Apr 16, 2021
Joe Biden, Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga Press Conference Transcript April 16
President Joe Biden held a joint press conference with Yoshihide Suga, the Prime Minister of Japan on April 16, 2021. Read the transcript of the full briefing remarks here.
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Speaker 2: (01:51)
Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and the prime minister of Japan.
Joe Biden: (02:15)
Well, good afternoon. The prime minister has brought the sun out, so he can do about anything. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for being here. It’s been my pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Suga to the White House. This is our first in-person meeting here. The first head of state that I’ve asked in my administration to come to the White House.
Joe Biden: (02:39)
Yoshi, thank you for making the long trip to Washington. We’ve already met several times virtually at a G7 meeting and a quad-leader summit, but I greatly appreciate the chance to spend time with you in person and to exchange our ideas face-to-face. There’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions. We are still taking COVID precautions, being careful, but our commitment to meet in person is indicative of the importance, the value we both place on this relationship between Japan and the United States, this partnership. We had very productive discussions today. When nations as close as ours get together, we always look for operations and opportunities to do more. And today was no exception. Yoshi, you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of me in the future.
Joe Biden: (03:36)
Today, Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US/Japanese Alliance, and for our shared security. We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea, to ensure a future of a free and open Indo- Pacific. Japan and the United States are too strong democracies in the region, and we’re committed. We’re committed to defending and advancing our shared values, including human rights and the rule of law. We’re going to work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century. We can deliver for our people in the face of a rapidly changing world.
Joe Biden: (04:29)
Today, we’re announcing a new competitive and reliance partnership core between Japan and the United States that will enhance our ability, enhance our ability to meet the pressing challenges of our time. Together meet those challenges. Top of our agenda is, of course, getting the pandemic under control and helping our friends and neighbors throughout the Indo-Pacific region to recover.
Joe Biden: (04:54)
Earlier this year, we together with India and Australia launched the landmark quad- vaccine partnership to expand the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and assist countries throughout the region with vaccination efforts. And we agreed to enhance our support for global vaccination efforts through the act accelerator and COVID facility.
Joe Biden: (05:21)
We’re also going to do more beyond this pandemic to advance longer-term goals for health security, reform of the World Health Organization, and establishing a new partnership, a new partnership on health security to build better preparedness for the next pandemic, because there will be others.
Joe Biden: (05:41)
Secondly, Japan and the United States are both deeply invested in innovation and looking to the future. That includes making sure we invest in and protect the technologies that will maintain and sharpen our competitive edge. Those technologies are governed by shared democratic norms that we both share. Norms set by democracies, not by autocracies. We’re going to work together across a range of fields from promoting secure, reliable 5G networks, to increasing our cooperation on supply chains for critical sectors like semiconductors, to driving joint research in areas like AI, genomics quantum computing, and much more. Thirdly, our nations are committed to taking aggressive action to meet the threats of climate change. Next week, I’ll be hosting the Climate Leader Summit, which Prime Minister Suga also plans to attend, thankfully, to rally key nations of the world to making ambitious climate commitments in the lead up to Glasgow’s summit later this year. Japan and United States are both committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and we know to do that will require setting and meeting our 2030 goals. We’ll work together to advance clean energy technologies and help nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, especially developing countries, develop renewable energies and decarbonize their economies.
Joe Biden: (07:22)
Finally, both Prime Minister Suga and I value the incredible partnership that exists not just between our governments, but between the Japanese people and the American people. Last month, we jointly marked the 10 year anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that cost so many lives in Japan. I visited the area shortly after it happened. In our private lunch, the prime minister and I talked about when I was vice president visiting the families in the region to show support of the United States. We continue to mourn the loss of all those folks and-
Joe Biden: (08:03)
… mourn the loss of all those folks and to honor the extraordinary joint effort between Japan and the American people in the wake of that tragedy to recover and to rebuild. Those personal bonds of friendship and connection, they are the ones are going to keep this alliance strong and vibrant for decades to come.
Joe Biden: (08:25)
I’m especially proud that today we agreed to resume what is called the Mansfield Fellowship Program to promote people-to-people connections between our countries. Before Mike Mansfield, who was a beloved ambassador to Japan, became ambassador, he was a mentor of mine when I came to the Senate, after my wife and daughter were killed. He helped me along in ways I can’t even explain, in the United States Senate. I’m proud that this legacy continues to be honored as part of the close enduring partnership between our nations.
Joe Biden: (09:05)
Yoshi, I know how proud you are, the people of Japan are, and you’ve got a Japanese boy coming over here, and guess what? He won the Masters. He won the Masters. He won the Green Jacket. Matsuyama was the first Japanese player to take home that Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament this week, so let me say congratulations to Japan as well on that feat.
Joe Biden: (09:32)
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for making the trip. I look forward to all that Japan and the United States will accomplish together in the coming years. It was a great honor having you as the first head of state in my administration. The floor is yours.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (09:47)
It is truly a pleasure to be here in person visiting Washington DC. I would like to thank President Biden and Vice President Harris who have welcomed me so warmly. I also wish to extend my gratitude to all the members of the US government who have worked to prepare for this occasion.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (10:16)
The United States is Japan’s best friend. Japan and the US are allies that share universal values such as freedom, democracy and human right. Our alliance has served its role as the foundation of peace and stability for the Indo-Pacific region and the world.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (11:02)
In light of the current regional situation and the severe security environment, the importance of our alliance has reached new heights. Based on such common recognition at today’s summit, we engaged in far-reaching and candid exchange of views on each others political principles, challenges faced in each of our nation, our common vision, and other matters.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (11:37)
President Biden and I reaffirmed the recognitions confirmed at the Japan/ US two-plus-two held last month and agreed to engage in initiatives for the region based on such recognitions. We also discussed the free and open Indo-Pacific. We agreed that while Japan and the US will take the lead to promote the vision through concrete efforts, we will also cooperate with other countries and regions including [crosstalk 00:12:06] Australia, and India.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (12:22)
We also had serious talks on China’s influence over the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific and the world at large. We agreed to oppose any attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China Seas and intimidation of others in the region. At the same time, we agreed on the necessity for each of us to engage in frank dialogue with China and, in so doing, to pursue stability of international relations while upholding universal values.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (13:38)
On North Korea, we confirmed our commitment to the CVID of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges and agreed to demand North Korea to fulfill its obligations under Security Council resolutions.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (13:39)
On the issue of abduction, we reaffirmed that it is a grave human rights issue and that our two countries will work together to seek immediate resolution by North Korea. In countering North Korea, and for the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, both of us recognize that tri-lateral cooperation including the ROK has never been as important as today and agreed to promote such collaboration.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (14:05)
Noting that the regional security environment has become increasingly severe, the deterrence and response capabilities of our alliance must be strengthened. I conveyed my resolve to reinforce Japan’s defense capabilities while President Biden, again, demonstrated America’s commitment to the defense of Japan including the application of Article Five of the Japan/US treaty of mutual cooperation and security for the [crosstalk 00:14:43] islands.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (14:43)
We also agreed to accelerate the review underway between our two countries on the specific means to strengthen our alliance. At the same time, from the perspective of mitigating the impact on local communities including, first and foremost, Okinawa, we agreed to promote the realignment of the US forces in Japan, including the relocation of Air Station Futema to Henoko, which is the only solution to avoid its permanent use.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (15:16)
In responding to the unprecedented crisis faced by the international communities, such as COVID-19 and climate change, Japan and the US are mutually indispensable partners. President Biden and I share the recognition that our two nations bear significant responsibilities to lead multi-lateral initiatives toward the resolution of such issues. In this context, we agree to respect international order based upon multilateralism and the rule of law while exercising joint leadership to build back better are global community.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (16:07)
… today we are releasing the Japan-US joint leader’s statement, Global partnership for a new era, which will serve as the guiding post for our alliance in the times ahead which strongly demonstrates our solidarity towards the realization of a free and open inter pacific. From the perspective of our two nations leading efforts to Build Back Better, President Biden and I agreed on the Japan-US core partnership and confirmed to promote cooperation in common priority areas including promotion of competitiveness and innovation in digital science and technology, COVID-19 counter measures, green growth and climate change.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (17:17)
From competitiveness and innovation under the recognition that digital economy and new technologies in particular will bring about social transformation and huge economic opportunities, we have agreed that Japan and the US will work together on the promotion of R&D in various areas. Including digital area and others regarding response to COVID-19, from short term responses to the longer term efforts including the preparations for future similar incidents we will work on the promotion of multi layered corporations. Regarding the overall supply of vaccines and the reinforcement of Japan-US public and private cooperation in the area of global health we confirmed that cooperation between our governments will continue. In order to ensure equitable access to vaccines, including access by developing countries, multi-lateral and regional cooperation will be promoted.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (18:25)
On the matter of climate change, at the upcoming Climate Summit to be hosted by the US next week, or at COP26, and beyond, it will be confirmed that Japan and the US will lead the global de-carbonization. In order to further strengthen cooperation in areas such as the implementation of the press agreement, clean emission technologies, or de-carbonization transition of developing countries, I agreed with President Biden that to launch climate partnership on ambition de-carbonization and clean energy. Under these initiatives, I wish to give impetus to concrete and a comprehensive Japan-US cooperation
PM Yoshihide Suga: (19:14)
I discussed the increase in discrimination or violence against Asian people across the US with President Biden. And agreed that discrimination by race cannot be permitted in any societies. We agreed on this regard. President Biden’s comment that discrimination and violence cannot be allowed and that he firmly opposes was extremely encouraging for me and I have renewed my confidence in American democracy once again.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (19:37)
I told the President about my determination to realize the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games this summer as a symbol of the global unity. President Biden, once again, expressed his support for this determination. Japan is listening to and learning from WHO and experts by doing everything possible to contain infection and to realize safe and secure games from scientific and objective perspectives. We will do our utmost in our preparation.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (20:37)
Freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law. As we firmly defend and uphold these universal values that Japan and the US share, I look forward to the actual implementation of outcomes of today’s significant meeting. And to realize a free and open indo-pacific by further collaboration and deeper cooperation with Joe. I once again express my heartfelt gratitude for the kind invitation. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (21:19)
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Now we’ll each take a few questions and I’ll begin by recognizing the Associated Press. Amir, you have the first question. There you are.
Amir Vahdat: (21:32)
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. President, in your last press conference you said successful presidents prioritize, and that you were focusing your agenda on one thing at a time. And I’d like to just ask you, what would you say to many of Americans who voted for you about the legislative progress on gun control and police reform having to wait while we pursue infrastructure? Given that we continue to see these incidents with mass shootings and also police involved shootings, including the incident that a lot of us saw in Chicago most recently. Do you feel any need to reprioritize your agenda?
Joe Biden: (22:13)
I’ve never not prioritized this. No one has worked harder to deal with the violence used by individuals using weapons than I have. I’m the only one ever to have passed an assault weapons ban. I’m the only one that ever got a 10 year ban on assault weapons and clips of more than 10 bullets. Immediately upon us becoming in office having an Attorney General, I asked him to put together the things I could do by Executive Order, including dealing with new guns that can be made, you can buy in pieces and put together, and other initiatives.
Joe Biden: (22:45)
I strongly support the universal background checks, which I continue to push. The Congress has to step up and act. The Senate has to act. And I strongly support and continue, I’ve never stopped supporting, the ban on assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.
Joe Biden: (23:06)
It doesn’t mean that I can’t also be working at the same time on the economy and on COVID. But it’s not a question of my being able to set the agenda in the Senate as to what they will move to first. And so I continue and I strongly, strongly urge my Republican friends in the Congress who refused to bring up the House-passed bill, to bring it up now. This has to end, it’s a national embarrassment.
Joe Biden: (23:34)
It is a national embarrassment what’s going on. And it’s not only these mass shootings that are occurring every single day. Every single day there’s a mass shooting in the United States if you count all those who are killed out on the streets of our cities and our rural areas. It’s a national embarrassment and must come to an end. And one last thing, the folks who own weapons, the folks who own guns, they support universal background checks-
Joe Biden: (24:03)
… The folks who own guns, they support universal background checks. The majority of them think we should not be selling assault weapons. Who in God’s name needs a weapon that can hold 100 rounds or 40 rounds or 20 rounds? It’s just wrong. And I’m not going to give up until it’s done. You have a question you want to offer, or not a question. Recognize someone, Mr. Prime Minister?
PM Yoshihide Suga: (24:35)
Speaker 3: (24:36)
[Japanese 00:24:36] [crosstalk 00:24:34] newspaper. Thank you very much. My name is [crosstalk 00:25:09] of [crosstalk 00:25:09] newspaper. At the summit, I believe that China policy was one of the central agenda items, so my question is on China policy. Both governments consider that peace and stability of Taiwan is of great importance, and that had been the agreement between the two countries. What kind of exchange of views were conducted on this matter at today’s meeting? In order to deter contingency in the straits, what can Japan do? And what can Japan do when actually contingency occurs in the Taiwan straits? Did the Prime Minister explain to President Biden what Japan can do under such circumstances?
Speaker 3: (25:08)
And also, what are discussions on Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region human rights issue? Great concern is shared by the two countries, but Japan is the only G7 country that has not imposed sanctions on China. Were you able to gain President Biden’s understanding towards such position?
PM Yoshihide Suga: (25:41)
As we engaged in exchange of views over the recent situation, we also discussed the circumstances in Taiwan and Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region as well. I refrain from mentioning details, since it pertains to diplomatic exchanges. But there is already an agreed recognition over the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan straits between Taiwan and the United States, which was reaffirmed on this occasion. I also explained Japan’s position and initiatives regarding the situation in Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region to the President, who I think understood my points.
Joe Biden: (26:39)
Next question goes to Trevor, Reuters.
Thank you. Mr. President, it’s been a while since we’ve heard an update from you on how the talks are going with Iran. How are they going? And do you regard their decision to enrich to 60% as a step backwards, as a sign that they aren’t serious about those negotiations? And for the Prime Minister, just a question on whether it’s irresponsible to move forward with the Olympics when you have public health experts telling you that Japan is not ready to do so. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (27:20)
Let me respond to the Iran question. We do not support and do not think it’s at all helpful that Iran is saying it’s going to move to enrich to 60%. It is contrary to the agreement. We are though, nonetheless pleased Iran is continued to agree to engage in discussions, in direct discussions with us and with our partners on how we move forward and what is needed to allow us to move back into the JOPCA, so that we’re part of it again, that we should’ve never gotten out of in my view, without us making concessions that we’re just not willing to make. So the discussions are underway. I think it’s premature to make a judgment as to what the outcome will be, but we’re still talking.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (28:22)
[Japanese 00:28:22] If I may, I invite [inaudible 00:28:27] of Kyoto News.
Speaker 4: (28:29)
Yes, I have a question to Prime Minister Suga regarding the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics planned for this summer. You have garnered supported from President Biden. Did the President mention about the concrete promise to sent American athletes or any positive comments? If you can tell us about the exchanges and conversations during the meeting about the COVID-19 vaccines or about climate change that you have discussed these aspects about the schedule of providing vaccines, over 2030, the reduction target of the [inaudible 00:29:08]. Any numerical targets or actions were discussed, please?
PM Yoshihide Suga: (29:25)
As was mentioned at the beginning, I expressed my determination to realize the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympic games, as a symbol of global unity this summer, and President Biden once again expressed his support. Japan will continue careful and full preparation in order to realize the Tokyo games this summer in order to ensure equitable access to vaccines for COVID-19, but we also affirmed that Japan and the US will continue our cooperation. Regarding the climate change, this is a matter that both President Biden and I emphasize. So during the talk today we have confirmed to strengthen bilateral cooperation and collaboration in the area of climate change, and have agreed to launch the Japan/US climate partnership, which is extremely meaningful and significant.
Joe Biden: (30:29)
Well, thank you all very much. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, I look forward to having you back. Thank you again, everyone.
PM Yoshihide Suga: (30:41)
Speaker 5: (30:41)
Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until the President, the Prime Minister and Delegations have departed. [crosstalk 00:31:10]