Well, thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your kind words, for your leadership, for your friendship, and the warm hospitality that you’ve shown me and my wife. It’s an honor to join you again in Tokyo for my second visit to Japan as Vice President of the United States.
And, first and foremost, I bring greetings from a man who is proud to call you his great friend, a man who is also a great friend to the people of Japan, President Donald Trump.
Last year, on his first trip to the Indo-Pacific, the first nation President Trump visited was Japan. A fitting tribute to his respect for you, Mr. Prime Minister, and his respect for the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance. As the President said during his visit, “Our nations share an enduring bond. America and Japan face many challenges [and] many opportunities.” But as the President said, “We will be facing them together, in friendship and as allies.”
The United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Indo-Pacific. And, Mr. Prime Minister, as we discussed today, our nations are taking bold steps to strengthen our alliance and deepen our friendship even further.
To enhance our bilateral economic ties, last April, Deputy Prime Minister Aso and I were pleased, at your and the President’s direction, to launch the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue. And it was my honor to host Deputy Prime Minister Aso at the White House last October to continue this vital work. I can assure you that we will continue to promote strong and balanced growth between our two nations, rooted in trade that is free and fair.
But, Mr. Prime Minister, as we discussed today, security is the foundation of our prosperity. And security in the Indo-Pacific is the main reason I came to Japan today.
For more than a half-century, the sons and daughters of our nations have stood together in defense of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. At this very moment, some 50,000 members of the Armed Forces of the United States stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and women of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
Earlier today, I visited the Japan Ministry of Defense, where I viewed the advanced missile-defense battery that provides protection to Tokyo. Tomorrow, I will visit Yokota Air Base to receive a briefing on our bilateral ballistic defense capabilities and to have the great privilege of addressing members of both our armed forces.
I will thank our forces, and yours, for their stand for freedom. And on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, I will call on the men and women in the uniform of the United States to remain vigilant, ready to confront and defeat any enemy that threatens our people, the people of Japan, or our allies across this region.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your leadership and your actions to strengthen Japan’s role in our alliance. As we discussed today, the United States is committed to provide Japan with additional cutting-edge defense systems, and our nations are now working together to deliver these new defense systems as quickly as possible.
The people of Japan can be assured: The full range of the Armed Forces of the United States will continue to be dedicated to the protection of Japan.
And working together, the United States and Japan will continue to confront the most dangerous threat in the Indo-Pacific: the rogue regime in North Korea.
For decades, the cruel dictatorship in North Korea has subjected its people to life in what President Trump rightly called a “prison state.” As the President observed in his remarks to the South Korean National Assembly last October, in his words, “An estimated 100,000 North Koreans suffer in gulags, toiling in forced labor, enduring torture, starvation, rape, and murder on a constant basis.”
And even as they have impoverished their citizens and antagonized the region, North Korea, as we discussed today, continues to threaten our country, Japan, and the wider world, by supporting terrorism, developing nuclear weapons, and testing ballistic missiles.
In the past, the United States, Japan, and freedom-loving nations across the globe responded to Pyongyang’s actions with failed diplomacy, the result of which has been a cycle of broken promises, willful deception, and escalating provocations. But the era of strategic patience is over.
The truth is, in 1994, the Kim regime committed to freeze its plutonium program, only to continue making progress. In 2005, as we discussed today, it promised to dismantle its nuclear program, but North Korea only accelerated it.
Over the years, North Korea has, as the President has said, “repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil,” and the regime even secretly helped Syria build a nuclear reactor in the mid-2000s.
And here in the Indo-Pacific, North Korea has continued to develop and test ballistic and nuclear weapons. And last year, within less than 30 days, the regime launched two missiles over Japanese territory, and conducted yet another nuclear test in the same period of time.
This week, as the world knows, North Korea is sending a delegation to participate in the Winter Olympics. They’ll march under the same banner as South Korea.
But we should not forget that North Korea and South Korea have marched under the same banner before. The world witnessed it at the Olympics in 2000 and in 2004, and the Winter Olympics in 2006, only to see North Korea to continue its pursuit of threats and provocations. In fact, North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon only eight months after the conclusion of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Later this week, I will have the privilege to lead the United States delegation to the Winter Olympics. We’ll be there to cheer on our American athletes, but we’ll also be there to stand with our allies and remind the world that North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.
I’ll be joined by the father of Otto Warmbier, a promising young man who was imprisoned and tortured in North Korea, only to pass away shortly after his release.
As President Trump has said, we will honor Otto’s memory with resolve. We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games. We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region.
As we discussed, Mr. Prime Minister, today, the American people and the people of Japan, and freedom-loving people everywhere, long for the day when peace and prosperity replace Pyongyang’s belligerence and brutality.
But we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. As President Trump has said, “Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation.” And so vigilance and resolve will be our lodestar. All options are on the table. And the United States has deployed some of our most advanced military assets to Japan and the wider region to protect our homeland and our allies. And we will continue to.
We’ve also brought unprecedented diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea through our maximum pressure campaign. Last November, as well, our administration re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror.
Together with Japan and our allies, let the world know this: We will continue to intensify our maximum pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.
To that end, I’m announcing today that the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever. And we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all.
Mr. Prime Minister, President Trump and I are grateful for your friendship and your strong leadership. We’re grateful for your commitment to stand strong and stand together in the face of North Korea. And we’re thankful — thankful that you share our desire to strengthen our ties of friendship, commerce, and security.
Japan is one of the most successful democracies and vibrant economies in the world. It is a living testament to the power of freedom, built on a foundation of respect for the rich heritage, history, and traditions of this ancient land.
The United States of America and Japan have long stood together in defense of our most precious values and our way of life. And we will continue to stand together, as allies and as friends. And as the bond between our nations grows even stronger, I know it will benefit our two peoples and it will benefit the world.
Thank you again, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you for hosting us here today. And I look forward to our evening together.