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Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership: Session Three: Ensuring Stability in Northeast Asia

Panelists: Elizabeth C. Economy, C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow For Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Hitoshi Tanaka, Senior Fellow, Japan Center for International Exchange, and Gary Samore, Vice President and Director of Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Evans J.R. Revere, President, Korea Society
December 1, 2008
Council on Foreign Relations

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This session was part of the CFR Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership: An Agenda for Change, cosponsored with the Asahi Shimbun.

 

EVANS J. REVERE: I'm Evans Revere, the provider -- presider and provider of Session Three today. (Laughter.) I don't know what I'll be providing, but it's certainly not money after that earlier conversation. Just a reminder of some of the ground rules as we go forward over the next hour and 10 minutes or so. This is on the record -- this session is on the record. And please, if you have managed to turn on your cell phones or Blackberries, et cetera, during the break, please do turn them off -- completely off so that it won't interfere with the communications and the mikes during the course of the next few minutes or so.

It really is a pleasure to be on the podium with these good friends and colleagues. Richard, in his opening comments this morning, used the word "wisdom" at least a couple of times in referring to some of our initial speakers. And I have to say, looking down the panel here, there is a considerable array of wisdom on this panel and I am delighted to be able to address these important issues with these colleagues.

You have bios on everyone and so I won't go into the biographical background on the speakers today other than just a quick note. I think you know everyone. And, obviously, seated to my immediate left is Sheila Smith, who's -- speaking as a Japan hand myself -- a superb Japan hand, and her arrival at the Council on Foreign Relations has really done a heck of a lot to strengthen the firepower, so to speak, that the council has on this critical issue of U.S.-Japan relations and Japan studies.

And of course to her immediate left is Tanaka Hitoshi-san, a long-time Japanese diplomat, former deputy foreign minister, a person who, for several decades, was in the trenches on U.S.-Japan relations, Japan's relations with Asia, some of the critical issues that have faced Japanese foreign policymakers over the years, including, in particular, the North Korea issue, which is one of the issues that'll be on our agenda as we go forward this morning.

And then of course to his left is Liz Economy, also of the Council on Foreign Relations. If there's a China-related topic, I don't know anybody who's better capable of addressing China than Liz is. She is one of the world's leading China hands, an award-winning author, and the work that she has done on China's environmental crisis has certainly been ground-breaking and extremely important.

And back from an amazing adventure -- if that's the right word -- at the far end of the panel here is Gary Samore. We are really delighted, in every sense of the word, to have you with us here, Gary, after the experience that you've been through. And Gary of course is the vice president and director of studies here, and another person who is a veteran of nonproliferation issues, regional issues, and a whole range of concerns that I think will come up during the course of our discussions today.

And it seems to me that after dealing with the world economy and globe in the first and second sessions today, it's appropriate that we come back to the region that Japan lives in, and a region that is so critically important to United States security and economic interests, the region of course (being) Northeast Asia. And I think it goes without saying that if you look at this region, the U.S.-Japan relationship is a critical lynchpin of America's security posture in Northeast Asia, and of course beyond. It goes without saying that Japan is an indispensable country, not only in the sense of its importance to that security relationship, but also to the regional and world economy.

Japan is also a leading democracy and an example to the region and beyond of democratic capitalist development, and the relationship with Japan is important for all of those reasons -- the U.S. relationship with Japan -- but particularly because that relationship operates in this Northeast Asia region, one of the world's most dynamic regions, but a region that also contains four of the world's largest militaries -- if you include North Korea; four nuclear weapons states, including the United States as well, in the region; lingering historical rivalries among the various countries; and of course a serious territorial issue between and among some of the parties in the region.

So with all that as background, there is the potential for discord. There is certainly a massive agenda in terms of U.S.-Japan cooperation to deal with these and other issues. And I thought what I might do right at the outset is give Sheila a homework assignment that she needs to respond to right now. Imagine you get back to your office in a few minutes and on your voicemail is a phone call from the just-now-designated new secretary of State, and the message is that she has been tasked, and she's tasking you, to come up with a memo for the president of the United States that addresses an agenda for U.S.-Japan cooperation over the next four to five years. What do the two countries need to do? What are the hot issues, the hot topics in U.S.-Japan relations that relate to regional stability and getting the Northeast Asia region in order? What's on your short list -- three or four issues, right off the top of your head?

SHEILA A. SMITH: Very quickly -- thank you -- that's a huge task, but let me give you a couple of my highlights. I think the first thing I would want to do is suggest that the U.S.-Japan relationship needs a new narrative. I think it's time that we put aside the rhetoric of normalizing Japan, normalizing the alliance, and we begin instead to think of this partnership as a forward-looking and problem-solving partnership. So I think the first piece of advice I would give to our new secretary is to change the frame in which we look at this relationship.

That being said, Northeast Asia of course is where Japan resides, it's where our interests are focused, and therefore our alliance with Japan -- the U.S.-Japan alliance -- is central to our success in Northeast Asia. So the core statement she needs to make is to reassert the importance of this bilateral partnership.

Moving from there, I think there's a little bit of repair work perhaps that needs to be done, and this is very focused on North Korea and the six-party talks. I think she and the Obama administration will continue to focus on the six-party framework for dealing with peace and stability issues on the peninsula, but I think she would be best served to think of that as also a conversation to be had between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, that we need to shore up our coordination and our sense of confidence that the United States is working with our allies in the region as we go into the six-party framework, that we are all basically trying to be on the same page. So that's a second issue I would suggest that she very quickly sets her mind to.

The third issue I think is a little bit more difficult, but let me put it forward here, and that is on this question of Northeast Asian multilateralism, regional security -- or regionalism. We have, at the Council, had a project on Northeast Asian security architecture over the last year, which has been a kind of track to conversation, and Tanaka-san has been a part of that initiative. I would suggest to you here that perhaps this is something that needs to be discussed at some length. It needs to be discussed with our allies as well as with the Chinese in the region, to understand better what our visions are for a Northeast Asian security architecture.

But I would also suggest that the model that's being put forward today, which is a model of the six-party translating itself into a formal security mechanism is mistaken. It's not the right way to start the conversation on security architecture. I think the time is premature for that formal kind of institution. And perhaps -- and I just say this as a perhaps -- perhaps this institutional framework may not be the best way to serve the region's needs or our engagement with Northeast Asia. Instead, I would suggest that the secretary look to trilateral conversations to complement the six-party framework, trilateral conversations like the conversation with Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, but also the conversation with Tokyo and Beijing in Washington. That would be an initiative that I would suggest that you look at very carefully and talk to the Japanese and Chinese about an appropriate agenda for that conversation.

That being said, I think we do have to think about ways in which we can make the alliance work with us in trying to find ways to build more confidence in the region, to continue to make sure that the United States is at the forefront and engaged in that conversation about East Asia and Northeast Asia multilateralism.

REVERE: Can you do that in one page? (Laughter.)

SMITH: I'll try.

REVERE: That's -- I think we're off to a good start.

Tanaka-san, I want to pose a similar question to you but take it down to another level, keeping in mind the sort of prescriptive nature of the panel that we have here. What's on your list? Is it the same? Does it differ? What are your issues that you might want to put on a list for the Japanese prime minister? But then I want to pose another question to you in addition to that, and that is what is the capacity of the current alliance structure and the current dialogue channels to develop and refine and implement the sort of agenda that we're discussing here? And in particular, address, if you would, the question that came up a little bit earlier about the political system in Japan and whether it is capable of managing and showing initiative on the range of issues that we're discussing here today -- keeping in mind we're on the record. (Laughter.)

HITOSHI TANAKA: I wish I were the person to make a -- (inaudible) -- recommendation. I agree to almost all the things that -- I would like to see, at an earlier stage of the new administration, a kind of group of experts, policy experts, from both Japan and the United States, to talk about the future shape of East Asia, because clearly there is no shred of doubt in my mind that East Asia is going to be the focal point for the global governance because of the simple fact of the size of China, the size of India. But they have huge problems as well, so what we need to be doing is to reduce risks and to pledge more opportunity for us to be benefiting out of it. So I would like to recommend that, please secretary of State form a team of experts, policy experts, and jointly, between Japan and the United States, to make recommendations for future policy in relation to stability of East Asia. That's point number one.

Point number two, the question of the regional security mechanism, I would agree with you there is a need for us to think about inclusive mechanisms, but at the same time we should not forget about the kind of diversity we have in East Asia, therefore, that security architecture needs to be multilayer, functional security cooperation, on top of the strong bilateral alliance relationship between Japan and the United States. First comes the six-party talks. I agree again with you that it's a bit too premature for us to talk about permanent -- (inaudible) -- of the six-party talks because by doing it we forget the immediate objective of the six-party talks is denuclearization, and for that I would very much like to recommend to the U.S. government that the new U.S. government should start formulating a new approach to North Korea. The negotiation needs to be done, but the negotiation needs to be comprehensive. You should not forget about the efficacy of that approach.

North Korea does not consider peace negotiations. They all the time talk about a comprehensive picture. Therefore what the U.S. government needs to be doing is to have a comprehensive negotiation with North Korea. The same thing needs to be done on the part of Japan as well. We talk about the abduction issue, but the abduction issue cannot be resolved by dealing with just abductees. We need to have much comprehensive focus, much comprehensive scope of our negotiations.

And third, I think it is essential for the U.S. and for Japan to conduct negotiations under the direct authority of the president and prime minister. That is one of the essential things we need to be doing in relation to North Korea.

Now, second there is trilaterals, as you say. I would very much like to see the continuation and expansion of the existing trilateral framework such as Japan-Korea-United States, Japan-Australia-United States, and I would like to see the creation of new trilaterals: the United States, Japan and China. We need it for the purpose of confidence-building.

And third there is the inclusive multilateral security cooperation comprehensive security framework on non-traditional security issues such as disaster relief, the counter-proliferation of mass destruction weapons, the counterpiracy -- and there's a long list of non-traditional security issues. We need action-oriented cooperation. And I do think that East Asia summit is the right format for initiating such function-oriented non-traditional cooperation. And for that purpose I would like to recommend to the new secretary of State that the United States would join in East Asia summit.

Now, on the question of the Japanese political situation, I think the best contribution Japan could make to the region is to produce a strong and stable government. As Heizo Takenaka talked about, I personally think that there is a need for change, like the change in the United States. We shouldn't be talking about just reform, we should be talking about change, because all the environment is changing. Therefore we need to produce a solid government who -- (inaudible) -- working to create a change. And I think the -- I don't know, the political realignment might be needed. Restructuring of the political parties may be needed. But yet I think the final judgment will be done by both of them, and for that I would very much like to see elections sooner rather than later.

REVERE: Thank you -- two very thoughtful sets of comments there.

Both of you touched, among other things, on North Korea and I want to get back to that in a minute, but let me turn to Liz right now.

Liz, looking at the U.S.-Japan relationship from Beijing -- if you were to put your China-hand hat on here -- what are the key concerns as Beijing looks at U.S.-Japanese cooperation? What goes on in the corridors of power at Zhongnanhai as they look at the future of the U.S.-Japan relationship? What worries them about this cooperation, or, put another way, how does China look at the prospect of enhanced cooperation with both the United States and Japan at some point down the road? What's on China's agenda right now?

ELIZABETH C. ECONOMY: Well, picking up on what Sheila mentioned sort as her three or four points for what she would propose to Secretary of State Clinton, I think that Beijing would find little to be terribly concerned about and maybe would be most interested in this issue of the trilateral dialogue. And I thought it was interesting this morning -- I think you mentioned that Beijing was quite interested in pursuing something like this, and I would see that almost as a shift in Beijing's traditional way of doing business, which I think has been largely focused on trying to develop relations bilaterally and being more concerned about somehow being caught in a pincher move between the United States and Japan on a range of issues, because I think Beijing recognizes, you know, the United States and Japan have an alliance. We don't have an alliance with China and neither does Japan.

In many respects, Japan and China are in nascent stages, as the United States and China in terms of developing trust and confidence. I mean, if you look at the types of institutions that we've developed in the past few years in the United States to deal with China, like the strategic economic dialogue, you know, it's a terrific mechanism, but in terms of real output it's virtually none. So it's in nascent states, so we're still very much in a talking stage, and I think in many respects Japan and China are at the same level.

So I think the idea of a trilateral dialogue is a good one, and I think, as people have suggested, it will depend very much on the nature of the issues that are proposed to be part of that dialogue, and I think the non-traditional issues are the key ones to pursue, you know, whether you're talking about piracy or food safety or, to some extent climate change, although climate change I think begins to engage some pretty serious high politics now, and since it's already in the state of global negotiations, it becomes a little more complicated, I think. But I think that this is -- you know, this would be a very positive step -- move forward, but I think it would represent a pretty significant change in the way that China does business.

In terms of U.S.-Japan relations moving forward and strengthening and deepening, you know, I think the nice thing to say of course would be that, you know, China is fine and -- sort of what we say, right, that we want to see a very strong Japan-China relationship. I think China wants to see stability. Whether I think China wants to see the relationship strengthen, you know, I'm not certain that that's the case.

I think China wants to see its relationships develop. And I think it's concerned that Japan and the United States on key issues might find room to agree and to try to pressure China. And climate change even might be one of those issues.

So I think, you know, I think that there are concerns in Beijing. So I'll leave it at that.

REVERE: If I could just follow up on one thing that you mentioned and that is the Chinese perspective on a strengthened U.S.-Japan partnership. A lot of the work that has been done on U.S.-Japan relations in recent years between the two governments has involved strengthened security cooperation, defense transformation, restructuring of some of our base relationships, et cetera, there.

What is the Chinese comfort level, if you will, today with the U.S.-Japan's security partnership compared to, let's say, five or 10 years or so ago? Are the Japanese more comfortable, less comfortable?

ECONOMY: You mean the Chinese more or less comfortable.

REVERE: The Chinese, I'm sorry.

ECONOMY: I don't sense a significant difference between five years ago to now. I think the issue is, where does Japan go from here? I think it's more of a concern of Japan's evolution in its own defense policy and, you know, how it plays in with North Korea. You know, is North Korea going to take some kind of action that would precipitate Japan doing something more?

You know, I don't know. I think you would probably know better than I, frankly. But my sense is not a significant, you know, up tick in Chinese concern over the level of, quote, "coordination" now.

I think what's missing in all of this, of course, is a strong U.S.-China military-to-military discussion, right. And certainly that's not probably going to be part of any real trilateral dialogue in a significant way. But I think that issue of transparency, that bilateral transparency is missing. And somehow, it has to be put forth.

Although, again, on all these issues with China, you know, it's very easy, you know, from one panel to the next to talk about the need for cooperation and transparency in the relationship, but it's really quite difficult. And so, you know, I don't think we want to just leave it at we have to have greater cooperation because, frankly, cooperating with China is very difficult. Getting them to the table in many instances is very difficult.

And on this issue of military-to-military, I think it's not simply that we stopped the process, it's that the process wasn't yielding all that much to date. So I think we have to have an element of realism when we're thinking about how we can cooperate with China. It's going to be a long and painful, difficult process.

TANAKA: I have one thing to add.

REVERE: Please.

TANAKA: I think Chinese confidence level has risen tremendously. Three years ago, when I was dealing with the government, Chinese are talking about peaceful rise. They are not talking about peaceful rise any longer. They are much more -- for the past three years, they were defensive. But now, they are much more confident in claiming their views. And I think, in some sense, their confidence level in U.S.-Japan relationship has changed.

They are willingly, most probably, willingly sit for the trilateral mechanism between the United States, Japan and China because of the fact that the United States and Japan is an ally. (Inaudible.)

ECONOMY: Can I just say one thing?

REVERE: Please.

ECONOMY: I think the issue about why they're not talking about peaceful rise is different, though. They're not talking about peaceful rise because peaceful rise provoked a lot of consternation within China and the military about what peaceful rise might mean and also the idea of rise and how it translated. In reality, in Chinese, it provokes consternation in lots of different places. And so I think they stopped talking about peaceful rise and moved to peaceful development but for internal reasons.

I think, too -- and I was at a conference on global governance. It was in the China group with a number of pretty senior Chinese officials a few weeks back. And the thing that they kept stressing throughout the course of this conference is that they want to focus on their domestic situation. And right now, they are enormously concerned about the Chinese economy, about social unrest. They've got all sorts of, you know, ongoing public health and environmental crises they have to deal with.

And what they don't want is to have anymore burdens placed on them or anymore requests made of them. And they don't want to lead. They want to be responsible, but they're not interested, I don't think, and certainly not judging from this particular set of Chinese officials, in sort of stepping up to the plate and assuming a kind of leadership role.

So again, I would go back just to the point that in any trilateral dialogue, yes, I think their confidence is up. But I think, given the range of domestic problems they have now that they feel that they're facing and the social unrest that is rising now, not just because of corruption and social issues but because of the economic slowdown, I think it will be difficult maybe to get them to step up in a way that we might want them to.

REVERE: Let me, if I could, turn to one of the thorniest issues that all of the countries in Northeast Asia are facing, and that is dealing with the continuing challenge of North Korea and its possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

And Gary, I wanted to pose to you a couple of questions. And that is, it's fairly obvious that the management of the North Korea issue over the last several years has caused some differences between Washington and Tokyo. There is a sense of resentment in some quarters in Tokyo about the way that the abduction issue was handled and the removal of North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Tanaka-san mentioned the need for a more comprehensive approach in dealing with the North Korea issue. If you were writing your memo and you were defining this comprehensive approach, what are the key elements of that approach, particularly the elements that relate to U.S.-Japan cooperation and fixing the mistrust, if that's the word, or the lack of confidence that has been allowed to develop between Washington and Tokyo in the management of some aspects of North Korea policy?

GARY SAMORE: Well, I think there are two key elements, one easy and one hard. The easy one is to reassert U.S. commitment to achieving complete disarmament of North Korea. The Bush administration, in order to keep the six-party talks going, made a number of tactical concessions which I think has created doubt in East Asia, not only in Tokyo but also within Seoul and in Beijing, about whether the U.S. is really serious about persuading or forcing North Korea to give up all of its nuclear weapons.

So the first thing the Obama administration needs to do is a very forceful statement of policy that nuclear disarmament remains the ultimate U.S. objective, even though it's not going to be achieved anytime soon and, for example, make clear that the U.S. won't recognize fully normalized relations with North Korea until all of its nuclear weapons have been removed.

I think that kind of a forceful statement will go a certain way toward helping to strengthen cooperation and confidence in U.S. allies and what the U.S. is trying to do ultimately in the six-party talks, as I say, recognizing that's not going to be achieved right away.

The harder thing, although very desirable, is to try to put together a comprehensive approach. I think Mr. Tanaka is right. That's what we should seek to achieve. The obstacle we'll face in trying to do that is North Korea.

North Korea does not want to agree to a comprehensive approach. North Korea wants to deal in incremental steps where they take as small an action as possible in exchange for the highest possible payment in terms of fertilizer or heavy fuel oil or cash or other steps.

So I think it makes sense for us to try to seek to negotiate something with North Korea that would at least have the framework that would deal comprehensively not only with nuclear disarmament but with abductee and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, political normalization. All of that is desirable.

Maybe we can put together something that's more specific than what we currently have in place, but we have to recognize that the North Koreans are going to resist anything that is so comprehensive and so detailed that it commits them to giving up all of their bargaining chips. The most important one is their nuclear weapons which I think right now they're not prepared to abandon.

REVERE: Let me follow up because one of the things that was not on your list is something that, I think, poses a direct threat to Japan's security and the security of U.S. bases that are in Japan, and it's a topic that has basically disappeared off the agenda in the six-party talks, and that is missiles, medium and long-range ballistic missiles.

We've gone from a situation not that long ago in which we had a self-imposed missile moratorium to which the North Koreans committed and adhered to up until July of 2006 not to launch or flight test medium and long-range ballistic missiles. That moratorium is now defunct.

And so today, we have a dialogue with North Korea about all of these other issues, but missiles are not on the table. Let me ask Gary and then maybe Tanaka-san to weigh in on this and ask you whether you see this as a fruitful topic to be added to the agenda in a more comprehensive approach.

SAMORE: Well, I think it's fine to add it to the agenda. But the more things you add to the agenda, the more difficult it is to deal with all of these. And I think at the end of the day, from a security standpoint, getting rid of North Korea's fissile material and nuclear weapons and preventing them from producing additional fissile material, that has to be the core objective.

But I think, you know, obviously, you would want to include conventional forces and missiles and, you know, chemical weapons, and all of these things are somewhere in the mix. But I think the more you load on, the more difficult it is to make progress on the high priority, the central issues which are fundamentally nuclear.

If we actually did get rid of or limit substantially North Korea's nuclear weapons, then their missile force presents much less of a threat.

REVERE: Tanaka-san, a thought on that?

TANAKA: I would like to add one thing to what Gary Samore stated at the outset. I think it is extremely important for the new U.S. administration to (make the affirmation ?) of the objective, that is United States will not fully normalize its relationship with nuclear North Korea.

And we have the same policy. Japan has the same policy. Japan will not normalize its relationship with nuclear North Korea without resolving the question of abductees.

But at the same time, we must remember that the six-party talks is a process to force North Korea to come to that final strategic decision in exchange of all the guarantees they would like to have in terms of political, security and economic. And only when we arrive at that final stage there is going to be normalization between Japan and DPRK, between the United States and DPRK.

And along with it, I think there is a whole variety of things we need to be talking about with North Korea. And one issue is clearly missiles. The question is not dropping the question of missiles but when you deal with that important issue in the process.

REVERE: Well, we've drafted the memo, and now it's time for our audience to critique it, add, subtract, et cetera. And I would like to invite members of the audience to please pose their questions. Please, as earlier, if you would stand, wait for the microphone, stand, identify yourself, and please make your questions as concise as possible.

And there's a gentleman all the way in the back who is first on the list.

QUESTIONER: Dave Denoon from New York University. My question is for Sheila Smith. Sheila, would you elaborate more on where you think regionalism in Northeast Asia is going? Presumably, the Obama administration is going to be focusing, as the Bush administration did, on the Middle East first. Certainly the economic issues second. And this is going to be farther down on the list. So assuming that Northeast Asian regionalism is shaped more by the countries in the region, where do you think it will go?

SMITH: Thank you. I'm going to start by answering that last comment or elaborating a bit on what I think you were alluding to in your last sentence there. And I think it is important for Washington and for the next secretary and for the Obama administration to understand the context of a conversation on regionalism. And that context actually is placed in Northeast Asia.

I think most Americans don't really comprehend the extent to which Northeast Asians are hoping for successful regionalism. And that our ability to engage in that conversation with them, I think, is going to make or break our success in the region in the next couple of decades.

There's a political aspect to it, too, also in the Japanese context, I think. I mentioned this morning that this was a tough time, it was a test for the U.S.-Japan relationship.

I think we need to -- Washington, that is, and the next administration -- needs to demonstrate that we are willing to be a partner and a participant in the conversations, whether it's the East Asia summit, whether it's talking more about six-party and the extended trilateral surrounding it. But we need to be a participant. And we haven't been for some time. So I think there's a corrective needed there.

Looking forward, what would an Obama administration do? I think it's very hard for any of us to speak to that question. I think you're right. Foreign policy priorities will be very heavily focused, initially, on the Middle East. I do, though, anticipate that the Obama administration will make its understanding that American interests in the Asia Pacific are deep.

Our engagement needs to be consistent, and it needs to be forward looking. And the Obama administration intends that to be the case.

I think the conversation about what form of regionalism will be a conversation. And I think he'll find diversity among the many people going in or surrounding the Obama administration on what the best course of American action may be. Not everybody will agree with me in that prescription, for example. But there's a fairly robust conversation to be had.

And again, I agree that that conversation needs to be had with our partners in the region. It can't just be an American conversation. Too much of this, when we're sitting in Washington, devolves down into a conversation about how many times can the United States president travel to the region.

Now, I recognize those practicalities. The president can't go to the region every three months or every six months. However, I think the Clinton administration amply demonstrated that the president can go a lot if the president chooses to go or the secretary of State or other members of the Cabinet.

And I think it will be more demonstrated, I think, in this coming administration that we want to be at the table for some of these conversations.

REVERE: I think we had a question back there, and then we'll come down here.

QUESTIONER: Gerry Curtis, Columbia University. This is for Hitoshi. In this memo you prepared for the new secretary of State about the desirability of having a comprehensive approach to deal with North Korea, what in that memo should be said about the Japanese abductee issue? How does the U.S. walk this narrow line between not being by Japanese, or at least some in Japan, as betraying Japan on an issue that it considers to be in its vital national interest and, on the other, not letting American policy become hostage to the abductee issue? So should the new administration have a position on this abductee issue? Should it be part of its comprehensive approach to North Korea? And if so, what specifically would you recommend?

And a related question is, if Gary is right that the North Koreans are not really interested in a comprehensive approach, they want to have a piecemeal approach where they can get as much as possible out of each piece, then why is a comprehensive approach desirable? Or do you disagree with him about the North Korean view on a comprehensive approach?

TANAKA: Gerry -- (inaudible) -- question. (Laughter.) The question of abductees, I think it's a question Japan needs to resolve by themselves. I wouldn't expect the United States could resolve the issue on behalf of Japan. So probably the memo should say that the United States needs to help Japan to make a direct negotiation to resolve the question of abductees.

And I think Japan needs to be doing it. Japan needs to be doing it instead of saying please wait, please don't lift North Korea from the terrorist-support list. Japan needs to be doing some homework. And that is probably what Japan needs to be doing. That is point number one.

Point number two, comprehensive approach. Comprehensive objective of North Korea is what they would like to accomplish out of this to get rid of their own nuclear weapons, probably not. They'd like to retain it to the last moment, and they'd like to get as much as possible from the process in the form of political assurance, in the form of converting the current peace arrangement, permanent peace treaty, the normalization with the United States, normalizations with Japan and very substantive economic cooperation coming out of Japan.

Those are the comprehensive list of issues. And North Korea really wants to have that comprehensive gauge in exchange of the denuclearization on their part. So I do not think that North Korea doesn't want to assume this road of comprehensive negotiations.

But what I'm saying is in order for us to be able to achieve something out of this comprehensive negotiation, you'd have to rely upon direct authority from the head of the government. That is very, very iffy. If you are to negotiate with one of the foreign ministry officials, then I don't think we can achieve something meaningful. They really wish to take incremental approach.

Therefore, the point I was making earlier that why don't we have a direct, both Japan and the United States, negotiation and the authority of the (president ?) and the authority of the prime minister. That is the only way that perhaps to be able to have a great negotiation with North Korea.

REVERE: Right here.

QUESTIONER: (Name inaudible) -- Yale Law School. Thank you very much for the illuminating observations. Two weeks ago, I was at the Reischauer Center at Harvard. And they had a symposium on the revision of the Japanese constitution. And the panel there was made up mostly of American academicians from various northeastern universities. And I would say that the consensus of these academicians was that there would either be a revision of our Article 9 or a reinterpretation, reapplication of that. And I'd like to find out the reaction, primarily from Mr. Tanaka, but also from the other people on the panel because I think it affects what's going on in Northeast Asia. Thank you.

TANAKA: Our constitution, Japan hasn't changed it at all. But if you look at the United States, we have Germany, many countries, constitution is being revised depending upon the change of the external and internal situation. And it's very natural for Japan to think about adjusting its constitution to the needs of the day.

And the interpretation of Article 9, in particular the interpretation of collective self-defense was made in the time of Cold War, beginning of 1980s. And it has not adjusted to the need of the day. We have peacekeeping operations. The Japanese participation in peacekeeping operations is very much limited.

And we have the United Nations mandating the specific peace-preserving, peace-making operations. And I think that type of situation was not expected at the time of the interpretation of the Japanese constitution.

I have a strong belief that Japan needs to be discussing about the change of interpretation of collective self-defense in much broader way. So I would very much hope that this administration in Japan or next administration, possibly, would make the change of the interpretation of the constitution.

When you talk about change of the constitution, revision of the constitution itself, I think we need a much in-depth debate in Japan. That may not be likely to happen in a short period of time.

REVERE: Sheila, did you want to --

SMITH: I think there was a lot of attention paid during the Koizumi administration and then when Abe-san came into power about whether or not the revision of the constitution was imminent. And clearly, the two-thirds majority in the lower house, that electoral victory in 2005 that Mr. Koizumi won for the LDP raised for the first time the possibility that a constitutional revision could be on the agenda for the Diet and then subsequently for a national referendum.

I think that's receded somewhat. The possibility that that's going to be debated in Japan has receded because of the political situation. But the real question remains, why do you need constitutional revision? And I think the national security context here is pretty clear.

I don't have a position one way or the other. And I will watch the conversation in Japan very carefully, though. But I do think it has revolved around two kind of focal points in the Japanese conversation about use-of-force issues.

The first is the overseas deployment of the self-defense forces. And again, we saw that in the first Gulf War, moving out to peacekeeping operations. We saw the legislature, the Diet, tackle this question of, when can we allow self-defense forces to go abroad? (Koizumi-san ?), again, was presiding over the Japanese government at the moment of the Iraq (dispatch ?).

I think we do have now the United Nations conversation to think about. Japan will have other opportunities to think about when it wants to use its self-defense forces. And therefore, I think that interpretive question is going to continue to be at the forefront of the national security-policymaking agenda.

I think from the United States perspective, we don't have a position, or I don't have a position. I think we would want to see it being very thoroughly -- we would be watching to see the terms of the debate. And I think nobody yet understands how the Japanese public would respond to that conversation.

Until we have a national referendum, maybe none of us can really project how the Japanese public may feel about constitutional revision.

REVERE: A number of prominent Americans, though, have spoken out on this in recent years. Does it help or hurt the debate in Japan to have prominent Americans urging Japan to revise Article 9?

SMITH: (Inaudible.)

TANAKA: Well, I think there have been a significant number of people in the United States who talk about it, who sort of ask Japan to review the interpretation of Article 9, in particular in relation to collective security mechanism. And I hope that the United States would keep on saying it. I have no objections. (Laughter.)

SMITH: Can I just add one footnote about this? One of the things, I think, that I would be concerned about is watching this conversation take hold at a moment of crisis; in other words, when Japan is threatened, when there's instability, there's an immediate need for a use-of-force decision and the Japanese public feels, oh, it's our constitution that is getting in the way.

And I think that's why a rational, kind of very focused conversation internally inside Japan about the pros and cons of this, that just walks through the implications of constitutional revision or interpretives of a revision, I think many of us would like to see that happen.

TANAKA: On just the question of the U.N. operation. If we are to talk about, I would say, regional organization -- (inaudible) -- such as counterproliferation and mass destruction weapons, I think there is a need for much extensive Japanese -- (inaudible) -- force operations in East Asia. And clearly, we need to get more understanding on the part of countries in the region.

But at the same time -- at the same time -- we need a very serious debate in Japan about the future form of the Japanese security policy. And you cannot avoid the issue of the reinterpretation of the constitution.

REVERE: I think we had a question right here.

QUESTIONER: Brian Klein, I'm a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow in Tokyo. A quick, two-part question on the China side and China's stability. There are analysts that say China needs to have eight percent growth to maintain social stability there. The Chinese government saying they're expecting 10 percent growth next year, and you have very negative assessments of maybe five or six percent growth. Do any of the panelists feel that there actually is a magic number, or the threat of social stability is something that maybe can't be predicted but you can sort of get early warning signs? It's kind of one of those not-that-talked-about issue in the region, but it could be significant if social instability really takes hold, especially in the south with all the unemployment.

And the second part on stability, for North Korea, regime change or, you know, what happens after Kim? Are there issues revolving around whether there's a legacy issue that maybe Kim suddenly does, on his deathbed confession, wants a nuclear-free peninsula and is willing to give up, you know, everything under the sun to get it, that's just his departing wish? Or whether no matter what happens in the regime, whether you get a group of military and party leaders kind of arguing it out for a while, that the actual dialogue could continue no matter what happens?

REVERE: Liz.

ECONOMY: I'll take that. (Inaudible.) Yeah, I mean, I think the Chinese government actually has become more negative in the past several days about their estimates for their own growth. I mean, I've seen as low as about, you know, five percent for the first quarter. World Bank is somewhere, I think, around 7.5 percent. But you're right.

So there's always been this magic number of something like seven percent, eight percent growth, it sort of varies over time, that China needs to maintain in order to maintain social stability. It has everything to do with the number of people that it needs to bring into employment, job creation.

I think this goes -- I think, first of all, you can never predict when, you know, social instability is going to become a real problem. And it's a country with, let's call it, 100,000 protests a year and rising. What do protests mean? They can mean 2,000 cab drivers, they can mean 30,000 people protesting, you know, an environmental problem at some place. The question is, you know, is there a mechanism by which these protests become linked and you get real social instability? Or does the government continue to be effective at essentially putting out fires throughout the country?

So I think you can never know when you get a real grand-scale push for fundamental change of some sort that causes real instability in the country until it happens. You know, like, we should have seen it, right, you know.

So I think that's on the issue of social instability. I think the Chinese government is enormously concerned about it, though. And I think that's what we really need to know about. And if they're very concerned about it, then we're probably right to be at least focused on it to some extent.

I think the other thing that was raised before is, you know, government has this major stimulus package, but it's difficult to unpack the stimulus package, right. And so, you know, early criticism was that a lot of the money going into the stimulus package was not new money but old money simply repackaged.

Another criticism that has emerged is that it's targeted in the wrong way and, you know, what you really need to be doing, of course, is providing the social welfare net that's going to enable the Chinese people to become consumers in an era when you've got Japan, the United States and the EU not being as big consumers as they have been in the past. You need to have the domestic market in China make up for that.

Who knows? You know, what we see now is the Chinese -- so we don't know what that package is going to look like in reality, I don't think, what it's going to target. And I think that's going to have important ramifications for the level of stability, too.

You know, what we're seeing now, too, there are some immediate kind of measures, like requiring some provinces, for example, to be notified if a factory wants to fire, you know, a certain number of workers and then saying, you're not allowed to fire these workers. So I think that kind of top-down control is likely not to be particularly effective. But again, I think it speaks to the concern of the central leadership about this issue of social instability.

REVERE: Gary, a thought on North Korea?

SAMORE: Well, I'm skeptical that we really know enough about domestic politics in North Korea to make any confident predictions. But I've spoken to a lot of North Korean experts, not just in the U.S. but also in Asia, and I would say the consensus view is that even without Kim Jong-Il, even if he were to suddenly die without having someone from his own dynasty to take over, the system is strong enough, has enough roots in terms of the military, the internal security police, the party, the sort of ruling elite so that it's likely to continue, perhaps in some kind of collective leadership.

And my personal view is that any leadership that's made up of the elements of the current regime is likely to have a very similar attitude toward the nuclear program, which is that they see it as an essential component of their survival and security. They're prepared to accept limits, they're prepared to sell parts of the program in exchange for tangible benefits which they also need to survive, but that they wish to avoid a situation where they would have to actually give up everything.

REVERE: That's a good point.

SAMORE: And from my standpoint, I would say that, you know, we're not likely to see any internal change that will lead to a change in policy. Where you might see an internal change that could change the situation is if somehow there wasn't a smooth transition, there was fighting among these different groups and you could, you know, have a loss of central control. That's both good and bad.

The bad part is there will be a question about who controls the nuclear weapons and what options do we have to try to recover those nuclear weapons. I think that's actually quite limited. But one of the conversations we should be having, in particular with the Chinese and the South Koreans, maybe not in the same room, is, what options do we have available if we feel compelled to go in and try to secure those nuclear weapons in a situation of anarchy or loss of central control?

REVERE: Your point about the fundamental stability up north is a very good one. I think North Korea is remarkable, not for its unpredictability and instability but for its predictability and stability. So I think it's good to reinforce that point.

Nick, and then we'll come down. I think we had a question here. Let's go to Nick first -- the microphone.

QUESTIONER: Nick Bratt, Lazar. We had a couple of references to the desirability of the political realignment in Japan this morning. I wonder if you could tell us what the likelihood of that is and the timeframe.

REVERE: (Laughs.) I'm not going to touch that one.

TANAKA: I don't know. But according to the press reports, according to the analysis by political commentators, the next election is going to be very difficult election for the MVP. Very many people assume that next election will be very close, which does mean that there will be no sort of commanding party for the majority of the lower house seats.

Then if the country requires a strong political base for various imminent questions, such as financial, economic crisis, such as the question of East Asia, probably nation requires much strong political leadership.

That being said, there is going to be a political realignment in Japan as we assume that this (not the age ?) of ideological confrontation and the MVP and the Democratic Party of Japan, that maybe common grounds for various policy issues. Therefore, we cannot predict the eventual outcome. It could be grand coalition. It could be political realignment, realignment of political parties.

But our wish, and I think this is a wish of the people in Japan, is to create a stable government that produces not a prime minister who runs the country for one year but a prime minister who could rule the country for several years.

REVERE: We had a question right here.

QUESTIONER: Adam Segal, here at the Council. Sheila made mention of regional development or multilaterals as being driven by primarily what's happening in Northeast Asia. And earlier, we had a question about generational change. And we've had a pretty quiet period over the last, well, since the Olympics, of Japanese nationalism or Chinese nationalism, kind of how the publics view the relationships. I'm wondering if we can think a little bit about how attitudes in the region are towards each other. Right now, the government seems to be in front of those emotions. But many times, they tend to be the hostage to the emotion that they've created. So how do we think about this generational change in the range of the multilaterals?

SMITH: It's a great question, Adam. Thank you.

I think the public sensitivities are still there. I think if you sit in Tokyo, for example, particularly at the time -- I was sort of taken by the moment last spring when the Hu-Fukuda summit was done. I think most of us thought it was a terribly successful moment, the two governments had managed to put the bilateral relationship, the Sino-Japanese relationship, on a much firmer footing. They had repaired the damage of the Koizumi era.

But there was -- (tension?) -- you watched the press. And there are more nationalistic sentiments or whatever you want to call them of condemnation of the governments or kowtow diplomacy. So that element in Japan exists, and they're rather vociferous, and some of them are quite outspoken in the media.

I think the larger question about the public, though, is harder to read. Again, when you have real issues at stake, like Gyoza issue and food safety, you had a massive kind of public response to that. It has since kind of toned down, especially because the Chinese have responded to it. But I think it could flare up, and it just depends on the issue that gets raised or, you know, what the dynamics between the two governments really are.

I don't think these relationships can all be managed by governments, though. I do think we need to be looking at ways to enhance the connection and the conversation about this relationship at the broader level.

One little footnote. The Yomiuri-Gallup did a poll. And it does regular polling on Sino-Japanese attitudes towards each other. And I think it was last July, summer of last July this last year it was published. And Chinese attitudes towards Japan had improved significantly. The numbers had gone up. I think the warm feelings was something like 60 percentile. Anyway, it was considerably high, and I was quite taken aback.

The Japanese feelings toward the Chinese haven't moved at all. So you had a rather steady kind of -- do you have warm feelings towards the Chinese people at 30 percent mark. And it hadn't really moved, regardless of the summitry.

We also can't forget that the public antagonisms or sensitivities, whatever we want to call them, are also there in the Japan-Korea relationship, in the Korea-China relationship. So there's dynamics here, I think, that we all should be paying close attention to. When we think of diplomacy and multilateralism, they have to translate back into the domestic, political and the public domain. It has to be demonstrated to be successful.

TANAKA: But as she says for instance, this food poisoning issue, the question of environment, the Chinese -- the deterioration of the Chinese environment affects Japan directly. And this food poisoning issue as well. And I think there is a growing awareness on the part of the Japanese and on the part of the Chinese about common stakes.

And I probably think that among the younger generation there is a strong feeling of common stake not just always economic and political, environmental issues. That also in -- (inaudible) -- pop music or -- (inaudible).

I think there is going to be a kind of strong commonness to be emerging for Japan and China. And I think the key question, key words for this is the common stake which will, at the end of the day, create the regional mechanism. It's not probably -- it's a common stake.

ECONOMY: On the Chinese side, I think, as you know, Adam, the nationalism is there always. And I think increasingly it seems as though it takes less and less somehow to provoke it so that you could see even with the earthquake relief, right, where Japan, I think, did very well, and that might have been, in part, responsible for this spike in perceptions just given the timing, you know. That the Japanese were the first rescue forces allowed in, and they got a lot of very positive press. So I think that might have explained some of it.

But you can see that American companies and these other multinationals came under criticism, sort of virulent criticism on the Internet for not giving enough money to earthquake relief, that we make so much money from the Chinese from doing business there, et cetera, and yet we're not giving enough somehow. And obviously, the Tibet issue -- and I think the Internet has allowed this kind of nationalism to take on a life of its own that goes far beyond just demonstrations in Shanghai, you know, anti-Japanese demonstrations, but really to sort of encompass or to engage the country, you know, across the entire span of the country.

And I do think that the government has become increasingly sensitive to this issue of nationalism and to the need to try to stay out ahead of it. But I think it's very difficult, in the same way they can't control the Internet or stay out ahead of it and lots of other issues. I think this nationalism thing just can explode at almost any moment.

And to the point about the Hu-Fukuda summit, you know, in China, they had a very similar reaction, the press, when (Esther Young Ditcher ?) in a press briefing (that he did ?) talking about, how can you give away the resources of the East China Sea to the Japanese? Why should they be allowed to do this joint exploration with us? And you could watch the discussion there, and it was really incredible. I mean (Young Ditcher ?) was in a very defensive position discussing this set of issues.

So I think it's there in lots of different forms.

REVERE: The legacy of history and rivalries is very much with us.

Let me go over here, and then I'll go back over here.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Ishii, Embassy of Japan. Can I ask you to expand this cooperative memo a little bit? (Laughter.)

REVERE: I hope someone's taking notes.

QUESTIONER: Down to the south and up to the north, namely India and Russia. And what we are going to do with them will have some impact on security situation in Northeast Asia. That's the reason why they are among the top five agendas we've been discussing -- (inaudible).

I think, in terms of India, what we've been suggesting is the formation of another trilateral. It's getting a little bit too complicated, I think. So Japan, U.S., India to talk about the security of sea lanes of communications through India and Russia? Now that three countries have done twice joint naval exercises last year alone, I think there are potential for that. I just need to hear a little bit reaction to that.

And up in the north -- (inaudible) -- a suggestion has been to have a sort of sober, objective analysis of the intentions and capability, then to share that with Europeans so that we can come up with a set of policies we need to commonly pursue.

REVERE: Thoughts on that? Gary.

SAMORE: Well, I think that Russian -- I mean, as long as Russian policy seems to be driven by a desire to make life as difficult as possible for the United States -- (laughter) -- it's hard for the U.S. to be generous about looking for a way to help Russia recover its influence in East Asia. And as a matter of fact, the Russians, of all the six parties, they're probably the weakest in terms of not having a very strong position.

So I would say it is not likely to be very high on the list of American objectives to find ways to, you know, give the Russians more opportunities to participate in East Asian issues as long as the U.S. thinks that Russia will use those opportunities as new ways to make mischief and complicate life for the United States.

I also think that there's very little appetite in East Asia for a bigger Russian role. The Chinese see Russia as a rival, and they, you know, do not, you know, look kindly on great opportunities for the Russians to be involved.

Now the North Koreans, of course, like to have the Russians involved as a way to balance the Chinese. I mean, I won't speak for Japan, you know, or for South Korea, but I don't think there's a lot of appetite for finding new ways to bring the Russians into the politics of East Asia.

REVERE: The gentleman who had his hand up for a while in the back, in the middle.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Bob Lifton. Sheila promised me that you would answer this question in this session. (Laughter.)

SMITH: Oh, dear.

QUESTIONER: So I'm going to come back to it just as, I guess, the final question. If a Chinese representative were sitting up there and were talking about the issues that they have with the United States and with Japan, what would those issues be? And are they resolvable issues?

SMITH: Do you want me to take a stab first?

ECONOMY: Sure, then I'll take a stab.

SMITH: You go ahead.

ECONOMY: No, go ahead since you promised.

SMITH: I promised, on her behalf. (Laughter.) I promised her, exactly. I know better.

We were all sitting in Beijing not very long ago listening to the Chinese talk to us about their perspectives on not just North Korea but also on this regional architecture. And you know, it was interesting to me.

We had four meetings of this project that we've been doing. Evans (ph) was there. Gary was there. A number of us were there. And it started out last November in Tokyo. And there, you had a very clear Chinese statement about Taiwan and their concerns about the U.S.-Japan cooperation and what it would mean to their core interest of Taiwan. Very straightforward, very expected, you know, kind of statement. We went to four meetings in which that disappeared from the conversation, virtually.

And so in Beijing, they introduced the senior general who then brought it back. But what I was impressed with was the extent to which that conversation -- again, this track-two forum -- revealed that there was a certain amount of comfort among the Chinese -- and again, it may have been who we were speaking with -- about the stabilizing role of the bilateral alliance, the U.S.-Japan alliance.

On the other hand, they did not want to see, I think, us moving in a way that would push them or pressure them towards the kinds of issues that we obviously want to talk to them about, which is transparency, regional military balance, et cetera, et cetera.

So I think it's a very difficult conversation for us to move forward, the alliance and China. I think, as was pointed out earlier, the Chinese will draw very clear lines as to where they will go and where they will not go. But for a large part, I think there's a lot of room and scope there for us to talk about drafting an agenda where there is a constructive dialogue among the three countries.

TANAKA: (Inaudible) -- as she stated, I think Chinese priority, number one, number two, number three, domestic economy, to make sure that international situation is benign enough to enable Chinese peoples' economic growth at eight percent. By doing that, they can address the question of domestic disparity, income disparity -- (inaudible) -- and political unrest as well.

So as Sheila states and as I stated earlier, Chinese is getting more exposed to the international affairs. And we are all there to make sure that China will be a very active, constructive player in the regional and global affairs as well.

So I think this is a golden opportunity for us, for Japan and for the United States to make sure that China come in and to, you know, create something like trilaterals or the non-traditional security cooperation. And what we need is action -- (inaudible) -- we need action in the field of non-traditional security cooperation which China will benefit out of this disaster -- (inaudible). It's a significant opportunity we have.

REVERE: Liz.

ECONOMY: Sure. I think, you know, number one priority is for the United States not to meddle what China considers to be its sovereign affairs. So that's Tibet and Taiwan. And they're making progress in Taiwan with Ma Ying-jeou so, you know, they've had some very good meetings, and things seem to be moving forward, especially from the Chinese perspective, I think, not so much from in Taiwan from their perspective, but moving forward in a positive direction. So as long as we don't keep selling them more arms, which caused a little blip in our relationship, and we don't, you know, host the Dalai Lama, you know, or give him another Congressional Medal of Honor or something, which would cause another little blip in our relationship, I think that's the number one priority, though, not having us meddle in those sovereignty issues.

I think number two, not to beat a dead horse, is, again, just to put a lot of pressure on them, you know, on these issues of food safety or, you know, it could be trade barriers, it could be almost anything, or climate change, sort of across the full range of issues where we want China to move faster than it's moving, or intellectual property rights, whatever it is. I think they want us to take it primarily at face value that they're doing their best, that they are responsible, that they are taking steps domestically to be a responsible player globally.

And they can only move as fast as they can move, which will not be fast enough for us and, I would guess, not fast enough for the Japanese either. So I think that's going to continue to produce some tension in the relationship across the board. Because, I think, fundamentally, we have an agreement, right, to have stability in our bilateral relationship, let's call it, between the United States and China.

But if you look under the surface at almost any issue where actually we have a real conflict. You know, there's very little, frankly, where we have actual, as you say, you know, not only maybe a common goal set out far but actual common steps working toward something. You know, actual, concrete cooperation is not nearly strong enough to meet the kinds of challenges that are before us.

REVERE: That's going to have to be the last word. I want to thank our panelists for reminding us of how critically important Northeast Asia is, not only to America's national security but to stability in the Asia Pacific, in general. The issues are familiar, and an urgent one is a rising China, proliferation, et cetera. But the tremendous opportunities for cooperation are there as well, and those have also been discussed.

And I wonder if you could join me in thanking them for doing such a great job. (Applause.)

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