Press Conference by the Press Secretary 20 November, 1998

  1. Summit Meeting between Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America
  2. Tone of the Summit Meeting
  3. Response of President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America to the Japanese economic package
  4. Discussion concerning a reduction in the consumption tax
  5. Discussion concerning the domestic political situation in Japan
  6. Discussion concerning North Korea
  7. Discussion concerning the theater missile defense and the Japanese multi-purpose satellite
  8. Discussion concerning the visit of President Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic of China to Japan

  1. Summit Meeting between Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: Without going into the whole detail of what was discussed at the Summit Meeting, let me very quickly try to go through what I see are the salient points in terms of impressions and then we will take it from there to respond to your questions. A sort of compromise formula.

    I think one important factor about this visit and the Meeting is that, as Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said at the press conference, in his opening remark, that the objective of reaffirming the importance of the Japan-United States relationship was very well achieved. And when we talk about the importance of the Japan-United States relationship, we mean it not just in a bilateral sense, but in the sense that our relationship or our partnership extends far beyond the bilateral horizons and, if you look at the topics that were discussed today, there was this shared recognition that there is a lot that Japan and the United States are doing together and can do together to contribute to the world economy as well as to peace and stability of the world. A very good indication of that is this announcement on the sort of cooperation in which we are engaged. It has such topics as our contributions, our joint cooperation to the Middle East peace process and Japan's contribution in terms of assistance to the Palestinians. There is also this reference to what we are doing to help the Central American countries both in terms of helping their dual objective of development and democracy -- what we call the "two d's" -- and also in terms of helping their rehabilitation efforts in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. Obviously, Central America is an area to which the United States attaches a great deal of importance. There has been this expectation on the part of the United States for Japan to help in that region and we are responding to that. Also, with respect to the economic scene, as was demonstrated by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting, we are working together in helping the Asian countries, the US-Japan Joint Initiative announced on 16 November being one example. For another thing, we are actively working together in terms of the efforts to strengthen the international financial system. I think there is a very strong realization that our relationship indeed goes far beyond the bilateral dimensions.

    With that I would also say that they met for about 85 minutes this afternoon, 45 minutes being devoted to the political and security issues and about 40 minutes devoted to economic issues. If I quickly go through the topics that were discussed -- under the political and security heading, the topics discussed were the Japan-United States political and security relationship, namely the security relationship and then quite a lot of time on the international situation, especially on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea, the Middle East including this aid to the Palestinians, United Nations reform -- that is the Security Council reform -- and also the Russian Federation. And, yes, importantly, President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America extended the invitation for Prime Minister Obuchi to make an official visit to the United States of America in -- I think the language he used was "probably in early May."

    On the economic discussion, the general theme was that it is more important than ever for Japan and the United States to work together to overcome the difficulties in the Asian economies as well in the world economy. In that context, there was this theme that Japan's economic recovery would be in the interest of economic recovery and stability in Asia and also in the world. In that context, they discussed the Japan-US Joint Initiative and such issues as the strengthening of the global financial system, the need for greater transparencies with respect to the flows of short-term capital, including hedge funds and the importance of disclosure. Prime Minister Obuchi talked about our decision to contribute US$1.25 billion to help the Federative Republic of Brazil, which also in some ways is a matter of considerable interest to the United States. And then you heard the President at the press conference, what he said about the Japanese economy. Prime Minister Obuchi explained the measures that he announced and the aim of the Obuchi Government to put our economy solidly back on the track to recovery within about two years through the series of measures. President Clinton's theme was, as I mentioned earlier, that Japan's economic recovery would also be important for Asian and world economic recovery. It is in that context that he expressed his appreciation for the Prime Minister's decision with respect to the revitalization of the financial market, including the infusion of public money. The theme on the part of President Clinton, as far as the US role was concerned, is that the United States is contributing to all this by keeping its market open. The message from the President was the message delivered in the course of that press conference that he appreciated the leadership taken by Prime Minister Obuchi and the United States is ready to help Japan for its economic recovery. That is a summary -- somewhat longer than I had intended.

  2. Tone of the Summit Meeting

    Q: What was the tone of the meeting, especially the economic side of things?

    Mr. Numata: Very friendly. Very friendly.

  3. Response of President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America to the Japanese economic package

    Q: When Mr. Obuchi explained the economic package to Mr. Clinton, what was Mr. Clinton's response? Did he have any criticism?

    Mr. Numata: He did not have any criticism about the economic package as such. He responded by saying, for example, that Prime Minister Obuchi has decided on an important set of measures with respect to the strengthening of the financial system and also with respect to stimulating the economy. When I talk about the package, I also include the financial legislation. President Clinton said that it was important to deal with this problem of bad debts or non-performing debts and it needs to be done without causing a credit crunch or credit contraction. It was in that context that he appreciated the courageous decision taken by Prime Minister Obuchi to infuse public money. The reference came in that context. He referred to the experience of the United States in the 1980s. He said one of the lessons from there is that once it starts moving, perhaps things start moving quickly. About stimulating the domestic economy, President Clinton referred to what he said in his Town Hall meeting or broadcast yesterday, which is that what is important to stimulate the economy and what is important to create jobs is to buy things. Perhaps that you can see as a piece of advice. With respect to his point that the United States is contributing to the Asian economies and the global economy through keeping its market open and so forth, he said that market opening and deregulation are important in the sense that they lead to greater employment. If you look at the American experience, such has been the case in areas like telecommunications and aviation. And in that sort of context, he also referred to some of the bilateral issues -- what we call the areas where we have agreements in place -- such as cars, flat glass, government procurement and insurance. He emphasized the importance of these agreements being implemented. He also said that the issue of steel is causing increasing difficulty. That was towards the end of the meeting and they really ran out of time for Prime Minister Obuchi to respond to each of the points mentioned by President Clinton. In wrapping up the economic part of the meeting, Prime Minister Obuchi said that he did appreciate the fact that President Clinton expressed his appreciation and expectation regarding Japan's economic policy including the package. It is certainly Prime Minister Obuchi's intention to continue to make the maximum effort to implement these measures. He mentioned that this emergency economic package is expected to have the effect of pushing up GDP by 2.3% and the revitalization of the Japanese economy would help push up the Asian economies and would also help expand Japanese imports from the United States. He emphasized that through this combination of efforts, the strengthening of our financial system and the fiscal measures, that is public spending, and the tax reductions, it is his firm intention, as I said before, to put the Japanese economy solidly back on the track to recovery within two years.

    Q: A few days back, right after the 24 trillion yen economic package was announced, the Japanese -- I think Kyodo News Service or some agency -- quoted a senior Treasury official as saying that this package will not be enough by itself to put the economy back on track. Was there any mention of that?

    Mr. Numata: Obviously not.

  4. Discussion concerning a reduction in the consumption tax

    Q: The second question is there has been a lot of interest in foreign financial markets about whether or not a consumption tax cut is going to be considered. Did Mr. Clinton ask about this or was there any mention of it?

    Mr. Numata: I do not think so. Incidentally, in the briefing to the Japanese press, somebody raised the question about whether this new coalition to be formed between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Liberal Party was mentioned in any way. The answer was no. That relates to your question.

    Q That was my last question.

    Mr. Numata: I had anticipated that.

  5. Discussion concerning the domestic political situation in Japan

    Q: Mr. Clinton did not express any interest in the domestic political situation, the coalition with the Liberals?

    Mr. Numata: Apparently not.

    Q: Usually at these kinds of bilateral summit meetings, do the participants avoid talking about the local political situation? It seems a bit surprising that they would talk about the smoke situation in Atsugi and not really go into the LDP --

    Mr. Numata: When these leaders meet, they can meet in a variety of formats. When they met in New York, they spent quite a bit of time in a sort of almost tLte-B-tLte setting. And they may have talked about political situations, but this time, the participants in the Meeting were, on the political security discussion, from our side, Prime Minister Obuchi, Minister of Finance Kiichi Miyazawa -- Minister Miyazawa was there in the sense that he obviously is the heaviest-weight Cabinet Minister -- Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka, Deputy Cabinet Secretary Mitsuhiro Uesugi, I am talking about politicians, and Ambassador Kunihiko Saito to the United States of America. On the part of the United States, Ambassador Thomas Foley was there. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger, I believe, was there. I have not got the details about the others, but in the economic part of the Meeting, there were in addition to Foreign Minister Koumura and Finance Minister Miyazawa, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Shoichi Nakagawa Minister of International Trade and Industry Kaoru Yosano, and Director Taichi Sakaiya of the Economic Planning Agency. On the American part, Secretary Daniel Glickman of the Department of Agriculture, Secretary William Daley of the Department of Commerce, US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Chairwoman Janet Yellen of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, and Deputy Secretary Lawrence Summers of the Department of the Treasury. I think they had their first encounter after Prime Minister Obuchi became prime minister, in New York, and they established a rapport at the tLte-B-tLte setting where it was appropriate. This time, as I said at the outset, to reaffirm the importance of the Japan-US relationship as it relates to many parts of the world, and that relates to the Asian economy and the world economy, and so forth. I think it was important for that message to be shared by the sort of influential members of the Cabinet on each side.

  6. Discussion concerning North Korea

    Q: I would like to ask about North Korea. Firstly, just how long did they spend discussing it? How high up on the agenda was it?

    Mr. Numata: I do not know how many minutes, but I think it did form a very substantial part of their discussion on the international situation. They discussed a number of items. Let me quickly run them down. It was in the context of the two leaders reaffirming the importance of continued consultation and coordination between Japan and the United States and also among Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea. President Clinton referred to the need for the concerned officials or experts of the three countries intensifying their consultation and coordination through exchange of information and also policy coordination. He also said that the United States would be willing to strengthen what we might call information exchange -- exchange of intelligence. Prime Minister Obuchi agreed with that. On the Agreed Framework, President Clinton said that the Agreed Framework has served us well in preventing North Korea's nuclear development and he is convinced that the policy reflected in the Agreed Framework has been, and is an appropriate policy. In was in that context that President Clinton said that he was glad that Prime Minister Obuchi decided to continue Japan's contribution to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). With respect to missiles, President Clinton said that in the US-North Korea consultations on missiles, there is no appreciable progress, but it was certainly the US Government's intention to continue these consultations and to prevent the testing and export or technology transfer, regarding missiles by North Korea. Prime Minister Obuchi referred to the sentiment on the part of the Japanese people with regard to the missile launch, but he said that Japan decided to resume its contribution to KEDO because we do feel that the Agreed Framework and the KEDO have indeed served, and do indeed serve a useful purpose in preventing North Korea's nuclear weapons development. They also discussed the underground facility. On that we had a briefing from the US officials yesterday. On that, President Clinton said that the North Koreans put forward some conditions regarding access to the suspected site which were unacceptable to the United States and which the US side naturally refused, but that the consultation will continue. Prime Minister Obuchi said that this question of the suspected underground site is an issue which could affect the Agreed Framework itself and we certainly would like to keep in very close contact with the United States on this. He expressed his appreciation for the fact that the US side very promptly briefed us on the outcome of the consultations in Pyongyang. They managed to discuss all of that.

    Q: Mr. Kartman's briefing, that was directly to Mr. Obuchi or through the Foreign Ministry?

    Mr. Numata: To our senior officials.

    Q: Was there any mention of the North Korean threat or the North Korean situation being any more tense than six months ago or during previous meetings? What was the perception of the North Korean threat at present? Was that mentioned?

    Mr. Numata: What I can say on that is that basically we share the same perception with the United States in the sense that North Korea does continue to pose very serious problems. I do not think there was any discussion as to whether it is more tense than ten days ago or if it is getting tenser every day and so forth. Just given the fact that all these items were discussed under the heading of North Korea, does indicate that we do have a lot of problems to look at and also to work together on. Incidently, President Clinton referred to the fact that former Secretary of Defense William Perry has been appointed as a special coordinator to examine the policy towards North Korea. He did not go into much further detail. I think the general thrust of the discussion was that we do have a number of serious problems with respect to North Korea. The Agreed Framework continues to serve us well, but there are such issues as the missile launch and the underground site. Given this situation, it is all the more important for us and the Government of the Republic of Korea to keep in close touch.

    Q: Could I ask you Mr. Numata, rather than what the two leaders discussed today, there was a report, I think it was in the Washington Post today that North Korea stepped up its production of missiles and was planning another test launch and whether the Japanese Government heard of that and how you view those reports?

    Mr. Numata: I think my guidance on that is that we are aware of reports. I am not in a position to comment on that with any more specificity. You must forgive me for the fact that I arrived back in Tokyo only at 6:30 yesterday morning. I was at the APEC Meeting. I was concentrating on APEC until the day before yesterday.

  7. Discussion concerning the theater missile defense and the Japanese multi-purpose satellite

    Q: Did they discuss either the theater missile defense (TMD) or the multi-purpose satellite?

    Mr. Numata: No, apparently not. The items discussed under the heading of the Japan-US security relationship were Okinawa, the Japan-US Defense Guidelines and this smoke in Atsugi -- were you aware of that -- and Okinawa -- the two leaders reaffirmed their intention to continue to work together for the steady implementation of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) Report, including the question of Futenma. Some reference was made to the fact that we have a new governor in Okinawa.

    Q: What kind of reference was that seen in?

    Mr. Numata: I do not know. I do not think that they went into the details of that. The Japan-US Defense Guidelines -- President Clinton expressed the hope that the related legislations will be enacted in the Diet to enable Japan and the United States to work together as partners. Prime Minister Obuchi said that we are working very hard for its early resolution, but no timetable was mentioned by either side. This Atsugi business is called Shinkanpo, I do not know what it stands for. Shinkanpo is apparently a sort of private firm which disposes of industrial wastes and there is some air emission which affects the family housing for US military personnel in Atsugi. They talked about this and both sides will continue to work towards the resolution of this.

  8. Discussion concerning the visit of President Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic of China to Japan

    Q: Did they mention China and Mr. Jiang's visit or expectations for that visit?

    Mr. Numata: I think they ran out of time for that. I think in the end I ended up giving you an almost blow by blow account.

    Related Information (President Jiang Zemin and Mrs. Wang's State Visit to Japan)

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