Ambassador Thomas Schieffer Speaks to Okinawa Business Leaders

Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer
Remarks to Okinawa Association of Corporate Executives
Loisir Hotel Okinawa
Naha, Okinawa

February 13, 2006

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much. This is my second visit to Okinawa, and I have really enjoyed it. Yesterday I had a chance to go down to the aquarium and see it, and I want to compliment you. It is a world-class facility, and it is the most impressive aquarium that I have ever seen.

It is a great honor for me to be here today. The Okinawa Association of Corporate Executives is an important part of the Okinawa business community. Your strong voice has helped build a friendship between America and the Okinawan people.

The friendship between our two countries is unique in the world. Borne out of conflict, it has come to epitomize the power of freedom to transform bitter enemies into close, prosperous and powerful friends. Sixty years ago, few would have thought that the United States and Japan could enjoy the kind of relationship that we have today. It has come to be because both our societies share the same core values of freedom - values that give dignity and respect to the individual and hope and opportunity to the masses.

Friendship is never appreciated more than in a time of tragedy. Last summer, in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Japan came through for America. At the government, corporate, and individual level, Japanese reacted with extraordinary generosity to the plight of ordinary Americans caught up in the disaster. From the collection boxes on the streets, to a Japanese businessman walking into my office and donating $1 million, to every member of the Diet contributing to the relief effort, the Japanese people time and time again said that they wanted to help Americans. May I take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to the people of Okinawa and Japan for the compassion you showed America.

Let me turn now to the alliance that has grown out of our friendship. Never has it been stronger. It is emblematic of the close and personal friendship shared by our two leaders, President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi. Sons of fathers who fought on opposite sides in the war, these two world leaders know that the fate of each of us is inexorably tied to the success of our relationship. Their summit last November demonstrated once again that we are committed to a growing and evolving alliance that will serve the individual and mutual interests of each of our great countries.

For America, the alliance is the linchpin of our whole foreign policy in Asia. The American-Japanese alliance has provided for the security of both of our countries in the Pacific. That security, in turn, has allowed our economies to prosper without suffering again from the devastation of war.

Now we are engaged in talks designed to transform that 20th century alliance into one capable of meeting the security challenges of the 21st century. One of the great challenges we face will be adjusting to the world order that has emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the events of September 11th.

The economic rise of China and India present both challenge and opportunity. We must encourage both to be active contributors to the well being of the international order without endangering the peace and stability of their neighbors. At the same time, all of us - every member state of the international community - must guard against the threat of transnational terrorism. Civilization as we know it will cease to exist if terrorists are allowed to roam among us. All of us must come together to defeat terrorism, the bane of our time.

And yet our friendship and alliance extend far beyond security matters. Together, we are a formidable force for good in the world. Our two economies are far and away the largest. We produce more, earn more, and give away more than any two nations in history. But we are not just about money. We have responded to tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and disease with a compassion that relieves suffering and offers hope for a better day for victims caught in the midst of these natural tragedies. So too, do we support the institutions that bring democracy and freedom to the oppressed. Tyranny knows it has a formidable foe in the alliance of the United States and Japan.

Here in Okinawa, we often hear of the burden borne by Okinawans in the defense of both the United States and Japan. It is true that you bear a heavy burden for all of us. But at the same time, we hope you realize that all of us have burdens to bear when it comes to the defense of our countries and the peace of the world. Americans spend a little less than 4% of our gross domestic product on national defense. Japan spends less than 1%. In real dollars, Americans spend more than ten times as much on defense as the Japanese. Over the last four years, our defense spending has almost doubled while the Japanese spending in real dollars has actually declined. This increased American spending has produced greater capacity in our military forces, which in turn creates greater capability in the alliance between our two countries, and that translates into more security for Japan. American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines serve throughout Japan, and they do so with pride and honor for their country and yours. But as much as they enjoy living here and as lovely as Japan is, they would rather be with family and friends at home. And by the way, it would be cheaper for the United States taxpayer if that were possible. But that is not possible, because the risks of a dangerous world cannot be ignored. The presence of American troops here in Okinawa and the rest of Japan has made all the difference in the cause for peace. For sixty years, the peace of Japan has been preserved because potential enemies have known that they would face the full force and effect of American power if they made war on Japan. That peace and security has allowed Japan to build the second largest economy in the world, an economy that in turn has given the Japanese people an opportunity to regain the dignity and respect that they deserve in the international community.

The defense of Japan presents heavy burdens to the people of Okinawa. The defense of Japan presents heavy burdens to the rest of Japan. The defense of Japan presents heavy burdens to the United States. But Okinawans, Japanese, and Americans bear those burdens because they understand that they are essential to the defense of liberty in Japan, America, and the rest of the world. Peace is not inevitable. We must work at it every day, and each of us must do our part.

All that said, we are now engaged in talks with Japan that are designed to reduce the number of Americans stationed here without reducing their capability to respond to the security threats of the future. We listened to the people of Okinawa when they said they wanted to reduce the number of Marines based here. We have offered to move 7,000 Marines to Guam. We listened to the people of Okinawa when they said they wanted Futenma back to stimulate local development and reduce the possibility of future accidents. We have offered to move from Futenma on the day that a replacement facility can open. There are many other things that we can do together to reduce the burdens each of us bear, but to accomplish them, we must work together in an atmosphere of honesty and cooperation. We must be prepared to act upon and not just talk about what needs to be done. We must treat each other in a way that befits the friends and allies that we are.

Let me also add at this point that we want to be good neighbors in the communities where we live. The United States remains committed to a goal of zero tolerance for criminal acts performed by American service personnel. We are deeply saddened when an American violates the law. We pledge to you that we will cooperate in every way possible to bring any wrongdoer to justice. Each of us wants the United States to be well thought of and respected for the ideals and values we hold. None of us wants America to be dishonored or disgraced by individuals who violate the law. Americans are not here to prey upon the innocent; we are here to protect the innocent.

Finally, I want to look to the future of the Japanese American friendship and alliance. We want this friendship and this alliance to reflect the best that is in the soul of both of our peoples.

There is much that needs to be done in the world. Poverty and disease are still with us. War and pestilence still visit too many places. Together, we have built the two greatest economies in the world. Together, we have secured the peace of Asia. And together, we look to the future with hope.

The world and Okinawa are very different places than they were sixty years ago. And they are much better places, more democratic, more prosperous, and more free than ever before. That didn't just happen. It happened because men and women of courage and vision made it happen. Our task is to live up to their courage and their vision. If we do so, I am confident that an American ambassador sixty years from now will address a group like this and extol the virtues of our friendship and emphasize the contributions that that friendship has made to a better world.

Domo arigato gozaimashita.

QUESTION: Regarding the transformation of US forces in Japan, the United States and Japan agreed on Futenma relocation in October. There has been opposition to this from Governor Inamine, the mayor of Nago, surrounding towns and villages, and fishermen and fisheries cooperatives. Given the local opposition to the Camp Schwab plan, Mr. Ambassador, do you think it would be better to revise the agreement?

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: I think that what we did in October was to have a broad conceptual agreement as to what we would do, and that broad conceptual agreement was to have a facility built at Camp Schwab.

We are in the process now of negotiating the details of how that would be done. I think that if the people of Okinawa or the people of those local communities have suggestions to make that might improve the agreement, we have a duty to listen to them.

And I am hopeful that after the conclusion of those discussions, and that exchange of information, that we would be able to, in the details, reach an agreement that everyone could support.

QUESTION: Some are of the opinion that unless the Futenma relocation issue is resolved, there will not be progress on matters that will reduce Okinawa's burden, such as the return of bases south of Kadena and the reduction of 7,000 Marines. Mr. Ambassador, do you view these issues as a set that should be pursued in tandem and do you see a resolution to the Futenma question as a precondition?

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: I think it is a package that we are talking about, and I believe we are narrowing our differences. I had an opportunity to meet with Governor Inamine this morning before this meeting, and he told me that basically he felt that the DPRI agreement could be accepted pretty much as it is, with the exception of the Futenma question. And my response to that was that we ought to try to figure out how we could resolve the Futenma question so that we could have an agreement that everyone could accept. And I am hopeful that in these next few months that we will be able to do that.

QUESTION: Again, on the relocation of Futenma, you said earlier that you should listen. Does this mean that if there is a local plan, one that is better than the coastal plan, that you are ready to consider it? Or will America put forward its own proposal?

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: The negotiation is between the United States and the government of Japan, and we have reached a broad conceptual agreement on that negotiation. Having said that, I think we always should listen to people. If they can offer a better idea, then we should embrace it. And then, I don't think there is any harm in ever listening to people, but you have to listen to them sincerely and listen to them in the manner that they present their arguments. If those arguments are sincere, then I think that we have to listen to them. That doesn't mean that we will always agree at the end, but I think we have a duty as friends and allies to listen to one another and try to appreciate the point that each is trying to make. We want this agreement to work. And we want an agreement that will be able to be implemented. An agreement just for agreement's sake helps no one. But we think that these talks can produce something that will have a very positive effect on Okinawa, on Japan, and the United States. And that is the spirit in which we have entered these negotiations.

QUESTION: As you mentioned earlier, and as the Department of Defense has announced recently, China is becoming a threat. But at the same time, it is seeking a peaceful environment. In what areas do you view China as posing a threat? Also, what do you think about the state of Japan-China relations recently?

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: I don't think that we have said that we consider China a threat. I think what we have said is that we hope that China can be integrated into the international community in a peaceful way, so that it enhances the security and stability of the international community. At the same time, we are concerned with the military buildup that has occurred in China, and we want to be sure that that military buildup is not a threat to the United States, or to Japan, or to our allies.

With regard to relations between Japan and China, those are matters the Chinese and Japanese have to resolve. But having said that, we would point out the fact that we have a better relationship with China today than we probably ever have had in our history. At the same time, we have the best relationship with Japan that we have ever had. And our relationship with China did not come at the expense of our relationship with Japan. On the contrary, we believe that our good relationship with Japan enables us to have a good relationship with China. And while both China and Japan enjoy great relationships with the United States right now, I think that Japan and China are somewhat anxious when it comes to the relations that they have with each other. That's understandable given the fact that the whole international order is in the process of redefining itself. Japan and China each have to be comfortable with the new position that they are occupying in that redefined international order. Ifm quite hopeful they can resolve those differences, but obviously there's a lot of work to do right now.

QUESTION: The Japanese government is saying that there will not be major changes to the agreed-upon coastal plan. But listening to you today, Mr. Ambassador, I get the feeling that you are more flexible than the Japanese government regarding revisions. Is that correct? Some have called for Futenma to be relocated outside the prefecture. Is that something you would consider? Additionally, the previous mayor of Nago has said that a plan closer to the shore than the original offshore plan could be considered. Is this something you would consider?

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: I think what I have tried to say was that, conceptually, we have made a broad agreement with the government of Japan, and conceptually, that agreement includes a provision that Futenma would be relocated here within Okinawa Prefecture. I don't see that changing. All I am saying is, as we engage in the negotiations on the details of that conceptual agreement, I don't see any harm in listening to people to see if they have a better idea. At the end of the day, we may wind up exactly where we are right now. But at the end of the day, if somebody has a better idea, we should be willing to embrace it.

QUESTION: I think a lot of work is going on to try to wrap up the negotiations. What do you think are the chances that an agreement will be reached by the end of March?

AMBASSADOR SCHIEFFER: I think we will have a final report by the end of March. I think both sides are working very hard to do that. I think that negotiations are very difficult; if it were easy, we would have already done it. But I think both sides recognize that there is the opportunity to transform this alliance, and this is the moment to seize that opportunity. And because they realize that and because they are approaching it with seriousness, I am quite hopeful that we will be able to conclude the negotiations and get the final report in by the end of March.

Domo arigato gozaimashita.