Deputy National Security Advisor J.D. Crouch in Roundtable with Japanese Press

U.S. Embassy, Tokyo
January 24, 2006

CROUCH: Thank you for coming down. I appreciate it. I thought I would start out by saying just a few things about why I'm here, and then we can have a conversation.

This trip is a trip that I had actually planned originally for the fall, but because of the situation in Washington, wasn't able to get here until January. But it was something I was very much looking forward to, to begin a strategic dialogue between the NSC and the government here. And I had a very good set of meetings today with Vice Foreign Minister Yachi. We discussed a broad range of issues: the situation not only in the region but global issues that affect both of our countries, in which we are both involved, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. We exchanged views on Iran and the development of regional security architectures and the like. I've also been meeting with others in the government, and we'll have some additional meetings later today, trying to touch base with a broad range of key policymakers on strategic issues. The main purpose of this is Japan is a key ally of the United States and a real anchor for our involvement in Asian security. We think it's extremely important that we stay very closely knit up on key strategic issues, and we have a broad dialogue, obviously Deputy Secretary Zoellick was in town this week talking to his counterparts. We also think, from the White House perspective, it's important that we develop a similar dialogue with the key policymakers here in Tokyo.

I also had the opportunity to meet with a group of university students, which was really a lot of fun. I'm a former professor. So one of the things I like to do is when I come into town is sit down with some of the young people. I found this group - it was about a dozen young people - very stimulating, asking all the kinds of questions that I expect you gentlemen to ask - very, very well informed - so it was a good session. This afternoon I also went out to Yokosuka and met with Admiral Kelley and Admiral Nakashima and was a visitor on a Konga-class destroyer and spent some time talking about the developments of our two militaries together in the fields of ballistic missile defense and in our naval cooperation between the Japanese naval defense forces and the U.S. Navy - a very good session with them, again, to underscore the importance from the American side of our bilateral relationship on security issues. From here, I'm going on to Seoul and then on to Moscow and Kiev, and then home, so literally a round-the-world tour, but I thought it was important to stop here first in Tokyo and consult on a broad range of issues before I go on to my other stops. So with that as a backdrop, I thought maybe I'd entertain some questions.

QUESTION: Did you go to China as well? And also in relation to this, I suppose that at least some of the questions from students might have been related to Yasukuni issue or Japan-China relations. What do you think about it?

CROUCH: I'm not going to China. As you know, I think Deputy Secretary Zoellick is in China right now. And yes, some of the students were interested in that question. We had a good dialogue about it. We encourage and support I think Japan's desire to have a good relationship with China. The U.S. obviously has a very complex relationship with China as well, and it's a relationship that - obviously China is a growing economic power in the region, is growing in its military capabilities. It's, I think, important that the U.S. and Japan both develop positive relationships and that we cooperate together as China plays a larger role in Asia and globally. So this was the key message that I gave the students, the there is nothing inconsistent with having a very strong alliance relationship with the United States and having a good relationship with China.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the situation of Iran? Does the government of the United States have the confidence to persuade Russia and China to take a tough position against Iran?

CROUCH: As you know, we have been - let me step back from the question, and then I'll come forward to it. We have been supporting the diplomacy of what's known as the EU-3 vis-a-vis Iran. We've been very hopeful that that diplomacy would produce a lasting agreement that would end what we believe is an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and I think we've had a very consistent view among the United States, Europe, Japan, Russia, and China that it is not in our interest for Iran to have a nuclear weapons program. That diplomacy has basically run its course in a sense, that the Iranians have decided to move back into reprocessing and enrichment of their uranium, and this crosses a very important red line from all of our perspective. And consequently, you've seen the EU-3 and the United States arguing that we now have to, through the IAEA, take the Iranians to the Security Council.

I think you've also seen, while there are differences, stronger support on the Russian and Chinese side for doing this. There are differences, and I think we have to continue to have a dialogue with the Chinese and the Russians on this issue - it's one of the issues we talked today about with the vice foreign minister - is that all the countries that believe we need to bring them to the Security Council need to continue to talk to the Chinese and the Russians about this. I don't think we have a difference on our objectives between that group. I think the question is more one of tactics and timing. So we're trying to work out those differences, and I think we will be successful in doing that, because I think at the end of the day, people recognize that an Iran with nuclear weapons, an Iran that is a very strong supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond cannot be trusted with a nuclear weapons capability.

QUESTION: When North Korea was submitted to the Security Council in the past, nothing had happened actually. Do you think the Security Council will be able to change Iran's attitude?

CROUCH: Nothing's ever for certain. But I think that one of the key differences between Iran and North Korea is I think the Iranian people, and even to a certain degree the Iranian regime, want to have contact with the world. They want to participate in the global economy. The Iranian people are technically very competent, have a very proud history. It's understandable, obviously, that they would want to participate in that way. Our sense is that they would not want their government to be taken in this direction, to the Security Council. We can't say for sure, but what I do think is important is that we have to use the mechanisms that we have, the diplomatic mechanisms that we have, to try to resolve this issue diplomatically. We've had a set of negotiations with the EU-3 that resulted in the Paris agreement - now the Iranians have pulled away from that agreement - and we think the next step in that diplomatic process is to go to the board of governors and to move this issue to the Security Council, where there are a number of things that can be done to increase the political and diplomatic pressure, and even economic pressure on Iran to do the right thing. Obviously, we're not taking any options off the table, but I think it's very important that we try to resolve this issue diplomatically.

QUESTION: So you don't think it's a good idea to hurry up to discuss about sanctions against Iran?

CROUCH: I think that's something that is going to have to be dealt with in New York when the issue is set before the Security Council.

QUESTION: Did you talk about the possible sanctions vis-a-vis Iran with your counterpart Minister Yachi? Well, because, as you may know, Japan depends highly on Iranian oil, and we have the Azadegan issues also, so I think Japan may be reluctant about this sort of action.

CROUCH: I know you won't be surprised if I tell you that, obviously, the discussions between us, I'm going to keep between us, and that's an important thing to do when you're friends and allies working together. I think it's fair to say we talked about the issue more broadly, and how we see Iran, and how we see our interests. One of the things we try to do is keep each other well consulted so that we can keep our interests aligned. And I think that's where we are. I think Japan in the United States are very well aligned on this issue, and we are just going to have to see if we can find a way to resolve it, hopefully through this Security Council path.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask about Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Until now, the United States is mainly applied this former Soviet Union. But for us, it is very important how to reduce the threat from North Korea. Will the United States apply this program to North Korea, or is it out of [inaudible]?

CROUCH: One thing you should know is the reason that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is applied to the former Soviet states is because the law that governs it was written that way. So basically that's the only place where the money can be spent. But theoretically of course, the law could be changed, or there could be another program that was initiated in this. The keyword in the CTR program is "cooperative." And it takes a very high level of cooperation between the two sides to be able to conduct these kinds of operations in a way where there's a confidence in their effectiveness. And so I think we are a long way from being there. However, we do have the six-party talks. We do have a joint statement that I think alludes to the possibility of various forms of cooperation. And I think so consequently, it's something that if the right circumstances were to arise, if the right cooperation between the parties were to develop, it isn't something we should reject out of hand. But I think were quite a ways from getting there. At this point, our focus is to try to get back to the discussions. And as you know, the U.S. is prepared to do that and is not placing any conditions on doing that.

QUESTION: Well, it's about alliance transformation and base realignment here. We are very much interested in that. Firstly about the deadline for the final report: Most of the people are expecting you may not be able to conclude the final report by the end of March. If that happens, is that really the deadline? After that, everything is dead, or not? Is there any possibility for you to extend the negotiations even after that? That's one thing. And I was just wondering whether you are already briefed about details, but is it possible to adjust or change, modify some of the agreements, particularly about this Futenma base in Okinawa, moving it off the coast of the Schwab base. Is there any possibility to adjust the placing of that new facility, maybe something like 200 yards or 300 yards, or that type of thing?

CROUCH: Well, you'll forgive me, I hope, that I'm going to leave the discussions and negotiations to the negotiators. But I would say one thing about this. This is the largest change in transformation in the alliance, I think, since its inception. And it really is a post-Cold War, "global war on terror" and "changing East Asia" realignment of capabilities. I think it's really important, and I know that there are a lot of tough local issues that have to be worked through. I know there's difficult politics. We're trying to be sensitive to those things and sensible about those things, but we really have to try to look at the forest, not just the trees on this, and get this done. It will really put, we think - and I think the Japanese government believes as well - it will really put the alliance on a very solid foundation for the next 20 or 30 years. And it's a real moment, and it's a moment that needs to be seized. So I think we would like to try to get this done as quickly as possible, and be able to take advantage of the hard work that's been done by both sides on negotiating this issue. I know the embassy has been very involved in it and the commands on the U.S. side. I've talked to many of people in the Foreign Ministry and elsewhere who have worked very hard on it, and I think sometimes, if you don't put that extra energy into something, it's hard to complete it. I think the time is now. So we're ready to roll up our sleeves and try to get it done by the end of March.

QUESTION: Does that mean, if it's so important, and if as you say "push comes to shove" or something, then you may extend the time frame of these negotiations? Is that what you say?

CROUCH: No, that's not what I said. What I said was, I'm going to leave that to the negotiators to decide. But I think it is very important that we get it done, and that we get it done in the first quarter.

QUESTION: I would like to go back to the China issue. You stressed that a strong U.S.-Japan alliance can coexist with Japan's good relations with China. From your U.S. strategic viewpoint, how do you evaluate the implications of Japan's tense relations with China on U.S. strategy in this region? Does it decrease the value of Japan as an anchor, as a key partner in this region?

CROUCH: First of all, I think from my vantage point, I point back to the prime minister's recent speech, where I think he indicated a willingness and a desire to improve relations with China. We fully support that. We think it's the right policy, and we think that there's a will to do that here in Japan. I think that it's going to require both sides to be able to sit down and engage and talk with one another. And it's going to be difficult. But I think that, I wouldn't want to say that this in any way diminishes - whatever the circumstances are - diminishes our relationship with Japan, because I think that relationship is very fundamental to our presence here in the region. It was fundamental before China began its growth period, and it remains fundamental. I think in my president's views, the reason why that is, is because of the shared values between our two peoples.

As you know, when the president was here he gave a very important speech, from our standpoint, about how he thought about that, why it was important that Japan and the United States cooperate in the region together, to expand openness, to expand freedom. And so there's a lot of work to do together, and that work, I think, will be the work of the alliance for the next 25 to 30 years. Having said that, we think it would be a positive thing that China and Japanese relations improved.

QUESTION: I asked this question because recently we hear more and more from the U.S. policymakers and think-tank people stressing the need for Japan and China to resolve the question of history and the Yasukuni Shrine, so I have a feeling that maybe American people are now looking at this question more in the framework of a security issue. Maybe it's much more desirable for the U.S. to have a Japan which has a good relationship with neighboring countries.

CROUCH: Oh, absolutely. It's very important, and I think we would encourage - I think as the United States and Japan work together in the region, it's more valuable for both of our countries to maintain good and positive relations with the countries in the region. It's going to give us more options, more access. No question about it. I think that is a goal, and the flipside of it is that we certainly wouldn't want to feel isolated in the region. We wouldn't want Japan to feel isolated in the region. I don't think that's where we are, but I think it's important that both sides work together to try to improve those relations.

QUESTION: At the six-party talks, we have to do this day-to-day measuring of the temperature. Is that possible in a month or so?

CROUCH: It's certainly possible, in the sense that, I think, five of the six parties are ready to go back to the table, and now we just need to persuade the sixth party to do so. And we have been working with our allies, and working with the Chinese on this and the Russians. It will be a discussion point that I will have in Russia, when I go to Moscow later in the week. So we're trying to get the North Koreans to realize that this is an opportunity that they shouldn't cast aside, but right now we don't have a particular date set for the resumption of the talks, so we'll have to follow it.

QUESTION: I want to ask a little bit about a philosophical question to you. I heard that you are a great expert in European affairs, and during the Cold War period, I think, in Europe there was NATO, a big alliance, and the Helsinki process, CSCE, and all sorts of things. And the focus of the security issue was the Soviet Union, how to mitigate the threat and how to include and engage the Soviet Union. That was the big purpose, and now the time has moved on, and U.S. diplomacy's big focus is coming to Asia, especially China, I would say. From your expert point of view, what's the difference between the Cold War period, the European situation, and the present Asian situation? You have an alliance, of course, with Japan and Korea and maybe some other countries, but not like a big network like the NATO system, and there's no Helsinki process or CSCE in Asia. So what kind of framework would you think to cope with the engagement of China?

CROUCH: I think - by the way, thank you for the compliment, but I'm not sure I would call myself an expert - but Europe is a region that I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about. It's dangerous to make comparisons, obviously, but this is a natural one. I think it's one that we've thought about a little bit. I think the Cold War world was much more stratified than the world we live in today. It was also more ideological, and obviously I think my president and other members of the government are very clear about the fact that we would like to see greater openness and a more democratic system develop in China. There's no question about that. At the same time, I think we have to recognize that the rise of China presents us not inevitably with a set of implacable threats but with opportunities and challenges that we, working together, can help to shape and focus in more positive directions.

Another difference, of course, is that you had very rigid and bilateral and defense-oriented security institutions in Europe. You had NATO and the Warsaw Pact. OSCE or CSCE back then, now OSCE, played an interesting bridging role between those two worlds, and I think clearly had the impact of loosening up the Soviet states, and in particular the Eastern European states. I think you have got a very different security architecture out here in the Asia-Pacific region. You really don't have multilateral defense organizations. They're more bilateral defense relationships. But you do have, I think - and this is one of the areas where we've placed most of our efforts - you do have some regional institutions that we participate in that I think can be helpful in engaging China. Obviously APEC is one, primarily where we've been very involved, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the like. And we'll continue, I think, to use those institutions and if necessary to develop new ones to try to engage China.

A third difference - and you can see that I'm developing the basis for a lecture here now on this subject - the third difference is really the mixed - there were two very clear and different economic models at work in the Warsaw Pact and the West. Here, China itself is now a mixed model within the country, and if anything, the future of China is tied much more, in economic terms, to a Western model, that is to say, the bright future. If there is a bright future in China itfs tied to moving in that direction. They have a ways to go to become a Western-style economic system, particularly throughout the entire country. But I think thatfs - in some senses - a hopeful thing, that at least there is quite a bit of - that the real success in China, from the economic standpoint, has really been based on an emulation, or at least a variation of Western economic thinking - not in opposition to Western economic thinking.

Thank you very much. It's been very nice meeting all of you.