Ambassador Baker Holds Nov. 8 Press Roundtable

Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
November 8, 2004
U.S. Embassy Tokyo

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Welcome to you all.

MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, we are on the record this morning.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: So I'm adequately warned.

MODERATOR: Do you want to just start with questions? And we can go in whatever order you feel like. Just let us know.

QUESTION: First, may I ask about your impression about the re-election of President Bush?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Of course, I am personally very pleased that President Bush was re-elected - not only re-elected but re-elected convincingly. I think it's good for the country. I think it brings a level of stability that we very much need in both foreign and domestic policy. I confess to some small surprise that the margin was as great as it was. I think that says something - besides the vote - it says something very important about the health and status of American democracy, because there was an enormous turnout. And the President was re-elected by a majority of the popular vote, for the first time that any president has been since ... a long time ago. So I think it's a testimonial to the vitality and the health of the American democratic system.

QUESTION: What do you think was the major factor for President Bush to be re-elected in this campaign?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, that's still being sorted out. I don't really know that I could comment on that. I think several things: First of all, I think the President ran a very good campaign; second, I think he's on the right side of almost all of the issues - all of the issues. I think the American people, in turning out in such great numbers, signaled an increased and very vital interest in the resolution of these issues. I think that exactly how it happened will be examined for months, years ahead, but the fact of the matter is that it did happen, and that's significant indeed.

QUESTION: So this election was very special. I think all the people in the world and in Japan were focusing on this election, but do you think some sort of policy change c what kind of policy will come out? Do you think the ... talking about national security, foreign policy c and if you touch on this, some sort of personnel affairs. The President mentioned that he will change some sort of personnel matters.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: If I can start out this way: number one, it is almost - yes, it is always - the policy of a duly elected president - whether of the same party or of a different party - to seriously consider making changes in his official family, in the senior members of his cabinet. And I fully anticipate that President Bush will do that. How many changes he'll make, when he'll make them, remain to be seen, but he will. That's part of the matter of re-establishing his second-term legacy. On policy, I don't anticipate any significant shift in foreign policy, or domestic policy, but bear in mind that the President said in his speech on the day after the election, that he now had a great store of political capital, and that he intended to spend it. That certainly implies that he has important issues in mind, and my guess is that almost all those are domestic issues. But that he intends to go forward with meaningful and significant changes on American domestic policy.

QUESTION: Specifically, what do you think this second Bush administration will take about this so-called transformation policy initiative?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, transformation process in my personal view is long overdue. It really hasn't been undertaken in the United States since shortly after World War II, but times are different. They change, and I think it's time to re-examine the commitment of U.S. forces, not only in Japan, but in the rest of the world. I would point out, however, that this has been considered now for most of the President's first term, and will obviously continue into his second term, and one reason for that is that not only is it a serious issue that requires much thought and discussion, but also because the President has committed, as Secretary Powell said when he was in Japan, to a close collaboration and consultation with the host countries - particularly with Japan. So it will take a while, but I think the end result will provide a more rational array of American forces, for itself and for its allies, and I think it will be undertaken with full consultation with our friends and allies.

QUESTION: Both the Japanese government and U.S. government agreed to start the so-called strategic dialogue first. Instead of talking about in detail which part could be transformed, but there are some serious concerns on the part of the Japanese government that if those people like Armitage or Mr. Powell go out, there will be some kind of vacant time, in which we cannot start some sort of substantial dialogue with the United States. What do you think about that?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, first thing I think is that you're not likely to see Powell and Armitage leave right away. I think that - I don't know the answer to that implication, but my guess is that both of them will be around for a while. Whether or not they stay for the whole second term is very much up in the air. I know personally that Secretary Powell would like to return to private life, but my guess is that he will stick around long enough to see completion of his major policy initiatives and that of the President. And to answer your specific question, perhaps the new administration may slow down some details, but not necessarily. And the policies - military policy - is so well established in the United States, that I think it will proceed apace and that you won't see any significant delay. But I do think that full consultation with our friends and allies, including Japan, will go forward and that in the final analysis, you'll see a result that is appealing to both Japan and the United States, and to other countries.

QUESTION: Most of the allies criticize that the Bush Administration is unilateral. This was a huge ... especially between old Europe and the United States. And Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Feith, Wolfowitz were sort of the engines for these kinds of ideas, but do you think that these three persons will remain inside the administration, and how do you think this direction will change, or keep for a while? Or how do you think about the future of this?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, let me say first, and I hope this isn't too facetious, but unilateralism is really a buzzword. It has no meaning standing alone. And it has no meaning specifically in terms of American policy. For instance, President Bush has three times, I believe, gone to the United Nations to try to gain a concurrence of views on what should be done in Iraq. The President has renewed his commitment to the United Nations in many ways, not the least of which is by designating former Senator Danforth as the American spokesman in the Security Council, and in many, many other ways, but America has never been a country of unilateralists. And I think it will not be in the future. In some cases, it is necessary for the United States to assert its own national interest, as was the case in the war against terrorism and the action against Iraq, but that does not alter the fact that the United Nations was really created in large measure at the behest of the United States, and that we maintain a commitment to working with and through international agencies. That is virtually unbroken for the last 50 years. I don't think you're going to see any significant changes in American policy, but I do not think that you will see significant unilateral activity by the United States. I think it will be very much a multilateral activity and very much taking account of our friends' and allies' points of view.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask about the six-party talks on North Korea. The date of the six-party talks has not been decided, and do you have any idea when it will be held or when it will be announced?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: No, I don't. That's largely up to the North Koreans, I guess, when they're willing to come to the table, but the United States remains committed to that process, to the six-party process, and we're firmly committed to the idea that our disagreements and conflicts with the Korean Peninsula - with North Korea - should be settled peacefully and diplomatically, and the six-party talks are the cornerstone of that activity. I do not anticipate it will change in that. But I do hope the North Koreans will come back to the table so we can continue with the effort and with the initiative.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? I think there are a lot of misunderstandings here in Japan about the six-way talks or how to deal with North Korea. Senator Kerry said that he would like to see bilateral talks, but at the same time he would also like to support this six-way talk process, right? And on the other hand, President Bush never ruled out some possible future bilateral talks with Pyongyang - only if they are going to show some forward-leaning posture, or something like that in the area of the nuclear missile problem. So my question is, could you say that there might be some possibility on the part of the Bush Administration to have bilateral talks with Pyongyang?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Once again, I think the cornerstone of American policy vis-a-vis North Korea is the six-party process. I think that there's much yet to be done - much yet to be explored - in the six-party process. I do not absolutely rule out the possibility of bilateral talks at some future date, but if they happen, it will be an outgrowth of a successful six-party talk system. We tried bilateral talks with North Korea, and they failed. The Framework Agreement, as such, was a product of bilateral talks, and that's not a criticism of the effort that produced the Framework Agreement, but rather to say that we now understand North Korea better than we did before, and that we're not likely to do that, unless there is success with the six-party undertaking, which is the superior forum.

QUESTION: You don't have any kind of serious concern that North Korea is now still developing their nuclear missile capability these days?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I am personally convinced - and I believe our government position is - that North Korea probably has at least two or three nuclear weapons. There seems to be almost no doubt that North Korea has been busily engaged in developing nuclear capability, certainly a plutonium cycle, and I personally think a uranium cycle as well. Otherwise, I don't think they would have spent all that money buying centrifuges from Pakistan. So I think you've got a dual path there. You've got a weapon system based on plutonium, and you've got a developing system based on uranium. You've got to assume that the North Koreans are now a nuclear power, and they have to be dealt with in that manner. The President's views - the United States' views - are consistent. That is to say, the solution to the problems on the Korean Peninsula are the dismantling of the nuclear capability of North Korea. That will be a difficult sell, but that is the policy of the United States, and I think it's important that the world - in particular this part of the world - pursues that objective.

QUESTION: Just one more follow-up. As you said, they might have two or three nuclear bombs already, and I think the number has increased during the first Bush administration. Do you still think the six-party talks were an effective way to get rid of nuclear weapons in North Korea?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Only time will tell, but it is my view that the six-party talks are the best way to approach that issue, because bilateral talks between North Korea and the United States have not succeeded in the past, and the additional power of multi-party talks - six-party talks - it seems to me, has a much better chance of succeeding with North Korea than bilateral talks. So it is possible. On your point about ... it is very likely that the number of nuclear devices that North Korea has has increased in the last few years. It's even more important, perhaps, to observe that it is likely to increase still further, unless we can arrive at an agreement through the six-party talks on dismantling their program, both the plutonium and the uranium program. It's a dangerous situation, and the North Koreans have to recognize that unless they abandon their nuclear capability, permanently and irrevocably, that they are not likely to engender confidence and progress in negotiation with their neighbors.

QUESTION: You gave them a very detailed proposal in the last meeting of six-party talks, and so far there has been no response, direct response from the North Korean side, but it seems that they are very negative. If they say no, in the next six-party talks, what do you think is going to happen?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I think there will be another six-party talk. I think it's a process, and I think we will not be easily discouraged. It would be our hope that the North Koreans would agree to progress in the six-party talks, but I think that even if the next meeting of the six-party mechanism does not produce a definitive answer, that it will form the basis for further negotiations, and I think once again that multi-lateral negotiations, such as the six-party talks, are greatly superior to any bilateral effort.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, is there any possibility that you can bring the North Korean issue to the United Nations Security Council?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Oh sure. There's always that possibility, and I'm sure that's being seriously considered by Secretary Powell and the State Department, and our government, but I think most members of the Security Council of the U.N. think as we do that the six-party talks are the best device for trying to resolve this issue.

QUESTION: What priority can we expect the Bush Administration to put on the issue of North Korea in its second term? He has the deal of Iran, the issue of Iran and the issue of Iraq, and how much effort can we expect the Bush Administration to invest?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I think that North Korea is a vital part of the foreign policy consideration of the United States - not to the exclusion of Iraq and Iran and other trouble spots in the world, but I don't know how to quantify that. I personally think that the Korean Peninsula is perhaps the most dangerous part of the world. But that is not an administration statement; that is my personal view.

QUESTION: After the '94 agreement with Pyongyang, there was a kind of illusion that North Korea was going to collapse in the next five or ten years and when Bill Perry was appointed by then-President Clinton as a special negotiator and envoy, and he denied that North Korea was going to lie, it's going to stand there and you have to deal with it. And Secretary Armitage also agreed with Dr. Perry, and so I would like to ask you what is Bush Administration feeling, or gut feeling or thinking about North Korea right now. Could you guarantee that there is no illusion like that right now in Washington?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: You'd have to ask someone else about that. The position of the United States is that the North Korean issue is serious, that it must be approached through a multilateral forum - the six-party talks - and that we do not base our policy on the projections or the guess that North Korea is going to collapse. Maybe it will; maybe it won't. But we cannot base U.S. policy on that. Incidentally Bill Perry is an old friend of mine, and I in no way criticize him for the Framework Agreement, but it is clear and perhaps even Bill Perry would agree - although I don't know that - that it has not been successful. And it requires us to address the issue in a different way.

QUESTION: Are there any - here's a question about the U.S.-Japan relationship - are there any particular fields or agendas that both countries need to work on more to strengthen the relationship?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: There are always a great number of issues between great countries like the United States and Japan. I would tell you that I think the alliance and friendship - and friendship is an important part of that - between the United States and Japan is probably greater than any other two nations in the world. I think there is closer coordination and consultation between our two governments than perhaps with any other governments. I think there's a common recognition of the challenges before us. There's a demonstrated wish to consult and confer between Japan and the United States, so I would tell you that I think the relationship is excellent, and improving, and better than it was four years ago.

QUESTION: About six-party talks, when do you expect that these talks can resume in Beijing? Do you expect that this will happen by the end of this year or it will take a while? Or is it up to the North Koreans?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I have no idea. My hope is they'll resume promptly. I think the Chinese have done a great service by urging that. I think it's very much up to the North Koreans to decide when they'll come back to the table, but I don't think you need to wait for the beginning of the new administration in America to do that. And I think that President Bush is fully committed to going forward with the six-party concept, and I think North Korea should come to the table and negotiate.

QUESTION: Before January 20?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Yes, I think the sooner, the better. I don't think you're going to see any significant change in policy toward North Korea. And I think that every day that goes by is a lost opportunity to try to make progress.

QUESTION: You said that Powell and Armitage would remain in their positions for a while, but how about Mr. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Probably that too. This is pure guesswork, but my guess is that both will be around for a while - I don't know how long. As I told you earlier, I know from first-hand conversation that Secretary Powell would like to return to private life, but I also know that he has a highly developed sense of responsibility. So I cannot say when the President would accept his resignation or when he would offer it. But I think he'll be there a while.

QUESTION: What about yourself?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: About my tenure here? I've been here almost four years now, and my wife and I enjoy being in Japan. I say facetiously that we enjoy some days more than others, depending on what's going on and what the problems are, but we have enjoyed our time here. As to how long I'll stay, the tenure of - my tenure in Japan - is at the pleasure of the President. So it depends on what the President's wishes are and when he can raise those to me, I will act on them. But I guess that's all I can say.

QUESTION: What have you enjoyed the most? What parts of Japan do you like best?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: As you know I'm a photographer - as you may know, I'm a photographer, and Japan is a very photogenic country. And, my personal enjoyment comes from traveling about this great country and taking pictures. My professional pleasure comes from the increasing cooperation and friendship between the government of Japan and the government of the United States. But, altogether, those two things suggest that this has been really a very pleasant time in my life and my wife thinks that too. And the pictures, by the way, are out on the wall, a lot of them are.

QUESTION: What is your next challenge in your picture taking? What would you like to take more of Japan, here - Mt. Fuji?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Fuji's hard. Hokkaido's great. I did the red crescent cranes up there. I went up to see the snow monkeys up near Nagano - that was fun. It's not easy though. You go up there on the bullet train, which takes over an hour; then you drive; then you walk - walk a long way up to the onsen where the snow monkeys are. That was one of my greatest experiences and I enjoyed that.

QUESTION: A lot of Japanese are a little bit worried about your health condition and situation, but how is it going on right now?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Yeah, it's great. I've never had a speck of heart trouble in my whole life. But, while I was in the States, I had an aortic valve that failed suddenly and fortunately, I was in a doctor's office when it happened and they put me in the hospital and the next thing I knew, I'd been operated on. But I feel I'm fully recovered; I feel better than I'd felt in years, and I feel good.

QUESTION: Can I ask you one more question about Japan? Recently I talked with Mr. Nonaka, former Cabinet Chief during the Obuchi Cabinet and he says he's very much frustrated with Koizumi's achievement in the area of Okinawa policy. According to Nonaka, Prime Minister Hashimoto is also very much unhappy about Koizumi's performance in this area. According to Hashimoto, there is nobody in Koizumi's cabinet to take care about Okinawa issues. What kind of efforts or steps would you like to see taken by Koizumi for his cabinet?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: That's a very serious problem. I would not presume to advise the Prime Minister on what he should do about Okinawa, but I can give you valid observations. I went with Secretary Rumsfeld to Okinawa recently, and I was pleased to hear him say to the Governor that American recognizes the burden that we have placed on Okinawa and is searching for a way to reduce that burden. That is the basic and fundamental policy of the United States. How that happens depends a lot on how we re-order our defense forces; how many are in Okinawa - how many might be transferred someplace else. But, the fundamental policy of the United States is that we recognize the burden that we've placed on Okinawa and we wish to try to reduce it.

QUESTION: Recently Koizumi said that some part of U.S. military forces stationed here could be relocated to such as Hokkaido. At the same time we would like to ask eventually the United States to think about transferring some of your assets to the foreign soil. Do you think that could be acceptable from U.S. perspective?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, it depends on how it's structure, it's certainly not out of the question but everything is under consideration and realignment of American forces so I don't exclude anything. I think it's unlikely that there would be a major shift of American forces out of Japan, including Okinawa to some other place such as Guam but that's not out of the question and it's honestly discussed but no decision has been made. And once again on this, America is fully committed to consulting and conferring with Japan before we do anything. Which is one reason that it's been so slow but we continue to be committed to consultation with Japan on how this is to work.

QUESTION: You would like to make more efforts to reduce Okinawa's burden right now, in general?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Secretary Rumsfeld said it - the only way I can say it - that is we recognize the burden and we will search for ways to reduce that burden on the people of Okinawa. But as for specific details I simply can't comment because I don't know.

QUESTION: We've reported that the Japanese government is far less enthusiastic about this transformation than the United States government and the Japanese government has not worked enough to move forward to realize this transformation and that's what we've felt. First of all, is there any frustration on the side of the United States about the pace of (inaudible)?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: There may be in some quarters but that is not the position of the U.S. government. The position of the U.S. government is that we are to consult fully with Japan as a host country and that we are going to take whatever time it needs to do that. As I say there are some who would like to see it brought to conclusion sooner. I think Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld understand that it's a complex situation and full consultation will take time. So that is where we are. I believe - and this is also my personal view - I believe that in the final analysis that transformation or realignment or whatever term is used will produce a result that is attractive to the people of Japan and meets the requirements of the United States for the defense of this region. I believe that will happen.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask to Americans in Japan, although I did not include this question into my questionnaire but if I may - it's about Sgt. Jenkins and Bobby Fischer. With Sgt. Jenkins, do you think there is any possibility that he does not have to serve his term - I mean his sentence might be stayed? And about Bobby Fischer, I simply want to know what kind of fate is going to wait for him?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: O.K. On Jenkins, it's a difficult issue, an emotional issue and a controversial issue. But I believe that the result that was finally obtained and the plea that was negotiated between the American military court and Jenkins was entirely appropriate and I congratulate all those involved for reaching a good result. There are some who say that thirty days in jail is not enough, there are some who say that it should be suspended. Fortunately, I don't have to decide those things. That's up to the military tribunal to decide. But I personally think it was a good result. I think that the cornerstone of that agreement was that Jenkins, no matter how bad his conduct was, had suffered enough living in North Korea, and in deference to that and to his Japanese wife, that some level of compassion and understanding had to be taken account of, and I think it was. I think that is what produced the result that you see. I don't know where Jenkins is going. I don't know whether he will serve his thirty days or not but I think it was a good result.

QUESTION: Bobby Fischer?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Bobby Fischer, I don't know anything about, except that he is out at Narita. It is my understanding that he has been denied entry into Japan on his U.S. passport because of his proceedings in the United States many years ago. I think he has other options. I think that he may litigate, he may travel under a different passport, but I've told you all I know, probably plus just a little bit too much. But I don't know what will happen to Bobby Fischer.

MODERATOR: What we say officially is that we've not been given permission to talk about his case, per se. That is something that we safeguard, as privacy rights of American citizens. So, it's very difficult for us to say anything about it. As the ambassador stated, those are the facts - his passport was revoked because of a charge against him, a federal charge against him. At the moment, he is involved in proceedings that have to do with immigration authorities in Japan. So, as the ambassador said, that's about all we can say.

QUESTION: But, he has been traveling with that invalid passport for quite some time. I wonder why it was.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Why he was stopped in Japan?

QUESTION: I mean he has been traveling with that invalid passport for some time ...

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Maybe it's a tribute to the Japanese system.

MODERATOR: Actually, I think that gets into dates and events that really do surround his circumstances that we are really not at liberty to talk about.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: It's good to keep in mind, though, that it is Japanese authorities who stopped him.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the very (inaudible) about the U.S. and China. It seems weapons sales issue is coming again to Taiwan and I would like to ask you overall feeling about U.S.-China relationships in the coming months and years, next year ...

AMBASSADOR BAKER: That's a very good question. It would be difficult to answer in a few words, but the China-U.S. relationship, and indeed the China-Japan relationship are among the most important in the entire world. I think much progress has been made in the relationship between China and the United States; trade is at an all-time high, there are probably fewer disputes - diplomatic and military disputes - between the United States and China than in any time in recent history. Japan - I think a similar thing. I think the level of investment by Japan in China has been growing steadily. I think that the chances of a military conflict between Japan and China is very remote. I think the dangers in the Straits of Taiwan are very real and that is one of the most difficult danger points in the world. It is our hope, it is our policy, to urge China and use restraint and to refrain from a military solution with Taiwan. I said a moment ago that I felt the Korean Peninsula was the most dangerous place in the world and certainly in this part of the world. I think that is so, with the possible exception of the Straits of Taiwan and the relationship with China. I think the relationship between China and Japan is proceeding nicely and expect for a lapse over where the Prime Ministercdid you feel an earthquake?

MODERATOR: Yeah, I did.

REPORTER: Niigata, I think.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: My dog, by the way, can tell when there's an earthquake coming.


AMBASSADOR BAKER: A few seconds before they happen.

REPORTER: What kind of dog?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: What kind of dog? She's a soft coat terrier. She's a Wheaten Terrier. But she doesn't know she's a dog. So if you see her, don't tell her. I call her our dog person.

QUESTION: So when it comes to the Japan and China relationship, the biggest obstacle is Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine. What do you think about it?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I think it is none of my business.

REPORTER: Right. (laughter)

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I think it is very much up to the Prime Minister to decide and the United States has no policy in that respect. But it certainly excites the Chinese. Every time I go to China, which isn't often, but, every time I go, that it is the very first thing the Chinese talk about - is the Prime Minister's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Then the next thing is usually Taiwan and then when they finish that, the Chinese officials will say, now what did you want to talk about. (laughter)

REPORTER: That's the way they are.

QUESTION: The next big event will be the APEC meeting in Chile at the end of this month. I am sure that Mr. Koizumi will meet with the President and Hu Jintao will meet with the President as well. Can you describe the agenda and if it's possible, the date - Koizumi will meet in Chile, or will he swing by in DC and meet with the President in Washington?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I don't know. I wish I could help you with that but I don't know.

QUESTION: How about the agenda between the U.S. and Japan?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: It will be purely speculation because I've not seen a draft agenda, but I think you can surmise from the conversation we have had around the table what it is likely to be. I think Korea will occupy a major point. I think the relationship with China is always important - Taiwan will. But, it's not difficult to identify the major items, but I've not yet seen the draft agenda for the meeting.

QUESTION: Last September, when I went to Washington D.C., some experts told me that the Hu Jintao leadership in China sounds like more nationalistic compared with Jiang Zemin. Do you share this kind of view?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: No, I don't see it that way. I really have very little basis for judgment. I think China, as a country, as an economy, as a great part of this world, is moving steadily toward a less rigid society and I think that the level of investment between China and the other industrial countries of the world is going forward at such a pace that it almost certainly is going to produce a better relationship between China and the rest of the world.

QUESTION: How about Capitol Hill's reaction to China? More neutral, more stabilized?


QUESTION: Capitol Hill.


QUESTION: Senate, Congress. Either way.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: ... I learned a long time ago, having served in Capitol Hill for a long time and been Republican leader of the Senate that only the people who are there can answer questions like that. Everyone else is an outsider and I am an outsider, even after my extensive service there. I (inaudible) that Senator Frist (inaudible) who is majority leader, as I was majority leader, and that I had not planned to talk to him about that, I was going to talk with him about something else, but nobody can really tell. But I do not think you see the level of hostility in America, either on Capitol Hill or in the country, toward China, that you saw a few years ago.

QUESTION: About Japan and China, are you somewhat frustrated at the pace of improvement of relations between Japan and China? So far that both heads of government, you know, does not exchange their visits to each capital?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: No, I can't say I am disappointed. I can say that we watch that with great interest. I think the relationship between Japan and China has not deteriorated. I think, if anything, it is perhaps less confrontational now that it was a year or two years ago. America is anxious to be helpful in that relationship.

QUESTION: Let me raise a question about Iraq. We have a debate still going on, whether or not we should extend the deadline of Japanese troops in Iraq and the security situation is deteriorating as everybody knows already. What kind of contributions, probably does the United States government expect Japan to play out and make in the Bush administration's second term?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, that's very much up to Japan to decide, but there's no secret to the fact that the United States very much hopes that Japanese SDF will remain and Japan to continue their humanitarian efforts. I know it's an issue that is controversial, but it would certainly be my hope that Japan will go forward with the commitment of SDF to Iraq. I think that Japan has made a major international statement by having SDF there. I think they have performed humanitarian functions that are much admired. I think it would be a shame if that was not continued.

QUESTION: Is it possible for you to name some Japanese lawmakers that you think might be possible future leaders.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: We talked about that earlier.

QUESTION: We get it off the record.

QUESTION: You can be a king maker.

QUESTION: Mr. Carl Rove.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: My answer to that is that I can't identify the comers in American politics, let alone in Japanese politics. But I would make one observation. I know a great number of Japanese officials and politicians. You really have a core of very talented people and especially you have a great reservoir of bright young men and women who will move up in government, so I think you're well fixed for the future.

QUESTION: You're talking about Mr. Abe?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, Abe would certainly be in that list. But there are others as well. I met here around this table the other day with representatives of the DPJ and we talked about SDF in Iraq and I told them frankly, you know, it is my hope that you'll change your mind about that and then gave them the same reasons I gave you. But, they are important people and I pointed out, by the way, that I was minority leader of the Senate a great deal longer than I was majority leader, so I understand their point of view and their responsibility to oppose, but I think this issue, that is a continuation of SDF in Iraq, is more important than the political advantage and that I hope they'll reconsider that.

QUESTION: Can I ask you, since you were inside of the Reagan administration, how could you compare Reagan's second and Bush's second? Is there any big differences, some similarities, or some charming points, you know, that kind of thing?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, we haven't seen the Bush second term yet.

QUESTION: Based upon your expectations ...

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Based on my experience with President Reaganclet me put it this way, Reagan had many virtuous advantages, but the one thing that stands out in my mind more than any other is Present Reagan had, what I call, a central core of conviction. That is, on fundamental issues, he knew exactly what he believed, and he stuck with that. I think it served him well. I think President Bush is in the same mold, but I would not dare speak for what his second term will be until it unfolds and develops. I personally do not anticipate any dramatic changes in policy and certainly not in foreign policy.

QUESTION: How about personnel connectivity?


QUESTION: Of Reagan and Bush. Same?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I don't know that I can answer that. Once again, I'm not there. Unless you are in daily contact in the White House, you can't tell. I know I had a wonderful relationship with President Reagan. Number one, I never planned to be anybody's Chief of Staff and I was totally surprised when he asked me to do that. But, in all candor I must tell you I was surprised that I agreed to do it, too. I am pleased that I did. Reagan was a remarkable man and had many talents but that one - a central core of conviction - is what drove everything else. My guess is that President Bush has a central core of conviction that will guide him in the other difficult decisions he'll have to make. I think the second term will follow on after the first term in very similar ways, but I think the President has already signaled that he has a new initiative that he wants to follow. We'll have to wait and see how he develops that and how Congress receives it.

QUESTION: Do you think he is going to try to demonstrate much stronger leadership from White House in the second term?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: No, I don't think so. I think he has a good relationship with the leadership of the Congress. I think he'll continue to have ...

QUESTION: I mean, in the administration.


QUESTION: Within the administration - in the relationship with those like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell? Some say that they are somehow, you know, disappointed with President Bush's leadership in those regards, compared with Reagan. That's my point.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I don't agree with that. You will, I'm sure, recall the controversy that swirled around Cap Weinberger, Secretary of Defense and his successor, between the Secretary of State. You know, these figures, are prominent and powerful and they generate conflict. But I don't think that, for instance, the perceived disagreements between Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld are any more significant than you've seen in other administrations and I don't think that they serve a destructive purpose. I think they serve a good purpose and bring the President varying points of view. The President, by the way, this President, as with President Reagan, had the remarkable ability to listen to different points of view. He was not afraid of strong people. I find that to be a very desirable characteristic in a President.

QUESTION: The first, do you have any specific talks with the Japanese government about the extension of the SDF mission and then secondly, the Dutch army is going out next spring and we have a very serious security concern about the SDF mission and how can we make safe the security of the SDF, do you think?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Okay, let's see how we do that. Have I talked to Japanese officials about SDF? Yes, I have. As you would expect, I have done that and others here in the embassy do that because that is American policy. We hope that Japanese SDF will continue in their major and brave contribution to peace and stability in the region. The Dutch have announced that they intend to withdraw forces, but let's wait and see if that in fact happens. In any event, I've not suspected that Japanese policy would be based on Dutch policy, but rather on what Japan perceives is in its own best interests. So I don't think that is likely to be a significant factor. There may be other countries that will withdraw their troops, but there'll be a great number that don't and the bulk of the military forces in Iraq will continue to be there. But to reiterate, I think Japan is making a major contribution to the peace and stability of Iraq and I think the SDF forces are important, not just because of their numbers, or the humanitarian effort, but because of the symbolism that Japan is a great world power and that it's accepting its responsibility as a world power by dispatching SDF for humanitarian purposes to Iraq. I think that is widely observed and greatly appreciated, not only in the United States but in other parts of the world. Japan is destined to be a leader in international diplomatic affairs. That will happen as sure as we are sitting around this table. With that, goes a lot of responsibility and a lot of opportunity. For instance, we support Japan's effort to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council. When that happens, I don't know, but it will happen, sooner or later. That will be further evidence that Japan is a great world power. I don't mean necessarily a military power, or although your military strength is not inconsequential, but it means in terms of diplomacy, in terms of initiative, opportunity, foreign assistance, peacekeeping. Japan has already gained a role as a great world power and that will continue and should continue. We applaud it in America - we think it's appropriate.