TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed Thursday to launch work on setting new common strategic goals as part of efforts to deepen the Japan-U.S. security alliance amid a challenging environment in the East Asia region.
During the talks at the State Department, the two foreign ministers also agreed that North Korea must cease its provocative actions and take concrete steps to abandon its nuclear program before dialogue with Washington can be held or the six-party talks on denuclearizing Pyongyang resumed.
Clinton said she and Maehara also agreed to hold the so-called two-plus-two meeting involving the defense and foreign ministers of both sides “in the coming months.”
“The United States and Japan will also enhance cooperation on the full range of global and strategic issues, from nuclear proliferation to maritime security, and from global economic recovery and growth to energy security and climate change,” she said in a statement.
But a Japanese official said that while the two countries will explore the appropriate timing for the meeting, it remains unclear whether it will take place ahead of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s trip to the United States slated for the spring.
On North Korea, while noting that dialogue between Pyongyang and Seoul should take place first, Maehara told a joint press conference after his talks with Clinton, “If North Korea takes concrete steps, there is no reason for us to reject the reopening of the six-party talks as China has proposed.”
Echoing his view, Clinton said, “We are determined to move forward, to end the provocative behavior, and to once again focus on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Maehara and Clinton also agreed that China needs to play an important role on the peninsula and to ask Beijing to do more to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff. The denuclearization talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been stalled since December 2008.
On bilateral relations, the two foreign ministers agreed to accelerate consultations on deepening the bilateral security alliance to pave the way for Kan’s U.S. visit to meet with President Barack Obama, when the two leaders are expected to release a joint statement on the matter.
On the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, Maehara and Clinton reaffirmed that Tokyo and Washington will continue to seek the transfer based on the May accord to move the U.S. base within the southern island prefecture.
Maehara also noted the need to reduce the base-hosting burden on the people of Okinawa, referring to the importance of gaining the understanding of local people, the Japanese official said.
Clinton said, “The United States is firmly committed to our alliance with Japan, and we continue to work on the full range of significant issues that are part of this bedrock security alliance, and of course Futenma is part of that.”
At the press conference, Maehara stressed close communication with Clinton, noting that he has met her four times since he became foreign minister about four months ago.
Among other issues, the two foreign ministers agreed to continue to cooperate on securing stable supplies of strategic materials such as rare earth minerals.
Maehara and Clinton also reaffirmed that Japan and the United States will proceed with talks on multilateral free trade schemes, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a U.S.-backed regional free trade agreement.
Clinton also called on Japan to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a global treaty on child custody, in light of growing complaints over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings a child to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent and denies the other parent access to the child.
Maehara told Clinton that the Japanese government will consider the matter seriously.
Following the meeting with Clinton, Maehara also held talks with Vice President Joe Biden and agreed on the importance of the bilateral security alliance.