Secretary Blinken With Yuki Morikawa of TV Asahi

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Yuki, newscaster at TV Asahi, and thank you for accepting our offer this time, and it is a great honor to have you in our program. How is your first trip in Japan as a —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. So good to be with you.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you so much. How is your first trip in Japan as the Secretary of State so far?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s been wonderful, and it’s so good to be back in Japan, in Tokyo. I’ve spent many, many days here before, and it’s wonderful to reconnect with colleagues in government, with our team at the United States embassy, and I wish we had more of an opportunity to get out and about, but just being here is a really good thing. And it’s very deliberate. This is my first overseas trip as Secretary of State, and we wanted to come to Japan along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to demonstrate in a very, very concrete way the value that we place, President Biden places, on the alliance between the United State and Japan.

QUESTION: That’s great. We have only 10 minutes and I have five to six questions to ask, so let’s get started.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Okay.

QUESTION: So yesterday —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good.

QUESTION: — 2+2 was held in Tokyo, and in that meeting the U.S. and Japan shared their concerns about, like, various issues, but obviously that was mainly about China. So here’s my question: What will be your demands to China at the meeting that’s coming on Thursday, and do you think you can push China to change its behavior in East and South China Sea?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, I think both the United States and Japan are very concerned because we’ve seen in recent years China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, including with regard to the Senkaku Islands, the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and that’s a concern to both of us and it’s also, I think, a concern to all of those who value peace and stability in this region. And of course, there are many other issues of real concern, including economic issues, including issues of human rights at home in China. And I think both of our countries as leading democracies really share that concern. So we spent some time talking about it.

But we’ll have an opportunity, as you alluded to, to meet directly with senior Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska at the end of the week. I’ll be going there along with my colleague, the American National Security Advisory Jake Sullivan. And that’s an opportunity for us to very directly, face to face, share with our Chinese counterparts the concerns that the United States has, that our allies and partners have about some of the things that China is doing. And I suspect it’ll be an opportunity for China to share whatever concerns it has about us. But it’s important that we have an opportunity to speak directly, to speak clearly, to speak openly, also to demonstrate to our counterparts that there is no difference between what we say in public and what we say in private. The concerns that we’ve expressed publicly are the same ones that we’ll be expressing to them in private.

QUESTION: Okay. What are the priorities in that meeting?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, the priority really is this opportunity to lay out clearly, openly, directly our concerns, how we see our own interests, our own priorities, and of course we’ll listen to our colleagues from Beijing. I suspect they want to do the same thing. And it’s just important to make sure we understand each other, and in particular that our Chinese counterparts understand the concerns that we have, understand why so many countries are increasingly worried about the actions that China is taking, again, whether it’s with regard to human rights at home or some of its aggressive actions in the region.

QUESTION: Okay. And Chinese foreign minister, Mr. Wang Yi, is asking to remove tariffs on trade. So how do you intend to halt this trade war?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, when it comes to trade, I think there are two important things. Of course, there are the questions of tariffs and of trade deficits, and these are important and we are looking at all of that. But even more important are some of the fundamental structural problems that China has not thus far addressed. For example, its support for state-owned enterprises, the subsidization, the technology transfer, the theft of intellectual property, and basically creating an uneven, unequal playing field that is tilted in China’s favor and against the interests of our workers and our businesses. And in particular, when it comes to emerging technologies and technologies of the future, some of the practices that China puts into play would give them an unfair advantage as well. So it’s going to be very important that China address these concerns, and again, these are concerns that are shared not just by the United States but by many other countries.

QUESTION: Okay. So about policy on North Korea, how different it will be from Trump administration?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re reviewing our North Korea policy, and we’re doing that with a lot of inputs with – from various experts, including people outside of government, former officials, but also, and critically, from our closest partners – from Japan and from South Korea – because their interests are deeply implicated in this as well. And we’re in the midst of that review. I imagine it’ll be completed in the weeks ahead, and then we’ll be able to move forward in close coordination with our partners to try to deal effectively with the challenge posed by North Korea, by its nuclear program, by its missile program, by its abuse of human rights, and of course, the tragedy of the abductees that will very much remain in our focus, and we’re in absolute solidarity with Japan and the people of Japan on that issue.

QUESTION: Could the military option be taken into consideration?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, what we’ll be looking at and what we are looking at in the course of this review are reviewing the different possibilities for pressure, also the different possibilities for diplomacy, and let’s see where we come out. We want to make sure that we finish this process, that we share our findings and our conclusions with our closest partners in Japan and South Korea, and then we’ll work on this together.

QUESTION: Okay. You said we work on it together, and about relationship with Japan. So a top-level meeting is set for April in Washington, and there are concerns in Japan that our country would enhance its military role. So would you ask Japan to beef up its self-defense force or to increase its share on the expense of U.S. troops in Japan?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, these are of course sovereign decisions for Japan to make, not for us to make. When it comes to our alliance, that of course has been a cornerstone for peace and stability in the region for decades, for generations, and a part of that – an important part of that alliance, of course, is the work that we do together to ensure our common defense. And we’ve – the United States has contributed significantly to that common defense, and we’ve benefited from the wonderful hospitality of Japan for many years as well as the host nation support. I’m very pleased that we were able to extend for one year the current agreement on host nation support and give us some time to work through a longer multiyear agreement that I’m confident we’ll reach in the months ahead.

The – unfortunately, security, freedom, democracy isn’t free. It does come with costs, and costs that we have to bear together in a fair and equitable way.

QUESTION: Okay. But what kind of costs we can pay as Japan?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I’m not – I’m not going to get into the details of conversations or discussions or negotiations. But I really do appreciate the fact that we’ve extended the current agreement for a year and I think we’re both engaged in a very good-faith effort to conclude a multiyear agreement in the months ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. The last question is, sorry, back to the Chinese question. Do you plan to impose new sanctions to China in response to Uyghurs and the Hong Kong issue?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’ll be looking at all of that and also making sure that we’re closely coordinated with allies and partners. One of the things that’s so important, I think, when it comes to the challenges posed by China – and again, this is a complex relationship and maybe the most consequential relationship for both of our countries, and it has adversarial aspects, it has competitive aspects, and it has cooperative aspects – but the common denominator in dealing with each aspect of the relationship with China is to approach it from a position of strength. And that strength starts with our alliances and partnerships. It’s a unique asset that we have and that China doesn’t have. It’s a real source of comparative advantage.

So however we deal with the challenges posed by China, the more we’re doing it together in a coordinated fashion, the more effective we’re going to be. That’s what my friend the Japanese foreign minister called the power of solidarity, and that’s what’s animating our approach to China.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much for your answers. Next time I hope we will meet at the studio, though. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: With pleasure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks for having me. Good to be with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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