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US & Japan: Joint Approach to South & Central Asia

Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs
Briefing and Press Conference
Tokyo, Japan
August 8, 2008

U.S. and Japan: A Joint Approach to South and Central Asia

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Nakai. I want to thank the press club for having me over. It's really quite a wonderful facility. It's good to be here to see you all. I'm making a brief stop in Japan, a 24-hour stop on my way back from the South Asian [Association for Regional Cooperation] meetings in Colombo. I cover the region that's South and Central Asia - so, it's India to Kazakhstan -- and I found that coordination with Japan has been a very important part of this, of what we do in this region. We do coordinate with Japan regularly at a lot of different levels. My bosses -- the President, obviously, was here for the G8 and had a lot of conversations on some of these topics with Japanese counterparts. The Secretary of State talks frequently with her Japanese counterpart, and other people at other levels. So, I think we have a very good and regular dialogue with Japan on issues involving South and Central Asia, and I think we also have a chance at my level and different expert levels to really coordinate policy in a very concrete way. And that, to me, makes a real contribution to what we both do.

I've managed to have some fairly detailed discussions at the Foreign Ministry and the Cabinet Secretary's Office, really trying to look at different things in the region, especially Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. So, let me make a few remarks about that at the beginning, and then I'd be glad to take your questions on anything you want to talk about.

In Pakistan, I think we're all interested in stability. We're all interested in the democratic opportunity there. We want to assist Pakistan in trying to develop its society but also develop and form the institutions of government so that they can get a hold of the terrorism problem. I was able to tell my Japanese counterparts about the meetings we had with Prime Minister Gillani in Washington about 10 days ago, and about the work that we're doing for development, and heard from the Japanese government about the work that they're doing for development and stability in Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, we're partners, again. We were partners in going to the Paris Conference with other countries and to commit to even more support for Afghanistan. Our job, I think, is a long one, because it's a country that very much needs development and needs developmental institutions. But it's one where, I think, certainly the United States and Japan, and I think other countries as well, recognize the need for stability, the need to end the problem of terrorism that has come from this part of the world, but also the need to open up a strategic opportunity for Afghanistan as the bridge between South and Central Asia.

Essentially, I think the focus that we have this year is extension of local government. When you look at what we're doing in Afghanistan, we've all worked hard through Bucharest and Paris and with the United Nations to do a better job of coordinating our resources and coordinating our efforts. But a lot of that is devoted to getting security, stability, government services, health care, economic opportunity out into the provincial and the local level in Afghanistan. And that's a process that's under way, and it's actually going fairly consistently, fairly smoothly, despite the Taliban's attempts to disrupt it. That is where Afghanistan is going to find stability. And in some ways, it's very similar to the task on the Pakistan side of the border, extending government throughout the country. It's going to bring us the kind of results we're all looking for. It's going to bring the people of Afghanistan and, on the other side, the people of Pakistan with a sense of safety and the sense of opportunity that they are looking for in their lives.

We also talked a lot about India. We talked about the India civil nuclear initiative that the United States has taken and how we're working with other governments now, first at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, where we were able to achieve consensus to move forward on the safeguards agreement. And now we're working and talking to other countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. And so as we approach a group meeting in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, we've tried to make sure that we listened to key countries, that we talked to key countries, and Japan is certainly one of them. So I was very pleased to be able to have a lot of very different discussions, both on the nonproliferation aspects of the agreement and the cooperation with India, where I think it is important to bring in India alongside the international nonproliferation effort. We also talked, though, about the bigger picture of our relationships with India and how those are improving and changing and how this agreement fits in that context, as well.

So we do understand that Japan is going to have questions and issues that they want to raise. We think those are important things to be discussed. But we also think that those issues and questions that can be raised do indeed have good answers, solid answers, because in the end this agreement contributes to nonproliferation. It contributes to clean energy for India's economic development, and it contributes to India's relationship with the rest of the world. So we think it's a good thing. We hope people will talk this through Nuclear Suppliers and reach consensus.

There are so many things going on in this region. I think we all found that the South Asia meeting in Colombo - not only the meetings in the hall but the meetings outside the hall...I was able to coordinate with my Japanese counterpart down there. We were all meeting with the Indians and the Pakistanis and the Afghans. It's a very active region right now. And that's basically good. So I welcome the cooperation with Japan. I think we, together, make an important contribution to peace and stability in this region, and I was glad to be able to spend some time with my Japanese counterparts in the last day.

I'll stop with that, and I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: First of all, let me ask just one question to begin the session. With regard to Afghanistan, Japan currently is supporting the refueling in the Indian Ocean, but on the ground of Afghanistan, what do you think about the possibility of sending the Self-Defense Forces to the ground in Afghanistan, which is being considered by the government of Japan? On the part of the government of the United States, how do you see the possible sending of the SDF from Japan to the ground of Afghanistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think that's a good question for the Japanese government. Ask them how they feel about possibly sending them. We have tried to make clear that there are a lot of important jobs to do in Afghanistan. We think that everybody who's making a contribution is helping a common cause, helping the safety and security for all of us. Whether it's a donation, a contribution announced in Paris, or the work that Japan is doing on the ring road, or other things that Japan is doing in Afghanistan -- these are all important contributions. As we look in the United States to increase our contribution, to further expand our efforts, we are also hoping that our allies and friends will look at that themselves. How each country goes about it and what they're able to do is a matter for them to decide within their own politics, within their own system. So the question specifically of sending Self-Defense Forces in some role or taking on other roles in Afghanistan, I think, has got to be one that first and foremost comes to the Japanese government for them to consider. But, as I said, we would welcome any additional roles that our allies and friends are willing to take on an Afghanistan, because we do think it's important to all of us.

QUESTION: Hello, Ambassador Boucher. Ken Moriyasu from Nikkei. I want to ask not necessarily about [the] Indian-Pakistani region, but I want to ask you as a senior State Department official about this discussion regarding Iran. We've heard statements from Bill Burns in the Senate saying that Iran is not as big a threat as portrayed in the media, and that the State Department is preparing to hand over to the next administration how to deal with Iran. But that seems very different from the more hawkish factions of the government. Could you tell me what the discussion is in the State Department and whether it is the consensus of the U.S. government to deal with Iran as Mr. Burns explained?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I guess I'd have to say that the discussion in the State Department is down the hall from me. I don't work directly on Iran, so I'm a little loath to try to take it on. We have, I think, made clear the need to be firm and clear in regard to Iran. I deal with the effects of Iran on Afghanistan. For example, when we are concerned about Iranian behavior it is because they seem to be doing so many contradictory things -- they seem to be supporting the government, funneling money to the opposition, even sending some arms shipments to the Taliban. You wonder what Iranian policy is sometimes when it comes to Afghanistan. They don't seem to have a clear policy unless it is trying to keep in touch with all sides and hedge their bets. So we're asking Iran to behave like a normal country and support the government, work with the people in an organized fashion the way we all do: coordinate through the United Nations, not have one group sending arms to the Taliban and another group saying they support the government. And I think, in a sense, that's what we're looking for throughout with Iran. There are still a lot of pieces of Iranian behavior that really bother us, and they should -- pursuit of nuclear weapons, the destabilization of the Middle East. These things are not consistent with international norms, and I think the international community needs to be clear on that. But as I said, at any given moment what to do about it, that's done at different levels and places in the Department.

QUESTION: Ambassador Boucher, I'm Sato Suzuki with TV-Asahi, former Washington bureau chief. Earlier this week, Japanese Foreign Minister Koumura went to New Delhi and held talks with his Indian counterpart and other Indian leaders. Mr. Koumura expressed his concern about the nuclear deal between the United States and India. He said he still hopes India will sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Now in terms of policy coordination between the United States and Japanese governments, does the United States share his concern as well as his hope? In the course of your negotiations with the Indian government, did they give you any assurance that they will not test nuclear weapons? And are you expecting Japan, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to agree to an exemption for India?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Let me try to start from the back. I think we certainly hope that all the members can come to consensus on allowing an exception for India. We've had many years of discussions with India, under not just this administration, but even the previous administration in the United States and the previous administration in India. And a lot of the progress was started with different governments - 10, 12 years ago. And you can read some of the books of the discussions in that period, as well as the statements of this period. I think it's clear, much as many people would like to see, many of us would like to see India join the Non-Proliferation Treaty or sign up to other international agreements, the fact is that India has rejected that for many, many years. In terms of the course of Indian policy, that's not going to happen, at least it's not going to happen soon.

So while we can always be hopeful, we can always state what our wishes are, the question we're dealing with now is what's the best way to get more convergence between what we do within the Non-Proliferation Treaty and what India does outside it. And that's why we decided to go ahead with this agreement, to find a practical way of moving forward with India, find a practical way of bringing a substantial part of India's nuclear program under safeguards, find a practical way of cooperating with India on nonproliferation matters, and find a practical way of providing clean energy for India's economic development. And that's how we came to these agreements. And so we have put in our statements in public the basis for this, and I think it's something we all want to move forward on. As I said, it's different; it's not the standard way, the standard text. It's not the standard membership in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It's not the way things have been done in the past. And so we understand there will be questions raised, there will be issues raised; people want to talk about this, and we're happy to do that. It's new for us. We went through this process, but the bottom line for us is that this is the way to get the cooperation that we all want. This is the way to get the support for the nonproliferation effort that we all want.

QUESTION: Did the United States specifically ask India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States has not ratified?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I'd have to go back farther into the discussions. That was certainly, I think, part of the discussion in the Clinton administration. I don't think it's really been a product of more recent discussions, because of the reaction of our Senate and others expressed about the treaty. But many others have [signed], and I think India has made very clear that's not in the cards. But again, let's talk about how to get real cooperation. India has a moratorium on nuclear testing. We've supported that, we've welcomed that, we've expressed our hope that it continues. We've done that in joint statements. We've done that in public testimony. That, to us, is a way of moving forward on the issue, on the substance of the issue.

QUESTION: Stuart Bix from Bloomberg News. There's talk, obviously intensifying, about possible impeachment for President Musharraf in Pakistan. To what extent do you think that an impeachment may hinder firstly U.S. and coalition efforts to combat terrorism in the region, but secondly the things that you talked about: developing institutions of government and extending domestic government within Pakistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think Pakistan faces a great many serious problems right now, and we've tried to make clear we think the focus is best placed on dealing with the real issues, with the issues of terrorism, the issues of food availability, the issues of energy and the economy. We've tried to help Pakistan deal with those issues. During the prime minister's visit, we talked a lot about cooperation against terrorism. We were able to announce $115 million of food and agricultural assistance. So we're trying to help Pakistan with some of the serious problems. The political issues in Islamabad -- that's a matter of internal politics in Pakistan, how the leaders deal with each other, how the parties deal with each other, what attitude the different parties and politicians take about President Musharraf. Anything that happens we would expect to be constitutional and according to the rule of law. But, as well, we want to see Pakistan deal with problems of safety and security and economics. And that's where I think a lot of our focus has to remain as the situation evolves. We'll watch it very closely, but we'll also push for real action and cooperation on these very serious issues and hope not to see the government distracted by going into other political areas.

QUESTION: Thank you sir, [inaudible]. I'm wondering, how do you describe the situation in Afghanistan now in terms of progress on the war on terror as you describe it? There are many reports in the Middle East saying that you cannot fight terrorism with an army, you need to fight it with different programs, and the war on terror has produced only more terrorism in the world. That's what they say. So, what's your opinion on this? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Well, I didn't talk about the army, did I? What I talked about was extending opportunity to the people of Afghanistan. What I talked about was giving them health care and education. There are 85,000 babies every year in Afghanistan who lived to the age of five because the government can now provide them with health care. In previous times under the Taliban and other governments, that would be 85,000 children who would have died. I think what we do is so families can see their babies grow up healthy, so families can see their babies educated, so families can get economic opportunity for new roads and electricity, and families can feel safe in their homes, feel safe in their daily activities. If we do that for the families and the people of Afghanistan, that's how we achieve stability.

And military action is part of that, but it's only one part of that. There are people who are determined to try to regain power and people who are determined to cause death and destruction, and we have to stop them. And that's why we do maintain significant military forces, and we're prepared - along with allies and friends - to undertake the military operations necessary. The Afghan army is becoming more capable of providing security around the country. A lot of our effort - a lot of our new money - goes into training the army, training the police.

The Taliban last year tried to take territory. They tried to take over towns, and they failed. So this year they've adopted different tactics, tactics of terrorism -- blowing things up, killing themselves and other people, putting bombs in the roads. So they are launching some of these attacks like the attack on the hotel or the attack on a prison in Kandahar. That makes people feel unsafe -- that's what terrorism does -- but I think if we can provide the people of Afghanistan what they need in terms of safety and security and opportunity, we can actually counter those tactics. We can actually stabilize the country. And what is going on this year is, we are going into new areas, the Afghan government is going into new areas, and I think we're bringing stability to new areas. I think our challenge is to do it in a coordinated fashion and to do it more comprehensively throughout the country. But I do think that fundamental aspect of expanding government is going ahead despite the terror of the Taliban.

QUESTION: My name is Ishii from Jiji Press. My question is about Sri Lanka, the government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). The peace accord has collapsed, and there is a lot of violence taking place, but with the international support not working too well in that country, the peace process in Sri Lanka. Is there anything that the international community can do? Do you have anything in mind?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: It's a very good question, and it's one of the pieces of my discussion that I didn't touch on in the opening statement, so I'm glad you asked. We coordinate very closely with Japan, and I think we do recognize how important it is to continue our efforts. I was able to talk to Mr. Yasushi Akashi, who is the Japanese representative on the Co-Chairs, and we coordinated our thoughts. I find we are remarkably similar in our thinking at this point. First is the emphasis on stability and development in Sri Lanka, trying to improve the respect for human rights, trying to improve the livelihood of people, particularly people in the east and the newly liberated areas of Sri Lanka.

Second is really an emphasis on the need to open political space between...well, open political space for the peace process to go forward. It's difficult to see it right now, because there is a lot of fighting going on, as you say, but we do think very much that the political system needs to open up a little bit. The Tamils need to be accorded their full rights in the system, and there needs to be...as well as other minorities like Muslims. And there needs to be a path opened to the political solutions, because we do believe that you can't end this problem, you can't solve this problem only by military means. There has to be some political arrangement in the end, and we need to open that path.

So we'll keep pushing in that direction. I'm confident we'll keep pushing together with Japan and Europe in that direction -- Norway, as the leader of the Co-Chairs. So we're keeping in close touch, but I do think the situation has gotten more difficult this year. But that doesn't stop our efforts.

QUESTION: Ina of Nikkei. Ambassador Boucher, I've been reading your résumé, but it says that you served under six secretaries of state as the Department of State spokesman or deputy spokesman, and I attended the press conference at Hosei by you under Secretary Baker. Of the six secretaries, who was the easiest to work for, and who was the most difficult to work for? And what were the characteristics? If you were a good spokesman, you would probably not try to avoid my question but will answer straightforwardly. Please. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Which one of your bosses do you like best? (Laughter) It's been a pleasure for me to be able to work for different secretaries of state. We're about to go through a transition in the United States, and I guess I'll end up working for another one. My rule has always been not to compare. I think everybody in some ways rises to the occasion and works on the issues of the time. As you remember, in the late 1980s, early 1990s, we had to deal with problems in Bosnia. We had to deal with problems in China. We had to deal with the fall of the Soviet Union. Those were historic times, and I think whether you were on my side of the camera or on your side of the camera or the pen, journalists and spokesmen found a lot of big issues to deal with. I'm kind of finding the same thing again since 9/11. We've had a lot of big issues to deal with.

So, as far as secretaries of state go, maybe some time after I'm retired and I can write a book, I'll think about [this] more, but for the moment I just think that these are very important leaders for our country and it's been a pleasure for me. I've learned a lot from each of them. I've appreciated the chance to go around the world and see different things, try to understand some of these big historical moments from the point of view of people who really do have to think about everything at once. And all I can express now, for the moment, is my admiration of each and every one of them.

QUESTION: My name is Konishi from Kyodo Press. The nuclear pact with India - I would like to ask you a question about this. For the NSG meeting, has the venue and the timing already been decided? And in order for this to go into effect, there has to be approval from the U.S. Congress? Is it possible for this to go into force before President Bush's term expires? These are the two questions.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: They are two good questions. I'm not sure I'm allowed to say it, am I? I think the chair of the meeting has to announce it, and I'm not sure it's been announced yet. Let's just say that the Nuclear Suppliers Group will get together during the month of August, later this month I would expect. We'll get together and begin our discussions. If we find easy agreement, maybe we can finish our discussions, but it may take another meeting after that to get together.

So as I said, there are a lot of serious issues. We recognize the issues and questions. We're trying to listen to other governments, like I've been listening in Japan to the kind of questions that are going to be raised, and try to answer those as best I can now, and we'll have a more complete discussion later this month with the other nuclear suppliers. It is a tight timetable. We are trying to get this done in the United States. We've been working on it for a couple of years now, since the original communiqué in July of 2005. So there's been a lot of work to do. We've had to look to the U.S. Congress first to consider and then look to the Indian Parliament to work through a number of issues in the Indian political system. It is an agreement between two democracies, and we have to respect each other's democracy. Now that India has told us they're ready to move forward, we're, I think, determined to move as far as we can, as quickly as we can. We are relying on the understanding of other partners in this effort. We asked for your expeditious consideration in the Atomic Energy Agency for India's safeguards agreement, and that happened. We're asking people to look closely and quickly in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to move expeditiously, and we hope that will happen, and then we'll go to the U.S. Congress, and we'll have to talk to them. It's difficult. They've established some procedures that it looks like they don't really have enough time for. They put in a 30-day clock, and they only have 18 days, 19 days of session. So we'll have to see what happens in the Congress, but if [we] can get it to the Congress, we'll be consulting closely with people on the Hill, people in the Congress, about how we can move forward at that time.

I think the one good thing is that the agreement got a lot of strong support from both parties when it first went to the Congress and they passed the Hyde Act, and that was very bipartisan. I think both presidential candidates voted for it, so there are Democrats and Republicans that support this. And so I'm hoping that when the moment comes, if we can get our work done with us and the Nuclear Suppliers, that our Congress will help to finish it. But I can't promise that will happen; I just have to keep trying.

QUESTION: Takita from Sankei Newspaper. U.S.-India nuclear pact, if this becomes successful, will it have an impact to open up an avenue with the relationship with Pakistan? According to some press reports, at the NSG most recently, even vis-à-vis Pakistan, who is objecting, the Americans said that they persuaded the Pakistanis by saying that in the future the U.S. will also approach Pakistan. But there is not political stability and there is still skepticism over nonproliferation, so what are the prospects on the part of the U.S. government in its relationship with Pakistan on this regard?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don't think it necessarily opens up an opportunity for Pakistan. That would depend a lot on Pakistan and what happens over the years. We designed this arrangement to be India-specific because of India's particular circumstances. India has a long and, I think, very solid record of nonproliferation, controlling exports, and of responsible international behavior in that regard. So it was considered as an arrangement that worked with regard to India, not as some kind of example or model for other countries, and that's the way we're pursuing it, with regard to India only. I think its pure speculation to talk about anything else, and it certainly wasn't designed for any other purpose.

QUESTION: My name is Iijima from Mainichi Newspaper. Now Central Asia is my question. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's summit meeting is to be held soon. So far, what do you think about the development and activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Council? And how does the United States intend to respond to those developments?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Thank you. We have had, I think, very useful and rather detailed discussions of Central Asia during my talks here today, and we've looked at some of the key issues for the region, where I think we very much agree: opening up new routes; opening up routes for energy and ideas and trade north-south down to the gulf through Pakistan and Afghanistan; looking at opportunities for investment, creating better investment environments; looking at some of the issues that are problems in the region, like water and the use of water and how outsiders -- like us or Japan or Europe, the Asian Development Bank and others -- could be helpful in helping them solve the problems that they have. So it's been very good, and I think we'll continue those discussions on Central Asia.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an organization for the countries of the region with some of the neighbors - we don't have any problem with that. We understand people are going to have different relationships, particularly with Russia and China, neighbors like Afghanistan and India. For us, the focus remains, however, on the countries of the region and what they want. How do they want to develop? How do they stabilize or how do they build their own independence and sovereignty? And so, as we've looked at Shanghai Cooperation, we've always seen it in that light. Shanghai Cooperation has made some, I think, important contributions on border security, on economic interchanges, on fighting terrorism and drugs. So, as long as that's the area where it continues to work, that's fine. We don't have any problem. We have other ways that we cooperate, but it's up to the countries of the region to decide how they want to cooperate.

We saw some political statements a few years ago that we didn't like very much, we thought were probably examples of big countries trying to push little countries around. We don't think that helped the countries of the region or contributed to their independence and sovereignty, so we complained. We made our views known to everybody involved, but it seems like they're more focused these days, more focused on economics and the borders and the terrorism problems. And we're glad to see Shanghai Cooperation making a contribution in that regard, and I hope that's what they do again, at their meeting soon.

QUESTION: My name is Ichihara of NHK. You mentioned reconstruction support for Afghanistan and that each country should decide on its own how they can make a contribution. In the Indian Ocean, refueling is being supported by Japan, but after the expiration, it becomes difficult to extend the activities after the expiration of the current Special Measures Law. What are the concerns on the part of the United States after the Special Measures Law expires, and have you approached the Japanese government on your visit today to extend the tenure of the support in the Indian Ocean for refueling?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I haven't come here specifically to talk about refueling. I've come here to talk about, first and foremost, what we are doing. We're stepping up our effort. We're stepping up our effort militarily in terms of our troops. We're stepping up our efforts to train and equip Afghan security forces, and particularly to look at the long-term support for Afghan security forces so that they can do their job. We're stepping up our efforts to help government expand into the provinces, to help governors do provincial development, to fight narcotics. Now that's the example that we hold to others. We're asking others to look at how they can do more, not less. So with regard to any specific aspect of this, as I said, it is up to the Japanese government to decide. But I think in the end, we think a stepped-up effort is needed across the board in all these areas. We have seen how to achieve progress in Afghanistan, but we're kind of seeing it in patches, in parts, or provinces, or districts, and we really have to expand the effort so we can do it comprehensively around the country and provide that web of government that helps provide people with what they need. I think I'll leave it at that and not try to take apart the pieces.

Thank you.

ENDS

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