, and the size will probably be by all accounts about 1,000 or so. Even though this force is relatively small compared to what other nations have sent to Iraq, it's of course of great political significance and historic significance to Japan. I was wondering if you could explain what this means to the United States, in terms of what this means politically, why is it politically important for the United States for Japan to send its relatively small force?
AMBASSADOR BAKER: First of all, I should say about the New York Times, which is a great newspaper of general circulation not only in America but many parts of the world, that it is a lineal descendent of the Chattanooga Times. (laughter) It was created, it was acquired by Adolphus Ox (phonetic) many years ago, and well before the New York Times was created it was a Tennessee company (laughter) so I try to remind my friends from the Times that that is so.
What does it mean? Well, you are exactly right. The likelihood that Japan would dispatch Self Defense Forces to Iraq at this time, I think, is very remote. But the fact that they send any, as you also suggest, has enormous symbolic effect as well as practical effect. There are many things Japan can do extremely well, including addressing the questions of the repair of the infrastructure, and addressing the distress of the people of Iraq. But what does it mean? It means that the coalition against terrorism has extended by the full participation of the second largest economy in the world, and that the unity of free people to address, to face down terrorism remains intact.
I said a moment ago that I thought Japan was in the business right now of trying to redefine itself. This is one of them. To participate in the challenges to the world community, I think that this represents a step, a very significant step in that respect. I think Japan is showing that they are indeed a great nation state, a full participant in the affairs of the world, that they have a right to speak their piece and to act, and that they have the courage to face the challenge of terrorism in Iraq. That's what it means. I don't think it matters so much whether it's 300 people or 1,000 people or 30,000 people. I think it's an expression of national will and determination by Japan, and that will be well understood by terrorists, and will be well appreciated by the rest of the world.
QUESTION: Thank you. Azhari Khaldon, Petra News Agency. Ambassador, I wish I read my question in Arabic so it's very small, but I have to read in English. So we understand that America is taking a very strong leadership role in the world to get the world from arms of mass destruction, especially in Iraq even though you haven't found anything yet. However, there are three suspicions in the Arab countries regarding this policy. First, there are many reports that you are using depleted uranium against Iraqi civilians. I mean side effects. Secondly, you are planning to develop new special nuclear weapons. And thirdly, you don't say anything about Israeli arms of mass destruction. So do you think the United States might have some policy to look into these issues. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I'm afraid I had difficulty trying to understand the question, but let me tell you what I think I took from it. The United States has not yet found evidence, conclusive evidence, of weapons of mass destruction, and how does that relate to present policy? The existence of weapons of mass destruction was pretty well established before the conflict began, whether it was biological weapons or preparation for nuclear weapons. The fact that you don't now find it is really as much as testimony to the ability of Saddam Hussein to conceal it or destroy it or move it than it is an argument that it never existed. So that is something that historians will talk about for a long time. But that is my view. To transport weapons-grade uranium can be done in the back seat of a car, and the fact that we didn't find it doesn't argue to me that it never existed. There is convincing evidence that it did. On biological weapons, you can do it in your suitcase, you don't need the backseat of a car. The fact that you don't now have it in hand certainly is not an argument that it never existed. Indeed, and in fact, Iraqis used biological weapons against their own population, and we know that beyond a question of a doubt.
I didn't catch your question about depleted uranium, but I guess what you're asking was how does all this all relate to the use of heavy depleted uranium for armor-penetrating shells, and I must tell you I don't think that's a serious issue. I don't mean you aren't serious, but rather I think that the risk from depleted uranium, for whatever purpose, is so remote and unlikely that it is almost . . . well it's just not a serious consideration. The reason you used depleted uranium is because it is an effective penetrator of armor because it's so heavy. But there is virtually zero radioactive emission from depleted uranium. It just simply is not a factor. I had difficulty hearing the rest of your question, but maybe that'll be a ...
MODERATOR: He had a question about, was it Israel? You want to repeat that question there? He was asking about the U.S. policy toward Israel and mass destruction weapons.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, why don't you come up here and ...
MODERATOR: Khaldon, can you do that? Please, the Ambassador wants to answer the third part, but if you could just repeat it slowly, please.
QUESTION: Sorry. Many Arabic countries express concern against the suspected or reported Israeli arms of mass destruction, but we see the United States is selecting Iran and Arabic countries and North Korea for such arms. Do you think America might be willing to take more wide attitude toward Israel also in terms of ridding the Middle East from all arms of mass destruction? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, if we could go back and start over, the chances are that we would be equally opposed to weapons of mass destruction in Israel. But the fact of the matter is they've existed there for a long, long time, and I don't think there's much we can do about it. But it also seems to me that the fact that Israel possesses, almost certainly possesses weapons of mass destruction, meaning nuclear weapons, is not a valid argument for not doing anything about North Korea or other countries. If we could cleanse the world completely of nuclear weapons, that would be a wonderful thing. But we can't. All we can do is try to contain the proliferation of weapons. Therefore, the almost certain fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons is not an argument for trying to address the issue of proliferation to other nations, and that's really what we are talking about in North Korea, and what we are concerned about in Iraq.
The North Korean thing is an issue that I had expected more questions about, or otherwise I might have covered it more thoroughly in my remarks. But if I were to nominate the item that I worry most about it, it would be North Korea - the Korean Peninsula. If I were to try to express my concern in exact words, if would be my fear of accident. There is very strong evidence that the North Koreans were telling the truth when they said they had nuclear weapons. I have no basis for disagreeing with that. But it is also clear to me that they have an unstable political regime, and nuclear weapons in the hands of an unstable regime are doubly dangerous.
I think the world community is well advised to try to contain or eliminate nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. I think the world community is rising to that challenge. I hope that the six party talks that were initiated earlier by Japan, in which all nations are participants, will resume. I have no idea when or even if, for certain, but I hope they resume. I hope, as President Bush has expressed, that we can solve this by diplomatic means. Both the President and the Secretary of Defense have said more than once this issue must be settled by diplomatic means, and I think the actions of the United States in that respect fully validate that commitment by the United States. As a matter of fact, I think the United States has been remarkably patient, given the provocations that the North Koreans have uttered more than once about their possession of nuclear weapons. So I hope that we can succeed with that, and I certainly support our efforts to try. But it's a very dangerous situation, and as I say, I fear that the political situation in North Korea is not stable, and therefore my greatest fear is of accident.
QUESTION: Anthony Rowley, Singapore Business Times. Mr. Ambassador, David Young, the managing director of Oxford Analytica, for which I occasionally work, delivered an address earlier this year before the U.S. Senate, or at least before a group of U.S. senators, which he entitled, "The Perils of the Dominant Culture." He argued, throughout history dominant cultures had failed to perceive themselves in the same way as they were perceived by others. Would you accept that the risk that America faces at this particular time is that it's failing to perceive the reasons why terrorism is directed against it?
AMBASSADOR BAKER: No. (laughter)
MODERATOR: He's done the 11-word question (laughter) and the one-word answer. I must also say, anecdotally, I'm pleased that he has not ducked any questions, including about the Middle East, and he's even suggested one of his own, about North Korea. So, let's please carry on. I'm just trying to move back a bit. Are we still in the working press side? I'm sorry for asking, I just can't see with all the lights on. Please.
QUESTION: Hi. Peggy Hernandez from the Boston Globe. You were talking about North Korea, so the question I have, has the political situation worsened even more than six months ago? And, what type of accident are you talking about? You've mentioned accident twice.
AMBASSADOR: Well, I used that word to be precisely non-specific (laughter) because I don't know what kind of accident might occur. It could be irrational action by a young captain on the DMZ. It could be division within the political structure of North Korea, which might decide that pre-emptive action was in their best interest. It could be the deterioration of the governing structure in North Korea, to the place where policy was uncertain. It could be any of an infinite variety of things, an accident could be.
But an accident is one thing, but an accident with a pocketful of nuclear weapons is another. The question - I guess it was your question - are we better off now than we were six months ago? Who knows? I don't know. I do know that the North Korean issue persists and continues to be a real threat to stability and peace. I also know that it has not yet devolved into open warfare or a nuclear conflict. I know that the efforts to resolve the issue by diplomatic means continue. There are some who thought it would never get off the ground, but it clearly has. By the way, China deserves high marks, high credit, for facilitating that, and hosting that, and being a participant in that. So it's sort of a mixed bag. The danger is still there, and there are bad things that might still happen, but they haven't yet happened. So I'll let you take your pick on whether we're better off or not.
MODERATOR: Peggy, thank you. Sorry, I couldn't recognize you there with the blaring lights. I do recognize now Yoshio Murakami of Asahi Shimbun.
QUESTION: Yoshio Murakami of the Asahi Shimbun. Mr. Ambassador, as you are aware, I think there are many Japanese who feel very uncomfortable about dispatching the Self Defense Forces to Iraq. Related to the previous question, I think part of the reason, of course, is many Japanese feel that there are many different ways for Japan to contribute, to assume a responsible position in international society, other than dispatching the Self Defense Force, which is a very delicate issue with the Japanese constitution, depending on the situation in which the forces would be involved in the dispatched area. So I was wondering, don't you think it is in the interests, long-term, of the United States, to let Japan have responsibility and try to help give Japan a position of great nation, in contributing non-military area, when the Japanese are feeling increasingly uncomfortable that incremental increase of dispatch and more frequency would lead Japan into a less desirable position?
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Let me begin by saying, the United States does not "let" Japan do anything. It's up to Japan to decide what it does. You're a great nation, and you have full authority, political and otherwise, to decide where your best interests lie. That's the first point.
The second point is, I think if you are indeed to take your place on the world stage, as I said in my earlier remarks, you deserve that. You have much to bring to that leadership role. But there are many responsibilities that go with it. Among those responsibilities is to participate fully and freely in the efforts of free nations to try to bring peace and stability not only to those nations, but to other nations as well. So I do not think retreating from that would aid the cause of peace and stability.
Japan has opportunities to act in many ways, in Iraq and in other parts of the world as well. You've already extensively committed for peacekeeping forces in the Golan Heights and East Timor and elsewhere, and I think that has worked very well. Exactly how your commitment in Iraq will finally evolve and develop remains to be seen. I do not anticipate that Japan will be directly involved in conflict or integrated into military action in Iraq, but I do expect and hope that Japan will be fully involved in the matter of trying to stabilize the country and to provide for its reconstruction. How exactly Japan decides to commit its resources to that is up to Japan. I personally think that the dispatch of a small contingent of SDF is a good way to begin that and has high symbolic value, as we discussed earlier, but it's not the only thing to do.
I would suggest that these things are not mutually exclusive. I think Japan can take advantage of its many talents in providing humanitarian relief and rehabilitation of infrastructure, and attending the human needs, reconstruction of hospitals and direct assistance to people in distress. All of those things, while at the same time being involved in some sort of effort to preserve stability and to reinstitute a democratic system. So it's not an either-or thing. I think that Japan should think of it as a broad-based effort on its part to address the questions of stability and prosperity in Iraq, and that it shouldn't be divided into compartments.
MODERATOR: Are you working press? Yes, please.
QUESTION: Ken Joseph, club member.
MODERATOR: Can you give your press organization?
QUESTION: I write for the Japan Times.
MODERATOR: Very good. Thank you very much. I was just trying to clarify ... Please go ahead.
QUESTION: My grandparents are from Iraq, and I just returned a few days ago and will be going back again next week. I just wanted to echo your comments on what's happening in Iraq, in spite of the bad news that's coming out. Things are much better than it was since I first came in March. But just one quick question . . . In returning to Japan for these few days, I've been quite surprised to find out that the general population thinks, for whatever reason, that the only help that they give is a military form of help, and being on the ground there, particularly the Iraqis have a special love for Japan. I was quite surprised, but it would be really nice if maybe you could mention what other ways, other than military, they can contribute, and that that's not the only way, because there's huge needs on the ground that in many ways only Japan can do, because she went through the same type of situation on the ground 60 years ago, when my parents first came to Japan.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: I think that we covered part of that in the previous answer. That is to say, it shouldn't be the choice of a single approach. As a matter of fact, I would think that Japan would want to consider how it can be helpful in humanitarian relief, how it can be involved in repair of the infrastructure, how it can go forward to stabilize the economic situation and the social situation, but at the same time should be concerned - as I believe it may be concerned - about how you guarantee peace and stability, and these things are not mutually exclusive. The reason I gave the long litany of things that have happened in Japan, in my remarks, is to point up the very fact I believe you are making. That is, it is not altogether a bad news story.
By the way, may I say another word here in that respect. I've seen remarks that 80 percent of the people of Japan are opposed to the deployment of SDF forces. I don't have any quarrel with that, but I will suggest to you that if you put a question in America on whether or not you wanted to go to war in Iraq, that 80 percent would say no. Nobody wants to do that. But if you put it a different way, is Japan willing to be committed to providing peace and stability, the restoration of civil government, the repair of the infrastructure and improving the lot of humanity, that 80 percent would say yes. So, like in so many other things, it depends on how you ask the question. But that's an endless argument. I've been in politics so long that I guess I've become jaded by polls. I remember the first poll I had run the first time I ran for the Senate. It was so bad that I wouldn't let anyone know what the results were. (laughter) But fortunately, the people of Tennessee had a different view, and they elected me. Polls are at best a slice of opinion at a given time on a given issue as described in the question. They do not necessarily accurately measure the fundamental beliefs of the people who are being polled.
MODERATOR: The Ambassador not only has not ducked questions, he has stayed longer than scheduled. ... Please, to help everybody ask more questions, keep them ... We're doing very well, nice brief questions with good answers.
AMBASSADOR BAKER: With long rambling answers. (laughter)
MODERATOR: Also, brief and poignant questions. No, the answers are good. (laughter)
QUESTION: Tim Kelly, Bloomberg News. If Japan is going to take a place on the world stage, perhaps as a member of the Security Council, do you think it needs to revise its Article 9 of the constitution, to allow its forces to act overseas, and maybe as a smaller step, do you think Japan should lift its self-imposed ban on the export of military equipment?
AMBASSADOR BAKER: I used to get paid for giving legal opinions. I have not been paid in Japan for giving legal opinions, and I have no opinion on the "legality" of that. What I can say is that the situation will . . . What you need to do structurally, that is to your charter document, the constitution, or to your statute law - and much of it can be adapted to statute law - are things that Japan should judge. By the way, Japan is very good at interpreting its constitution. I have a high regard for that. But I would not dare say that you need to change Article 9 of the constitution, nor for that matter that you need to change any of the basic law. It's up to you to decide that, up to your government to decide what it needs to do ultimately, I guess, for others to judge the legality of what you do. But I don't think it's a problem. I think you can have a seat on the Security Council. I think you can be involved in peacekeeping forces, as you have been, in the Golan Heights, as an example. I think you could even engage - my own personal view - that you could even engage in collective self-defense, such as in sharing intelligence information and the like, without doing any violence to the perceived condition of the basic law. But once again, that's for Japan to decide, not for me to decide. I try to deal in policy and not in legalities in my present position. So I say, I used to get paid for trying to give legal opinions, but I'm out of that business now.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Ambassador. I'm Vance Lowell from Stars and Stripes. My question mostly centers on the U.S. military's future in Japan. Currently, are there any plans to either increase or decrease or reduce the number of troops in Japan, at our bases either in Okinawa or here, and also will there be future deployments of U.S. troops from Okinawa and Japan, in support of the war on terror?
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Now that's a very good question. Let me give you the best answer I can. Number one, the Secretary of Defense has said, the President has supported it, that it's time for a re-evaluation of commitments, military commitments, around the world, and indeed it is. You know, times are not the same as they were five, ten, twenty, thirty years ago. So you really would be derelict if you didn't, from time to time, reexamine where you have forces committed. And we will. The Secretary has surfaced his ideas about that, the President has encouraged him, and sooner or later that'll be translated into policy, but where it ends up, it remains to be seen. I think it very well may end up with a reduction of forces, at least some reduction of forces, whether it's in Japan proper or in Okinawa or any place else, but the one point I would make in that context is, the President said, the Secretary of Defense recently said here in Japan, that nothing that we do on the realignment of forces will diminish in any degree our commitment to the security of Japan. And I believe that. I think that is true. But there may be readjustments. There may be troops put in different places, equipment and personnel put in different places, but the fundamental commitment that they're there to protect Japan will remain.
MODERATOR: OK, final question over here ...
QUESTION: Well, thank you very much Ambassador. I am Shimokawa from NHK TV News. Well, while first of all, let me point out, I think the great gap between the ordinary Japanese citizens, I mean the sentiment, and the Japanese government's policy. I do understand that you have to say "Oh it's up to the Japanese government" or "Japanese government is to judge." I do understand that. But after seeing the tragic event in which two diplomats were killed, I think, I feel that more and more Japanese people are feeling uneasy, and more and more people are wondering whether they should dispatch Self Defense Forces or not. I don't think it's because they fear that they would be involved in some kind of danger. I think it's because more and more people are wondering whether this war is the right war, or justice war or not. So anyway, Prime Minister Koizumi will have to convince or persuade Japanese people into understanding his policy. So anyway, he has to do that. Would you tell us your thoughts on that, and do you think he will succeed in persuading Japanese people?
AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I think the Prime Minister has done a pretty good job so far in that respect. After all, he survived this past election, and in a democratic system, fortunately, the judgment on major issues is with the electorate, with the population and those who vote, not with people like me or people like you. We may think ourselves experts, but the truth of the matter is the body of sovereignty is with in the people of the country - in your country and in my country. The most recent test suggests that the country supports the Prime Minister, and that is the most definitive test that I can think of. I must also say that I think the Japanese people fully understand the nature of the danger. You spoke of the loss of the two diplomats, and I really grieve over that. But I think it points up another fact. I mentioned that earlier. I think it points up the fact that terrorism knows no boundaries. It goes along with a newspaper report the other day that al Qaeda was alleged to be planning an attack against Tokyo. I don't believe that for a minute, though it could be true. But the fact of the matter is there are no territorial boundaries. If the question were put to the Japanese people, "Will we have the situation that we have today, or will we live in a perfect world where there is no danger?" then you'd get 100 percent, probably, of those who'd say, "We want to live in a perfect world where there's no danger." But I think it is unlikely that you're ever going to have that. If it is unlikely that you're going to have it, then I think a national responsibility, an international responsibility is to make sure that you provide as best you can for your own protection, your own survival and your own contribution to the reestablishment of peace, prosperity and stability. And I think that's what we're about. It's not an easy world. It's a frightening world, it's a dangerous world, but I don't know anything we can do about it. We can't leave it. We can only try to deal with it as we find it, and I think both Japan and the United States are doing that, and doing that pretty well.