Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns - Interview with NHK-TV

U.S. Embassy
Tokyo, Japan
April 24, 2013

QUESTION: I'll start by asking on the U.S.-China relationship. It's very complex. First of all, how do you view the recent meetings by high officials - both government and military - between Chinese counterparts? And what is the goal of your next trip to Beijing?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: The relationship between the United States and China is enormously important to both of our countries, but also important, I think, to the region and the world. And we seek the healthiest possible relationship between us, especially as we deal with immediate challenges like the challenge posed by the provocative behavior of North Korea. So, we have a very rich agenda: Secretary Kerry, as you know, was just in Beijing; General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Beijing now; and we intend to deepen the dialogue that we have with China in the interests of not only regional but global peace and prosperity.

QUESTION: Were they very successful?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: The visit of Secretary Kerry was quite successful across the range of issues, and I look forward very much to following up the conversations that he had there.

QUESTION: How do you estimate, how do you view the ambition, territorial ambition of China? I was a little bit surprised when I saw the joint press conference the day before yesterday, held by the military leaders. The Chinese leader mentioned that they want to share the Pacific Ocean, and the atmosphere of the joint press conference was a little bit strained. Did you see the press conference, or did you read some transcription?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I didn't see the press conference, but all I would stress again is that we seek a healthy and constructive relationship with China - in the interests of not only our two countries, but of the entire world. And that's why we will continue to intensify our consultations, both between diplomats, military leaders, political leaders, and to try to deepen the connections between our two societies as well.

QUESTION: As you know, the relationship between Japan and China is not so good in recent days. Does it affect on the peace and stability in this area? What is your view?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: We firmly believe that a healthy relationship between Japan and China is very important, not only for those two countries, but for United States interests as well. And so we'll do all we can to encourage that.

QUESTION: We have some difficulties, some difficult issues between China. Does the U.S. take a position that you want us, both countries, not to take provocative actions? It's your country's opinion, right?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: For example, with regard to the Senkaku Islands, which have been very much in the news recently: as Secretary Kerry made clear recently, as former Secretary Clinton made clear before him, our policy is longstanding and it hasn't changed. We don't take a position with regard to the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, which, as you know, have been under the administration of the Government of Japan since 1972. We do, however, take a position with regard to how that issue should be approached. We call upon all parties to deal with this issue in an exclusively peaceful manner; to avoid actions which might risk miscalculations or risk rising tensions. It's very important to deal with this issue in a calm and constructive manner.

QUESTION: I have one thing that I'd like to make clear: Secretary Kerry mentioned in Tokyo the other day, he said, Secretary Kerry said that (reading a transcript) "the U.S. is opposed to any unilateral or coercive ..." - it's a difficult word for me - "action aimed at changing the status quo." What does "status quo" mean? What is the definition of the status quo in this case?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: As I said before, our position is a longstanding one, and it truly hasn't changed. We don't take a position with regard to the question of ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. But we do continue to call upon all the parties to deal with this issue in a calm and constructive manner - in an exclusively peaceful manner - and to avoid actions which can risk miscalculations or rising tensions. There's a great deal at stake here for all of us, not just for Japan and China, given the importance of this part of the world for the global economy. And so therefore, the United States will continue to adhere to that position and continue to urge that any differences on this issue be dealt with in a calm and constructive fashion.

QUESTION: With regard to the Senkaku issue, are you affirmative or negative about the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese Government?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: As I said before, our position really hasn't changed, and we do not take a position with regard to the ultimate sovereignty of those islands. We do, however - and I just want to stress this again - firmly believe that any differences have to be handled in an exclusively peaceful manner.

QUESTION: Okay, changing the subject to North Korea. Are you satisfied with Chinese engagement, commitment to the provocative action by the DPRK?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: China is obviously a very important player with regard to the question of the DPRK, its nuclear ambitions, its provocative behavior. The Chinese leadership has recently made clear its continuing commitment to denuclearization, a commitment that we share and that Japan shares. And we continue to believe that the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, through peaceful means, needs to be our collective objective, and that it's very important for all of us - the United States, China, and Japan, as well as our others partners, the Republic of Korea and Russia, in the Six-Party Talks - to insist that the DPRK adhere to its international obligations, specifically to the obligations it entered into in the September 2005 Joint Statement.

QUESTION: Still, the Six-Party .... the Six-Party Talks are still useful? Or, do you have any other idea, another framework?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: The United States has made clear our openness to an authentic and credible dialogue. But an authentic and credible dialogue has to be aimed at verifiable denuclearization, and it's very important for the DPRK to make clear, through its actions, its commitment to its international obligations.

QUESTION: Last of all, we of course welcome that the U.S. and China have a close relationship. And on the other hand, some people say in Japan, if the U.S. and China have outstanding position in this Asia-Pacific area, some people's concern is Japan might be left alone. How do you think about this opinion?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: First, the U.S.-Japanese alliance has been the cornerstone of regional peace and security and prosperity for many decades now. Japan remains one of the closest allies that the United States has, any place in the world. And the United States continues to attach a very, very high priority to our partnership and to our alliance, and as we deal with challenges ranging from the behavior of North Korea through the challenges of increasing economic growth for both of our countries and the potential offered by TPP, we're going to continue to work very hard to strengthen even further our alliance with Japan.

QUESTION: Do you have any requests for Japanese Government or the Japanese people, especially on the Japan-China relationship?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: No, as I said before, our very strong hope is that Japan and China can build the healthiest relationship possible. It's very important for the global economy; it's very important in dealing with immediate security challenges like that posed by the DPRK; and the United States will do everything we can to encourage that.

QUESTION: Some people said, this is good timing for China, because of the new president, Xi Jinping, it's a good time to have a responsible position in international issues, especially on Asia-Pacific peace and stability. What is your opinion?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: We look forward very much - President Obama has made this clear - to working with the new Chinese leadership, with President Xi Jinping, in the interests of both of our countries, and in the interest of global prosperity and peace. And so we're going to continue to work hard, not only in the visits which we just discussed, but in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which will take place later this summer, to look for ways in which we can strengthen that relationship.

QUESTION: OK, time's up. Thank you very much.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much.