Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 22, 2011

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your time and your full support to our country when we are experiencing such a difficult situation. So, 10 days have passed since the disaster hit. What is your understanding of the situation as of now, and how would you characterize the Japanese response overall?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how deeply sympathetic the United States is to everything that is happening in your country, and to express my condolence and sympathy for those who have lost loved ones, family members, friends, and colleagues. It’s an almost unimaginable disaster that you have dealt with, with great resilience, great spirit. And it’s been inspiring to see how the Japanese people have responded under the most difficult of historic experiences.

And as you know, we have tried to offer whatever assistance we could. We have sent many people, experts, recovery workers, humanitarian assistance to Japan, and we will continue to do so. I want the Japanese people to know that the American people support you and we will be there, not just for now but in the months and years ahead.

And I think it’s hard for anyone who has been outside of the vortex of the disaster zones in Japan to have any impression other than admiration to see how people have coped, to see how everyone has pulled together. And we can only hope that this third part of this unprecedented disaster that is at the nuclear power plant gets under control, gets brought into a manageable situation soon.

QUESTION: On the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the ongoing situation, although it is still very concerning and it seems there is mounting frustration somewhat on the U.S. side, given the announcement advising U.S. citizens to stay 50 miles away from the nuclear plant, it seems there’s a skepticism as well as frustration. Does the U.S. Government see any problems with how TEPCO and the Japanese Government are handling the situation? What more would you like to see done or would you like to see be done differently?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me make the point that because nothing like this has ever happened before, any of the advice or suggestions that the United States or others have made should be seen in light of our effort to try to be helpful. There is no book you can pull down from the shelf which says you have a 9.0 earthquake, a horrible tsunami, what do you do next at your nuclear reactors. And we have provided the best expert advice we know of and we’ve sent nuclear experts to Japan working side-by-side with your government and private sector officials.

And I think everyone is pursuing the same goal. We may have slightly different views about how to measure the danger or measure the impact, but those are not really in any way undermining the ongoing work that we’re doing together. And it is such an overwhelming task to try to figure out how to handle what’s going on in the reactors. So the United States has applied some of what we would do under a comparable situation, but we’ve never been in a comparable situation. So we’re doing the best we can to offer you our expert advice, but of course, we support you in what you are doing.

QUESTION: It is reported that the FDA is going to announce an import ban soon on the Japanese agricultural products. How would this impact trade and diplomatic relations? Can you actually confirm this is happening? And if so, how would you plan to resolve this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot confirm it. I do not know that it is happening. I know that Japanese officials have been very concerned about the food supply because, as we have seen in other nuclear incidents, that is an area that we have to pay particular attention to. So I can’t speak as to what the United States or any other country might do, but what is most important is making sure that we help Japan deal with the aftereffects of whatever occurred inside the reactors and that we also make sure the Japanese people have all the food that they need during this transition period.

QUESTION: So even if it happens, it’s not going to be a prolonging situation?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know that it is going to happen. I don’t have any information about that. But if it were to happen, it would be as much focused on determining what is or isn’t safe for the Japanese people, not just what is safe for export.

QUESTION: When you look at the U.S.-Japanese alliance, the relationship, on the Japanese side Foreign Minister Maehara resigned, and on the State Department, Mr. Maher has been replaced after the speech on Okinawa. Now, given the double disaster, the Japanese Government will probably have to concentrate on the recovery and rebuilding. Do you think this will have any effect on the alliance? Specifically, how does this reshuffling affect the prospect of the 2+2, the Okinawa base relocation issue, and Prime Minister Kan’s visit to the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first I think that this unprecedented disaster has produced unprecedented cooperation between our two countries. In fact, our alliance, which was already strong and enduring, has become even more so. And there is going to be a lot of work ahead of us as we support you in your recovery and rebuilding efforts.

I do not think it will in any substantive way impact on all the other areas of cooperation and work that we are doing together. It may, of course, understandably, interject some delay because the first and most important responsibility that any official in your government has is to tend to the security and the needs of the Japanese people.

But in meeting with the new foreign minister, in all of the conversations that President Obama has had with Prime Minister Kan, that others of our officials have had with their counterparts, we are committed to pursuing our relationship on every level. But we too will highlight the cooperation between us in response to your needs, because I think that’s what we would do as your friend and partner and ally.

QUESTION: Thank you. My last question. Thank you so much for taking time and signing the condolence book. It means a lot to us. What would you like to tell the Japanese people at this point of time? My last question.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That I cannot even imagine how difficult a period this is, but I have great confidence in the Japanese people. I have a great admiration for the resilience and the spirit that I have seen time and time again. I am very grateful for the historic generosity of Japan when others have had disasters. Japanese workers, Japanese contributions have been part of helping others, whether it was an earthquake in Haiti or any other problem. And now the world wants to help you. And I really have an absolute conviction that Japan will come back even stronger for the future.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Madam Secretary, for your time.


QUESTION: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. My pleasure.

PRN: 2011/448

[This is a mobile copy of Interview With Kaho Izumitani of NHK]