Subject: Re: 22 February – foreign press pool
pool was ushered in to the Oval Office at 1:32 pm. President Obama and Prime Minister Abe were seated in front of the fireplace, which had no fire despite the chilly rain and sleet outside.
President Obama then Prime Minister Abe made opening remarks, then took a question each from the US and Japanese press. Remarks by both leaders were translated, except the president’s answer to the first question.
In opening remarks, Obama said that “the US-Japan alliance is the central foundation for our regional security and so much of what we do in the Pacific region.” He said the friendship is not only between governments, but also people, and noted that the prime minister and he studied in California at about the same time.
The president said they discussed in particular concerns about provocative actions taken by North Korea and “our determination to take strong actions in response.”
other multilateral issues discussed included Obama’s appreciation for support from Japan in Afghanistan, efforts to resolve the nuclear issue in Iran, and mutual condolences for loss of life around the BP plant in Algeria, and pledged that this “would spur greater counter-terrorism cooperation.”
Obama said that upcoming discussion at lunch would include their economies, and their number one priorities are increased growth and opportunities for jobs in both their countries. They will talk about “steps that we can take in our respective countries to encourage the kind of trade, expanded commerce and robust growth” leading to opportunities for the US and Japan.
Obama extended greetings to the people of Japan and concluded saying to the prime minister “rest assured you will have a strong partner in the United States throughout your tenure.”
PM Abe (through translation) said that Obama had covered the topics of their discussion. He added that they had a shared understanding of the direction of the alliance, and that the trust and bonds of the alliance are back.
He said that security in the Asia Pacific is becoming more and more difficult, and of the need to have freedom of the seas, and a region based on laws, not force. He said the two leaders agreed to act resolutely in dealing with North Korea.
Obama took a question on the sequester and outlined the problems it would cause and the need to avoid it. He said he would continue to converse with members of Congress this week and when they get back next week. He said the effect may not be directly overall job losses, but the unemployment rate would not go down as it should. As for world leaders, “unlike issues like the debt ceiling, the sequester will not threaten the world financial system.” On a follow up about a realistic sign for a deal, he said hope springs eternal.
PM Abe took a question about both North Korea and China. (through translation) He said it is important that Japan and the US not reward North Korea’s actions. The US and Japan will cooperate on a resolution with sanctions at the UN. They also discussed other sanctions, including financial sanctions, and will continue to cooperate. It is important to work with other countries, especially amongst Japan, US and South Korea about North Korea.
On the East China Sea, they agreed that the existence of the US-Japan alliance is a stabilizing factor contributing to the peace and stability of the region. They agreed to stay in consultation and will continue to coordinate based on the alliance. Abe said Japan will continue to deal with this issue in a calm manner, and it has always done so.
At the conclusion of the remarks, the process of ushering the pool out started, however there had been no photo of the two leaders shaking hands, which they then obliged. Pool left at 1:52.
Also present in the oval office on the Japanese side were Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, while those on the US side included Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Defense Secretary Carter, Asst. Sec. Defense Mark Lippert, NSA Tom Donilon, Deputy NSA Mike Froman, NSC Senior Director Daniel Russel, and Ambassador John Roos.
As background – Shinzo Abe is in his second turn as prime minister, taking office as PM on 26 December 2012. His second act as PM also marks a return to power by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had won control on 16 September 2009.
Abe first served as PM from 26 September 2006 to 26 September 2007. He was the youngest PM after world war two. During his first time as PM, he visited Washington & Camp David on April 26-27, 2007, including a joint presser at Camp David with President Bush.
tv asahi Washington bureau