PRESS BRIEFING BY AMBASSADOR WALTER MONDALE
McDonnell Douglas Plant Long Beach, California
11:50 A.M. PST
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, everybody. What I'd like to do -- I had promised you that we would try to stay ahead of the news today given the California time zone. So I've asked Ambassador Walter Mondale, who it is a special pleasure to have here as a guest briefer, to walk through and preview some of the President's interests in his meeting with Prime Minister Hashimoto this evening.
Ambassador Mondale, as everyone knows, has been very deeply involved in the preparations for the President's upcoming state visit to Japan in April. He can tell you a little bit about that, tell you a little bit about the Japanese perspective on Prime Minister Hashimoto's visit here. And then after Ambassador Mondale is done, Robert Bell from the NSC staff is here and we can do some questions if anyone has got any particular points on the C-17 issue. And I'll be here at the end, too.
But it's a great pleasure to start with the U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale.
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: Thank you very much. I thought what I'd do is give a brief overview as I see it of the meeting of -- today's meeting between President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto, and then I'll be glad to take any questions that you might have.
As you may know, there's a state visit scheduled for the 16th through the 18th of April in Tokyo. Mr. Hashimoto is the new Prime Minister of Japan, and shortly after he assumed office, he -- in my meeting with him he suggested that it might be good if he and the President could have a meeting before the state visit to get to know each other better and to help assure the success of that crucial state visit. And today's meeting is a result of that suggestion.
They will, of course, use this meeting to become better acquainted. While they have met this will be their first opportunity to really get to know each other, and it will be the first presence by Mr. Hashimoto as Prime Minister. They will be discussing, I'm sure, several general areas during that hour meeting, but, as you know, it will be only about an hour and it will not go into any issue, I suspect, very deeply.
One area of discussion will be on security matters. At the state visit there will a security declaration that will reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-Japan security relations. They will undoubtedly talk about Okinawa where we are in the process through a so-called special action committee to reduce the size of the American presence there while maintaining the present capacity and presence of forces. We will also try to reduce irritants such as noise and the rest. I think we'll get into that issue.
We will also perhaps discuss KEDO, which is the Korean Economic Development Organization, as you know. Under that agreement we are to supply fuel oil to North Korea and that agreement is now being implemented and it requires some $7 million a month cost. And the Japanese have agreed and announced yesterday that they would put up about $19 million to be used as collateral by KEDO to make certain that we don't miss any of the delivery dates on heavy fuel. That's an important and much appreciated step on the part of the Japanese.
They may discuss Taiwan. There are other possibilities.
The second area will be in the economic and trade arena. At the state visit there will be a general statement made about U.S.-Japan relations, and one of them will include the trade and the so-called framework. In that agreement we will surely reaffirm the framework, jointly agree to its implementation, and we will continue to seek progress in opening Japanese markets to the importation of American and other goods.
There may be some specific areas raised by semiconductors, film, civ-air and insurance, but this is not a negotiating session and I suspect that it will involve essentially the President expressing his concern for progress in those areas.
They will also discuss the so-called common agenda, which is a spectacularly successful area of U.S.-Japan cooperation which gets very little public support, regrettably; involves billions of dollars of joint efforts in such areas of education, science, health, AIDS, democratic development, antiterrorism, antinarcotics, and other efforts -- very important.
And finally, they may briefly discuss educational exchanges. As you know, this has been an area that I've worked on very hard to try to get more American high school and college students, teachers, administrators, artists and so on visiting and learning about Japan. We've been making progress on that; that may come up.
Just a few points about the overall relationship. I think it's in very good shape, although it always requires attention. One of the first things the new government did was to send Foreign Minister Ikeda to see our leaders, including the President, within days of assuming office.
The first visit by Prime Minister Hashimoto anywhere in the world is to the United States. I think this helps demonstrate the high and crucial importance that Japan places on our relationship, a view that we share with them. Mansfield used to like to say that the U.S.-Japan relationship is the most important in the world, bar none. And I think both of our nations agree to that, and I suspect that today's visit will be further evidence of the high importance that both nations place on sustaining this relationship.
I'll be glad to take questions.
Q Ambassador, how many prime ministers have been in office since President Clinton took --
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: There have been only five.
Q Only five?
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: Right.
Q Could you repeat the question?
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: The question was how many prime ministers since Mr. Clinton became President. Miyazawa, Hosakowa, Hata, Murayama, and now Hashimoto.
Q Is the President going to give the Prime Minister some kind of memento of the Prime Minister's interest in the martial arts --
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: I saw his talking points; I didn't see any mention of that.
Q Do you have a Japanese reaction to a Buchanan presidency?
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: Most of what he's been saying that has gotten in the news has been over the last three or four days, as it relates to Japan. So I have not talked to any Japanese about that, but I think it's fair to say they wouldn't like it.
You know, we have pressed Japan very hard on trade issues. I believe we've made a lot of progress. The current account deficit is coming down smartly. The trade -- bilateral trade deficit is starting to come down. Exports are now rising faster than imports. In the areas in which we've reached agreements -- and we have over 20 agreements now, the latest being auto and auto sector -- exports into Japan have been going up very dramatically.
I don't say we've got the problem licked. There is more progress that's needed. But there's been a very impressive, it seems to me, amount of progress. And the basic principle has been that America needs to keep an open international market, we've gained a lot in that; that protectionism would be self- defeating for our nation; but, at the same time, we have to insist on a equivalent opportunity and access to other people's markets. That's the approach we're taking to Japan. And we've been pressing them hard, but we've been trying to sustain a respectful relationship -- one that makes progress and one that permits us to do the other things that we have to do with that crucial area.
So while I cannot speak for what the Japanese want or do not want, I suspect that they would hear those comments with concern.
Q Could I ask -- perhaps I didn't hear, but when you were talking about the four areas that are still under consideration -- semiconductors, et cetera -- were you referring to the April meeting or this meeting in terms of either --
AMBASSADOR MONDALE: The question is, these four areas that are listed: extension of semiconductor agreement; the complaint that Kodak film has made about access to the Japanese market; resolving a difference that we have with them about what the insurance agreement means; and some progress on civilian air, particularly freight -- those will be mentioned at this meeting. But I don't expect more than simply the President saying that we need to make progress on all of them.
This is not a negotiating session. They wouldn't have time to do it if they wanted to. But it would be for the purpose of making it clear that we'd like to see more progress in these areas by the time of the April meeting, or each of these areas have separate schedules. But "progress" would be better way of putting it.
Thank you very much.
END 12:01 P.M. PST