QUESTION: Thank you very much. I have some questions. As Secretary of State, I know that dealing with crises throughout the world is not unusual, but what have you felt as you have seen the tragedy unfold in Japan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have just been heartbroken to see the unbelievable force of first the earthquake, then the tsunami and its impact on so many thousands of people. And then to see the additional disaster – the nuclear reactors, which are posing such a problem. It has been unimaginable because no one could have predicted what you have been experiencing. And I want to extend my condolences to everyone who was affected and my very strong feeling of support to the Japanese people.
QUESTION: Yeah, concerning the broad alliance with Japan going forward, what will be the United States’ ongoing role in this tragedy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We will be with you every step of the way. We want to continue our provision of aid. We have sent many people to Japan to work with your government, to work with your utility company. We’ve sent many to do humanitarian work, recovery work. We will follow that up with providing additional technical assistance and other financial assistance. We believe in the resilience of the Japanese people and the spirit that has been evidenced during the last 10 days. And our friendship, our partnership, our alliance I think is even stronger today because of our working together throughout this terrible time of crisis.
QUESTION: How concerned are you about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant situation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, I’m concerned. I think every person is, and most particularly Japanese people are. This is unprecedented. We don’t know exactly what can or should be done. If there were an easy answer, someone would take the manual off the shelf and open it up to — what do you do when you have a 9.0 earthquake and a huge tsunami? That is just not anything that has been planned for.
So our experts are working with yours. We’re offering suggestions. Others around the world who have such experience are offering their recommendations. But we’re all just trying to help to try to contain and control this very difficult situation.
QUESTION: Do you think Japan can contain the radioactive material?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think Japan will. I think that it is taking time because it is so difficult. There will be consequences that we won’t yet know now what that might be. The first, most important job, is to get it contained and make sure it’s not causing further release of radioactivity, and then see what needs to be done to try to deal with the aftereffects.
QUESTION: U.S. Government offered guidance regarding the evacuation perimeters from that Fukushima area, which is different from the Japanese guidance. And this is viewed by some people as a lack of confidence. Would you please explain the decision-making process for this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this should not be viewed as a lack of confidence. It should be viewed as a difference of opinion. This is what our experts say they would do as a matter of course in the United States. But I don’t think there is any strong disagreement with what the Japanese authorities have done, and they are constantly measuring what is the level of radioactivity in the air. So I think that this is just another one of the examples of how everybody’s trying to do the right thing. And of course, it is ultimately up to the Japanese authorities to make those decisions.
QUESTION: The Japanese Government is expending so much effort to deal with the catastrophe. Don’t you expect that – all of that to delay the resolution of the Okinawa-U.S. base issues and planned 2+2 meetings?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, when I have spoken with the new foreign minister, when President Obama has spoken with Prime Minister Kan and others of our officials have spoken, the Japanese Government has consistently said, of course our highest priority is to deal with this immediate crisis. But we don’t want everything else to take a back seat. We want to have the 2+2. We want to keep talking about all of the issues that we have to deal with from what’s happening with some of the islands that are claimed by others to what’s happening with North Korea. So we know we have to focus and support you in dealing with the crisis, but we also have to keep an eye on everything else going on.
QUESTION: Yes. Although Japan has enormous domestic crisis, North Korea always poses a threat. And last week, North Korea said they are willing to return to the Six-Party Talks and discuss enrichment program. Does this change things?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we hope so. We are working with our Six-Party partners, including Japan, to try to make sure that North Korea returns to the negotiating table. It’s in everyone’s interest, including theirs, that they do so. So we hope that this will lead to a more constructive response by them.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. We understand that the U.S. and North Korea talks are to be held this coming weekend in Germany. And what can you tell us about these talks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is not anything that we are planning. There is an effort to try to get North and South Korea to start talking and to communicate with each other. And we have ongoing contact, as does any – every country with North Korea on certain issues, but nothing formal is planned.
QUESTION: Okay. Finally, would you please give your personal message to the people of Japan who are suffering right now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I first want to begin by expressing the deepest sympathy of the United States for the people of Japan, and particularly for those who have been directly affected who have lost everything – members of their family, friends, colleagues, their homes. It is such an overwhelming disaster. But I also want to express my confidence in the Japanese people. The resilience, the spirit that we have seen in the last 10 days, is a firm foundation for Japan to recover and rebuild from. And just as the United States has been working with the Japanese people through our humanitarian efforts, our search and rescue efforts, and with the Japanese officials through our consultation and our technical expertise, we will continue to work with Japan. And we will be your partner and your friend for years to come as you rebuild from this terrible disaster. I know that Japan will come out even stronger.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: My pleasure. Thank you.
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.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. My pleasure.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I wanted to talk first about Japan. The scale of this catastrophe is so enormous, and it’s inevitably going to affect nuclear policy. It already is. Germany is shutting down plants. What does this mean for the future of the world in terms of nuclear energy, nuclear power, and increasing reliance on oil?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, that’s one of the questions that is obviously going to have to be examined. And right now we are focused on trying to deal with the immediate disaster – earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor problems. We’re doing everything we can to support Japan, and we’re doing everything we can to assist American citizens because their health and safety is obviously our highest concern. And we’re following this very fast-moving dynamic situation literally minute by minute.
So in the immediate short term, we have a lot that we have to handle. And in the longer term, you’re right. This raises questions that everybody in the world will have to answer. But for us right now, just trying to stay very connected with our Japanese friends. We have Nuclear Regulatory Commission experts, Department of Energy experts, others who are on the ground in Japan working with their counterparts to try to mitigate the effects of this particular disaster.
QUESTION: Some people have suggested that the Japanese were reluctant to take advice, nuclear advice, initially, and waited too long.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t comment on that because I’m not a nuclear expert. I know that our experts were immediately in communication with their Japanese counterparts. But the scale of this crisis was so immense and so unprecedented to have the earthquake followed by the tsunami, followed by the problems in the nuclear reactors, that our goal now is just to do everything we can to assist the Japanese to do the humanitarian work.
We have search and rescue teams on the ground from Los Angeles, from Fairfax, Virginia. Our naval assets, our brave Navy men and women, are doing a lot in the humanitarian relief delivery. So we’re just so busy trying to assist in every way possible, and so is the rest of the world. Because Japan is historically such a generous country, everyone is rushing to try to reciprocate.
And I know how hard it is to make decisions in the midst of fast-moving disastrous events. But we’re doing everything we can to help the Japanese as they struggle with these tough calls they’re making.
QUESTION: Do you have concerns about nuclear power in the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have concerns about a lot of our energy issues because clearly we’re talking here in Cairo, in the Middle East, in a region that supplies a lot of oil. We have oil dependence problems. We have nuclear power safety issues and waste disposal problems. We have the difficulties of getting a lot of the renewables like wind and solar and others up to scale. And we have a really hard challenge convincing people that energy efficiency is actually the most effective way to try to lower our energy costs and usage.
We need an energy policy. That’s something that President Obama has said repeatedly. And we need it to be yesterday, and it’s got to be comprehensive. I think what’s happening in Japan raises questions about the costs and the risks associated with nuclear power, but we have to answer those. We get 20 percent of our energy right now in the United States from nuclear power. So we’ve got to really get serious about an energy policy that is going to meet our needs in the future.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about Libya, because Qadhafi’s son says that within 48 hours it’s going to be over. The Libyan opposition asked for help, they asked for military help. You’re resisting that. You want Arab League leadership, you want a UN vote. It might be too late to save them. Do you have concerns about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, I’ve consulted with our European and Arab partners in the last two days. I’ve also met with the leader of the Libyan opposition. We are working very hard in New York with members of the Security Council and others because we believe that we have to take steps to try to protect innocent civilians, and we cannot do it without international authority.
The Arab countries, with their statement through the Arab League last Saturday, made it very clear that they wanted to see action, so we need Arab leadership and Arab participation in whatever the UN decides to do. So we’re working as we speak to try to get international support, which is very important, because unilateral action would not be the best approach. It would have all kinds of unintended consequences. International action with Arab leadership and participation, we think, is the way to go.
QUESTION: Your husband, the former president, last week said, “We’ve got the planes. We should do it.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do think that among the actions that have to be considered by the United Nations, the no-fly zone is one of them, but it’s not the only one. There are other actions that need to be also evaluated. And we are putting everything on the table. Our UN team is working very closely with other members of the Security Council, and we hope to be able to move forward in a way that does respond to some of the requests by the Libyan opposition.
QUESTION: What if it’s too late?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, we’re very aware of the actions of the Qadhafi regime. We deeply regret his callous disregard of human life, his absolute willingness to slaughter his own people. But we think that there is a lot that can be done if we can reach international agreement on what should be done.
QUESTION: There are more casualties in Bahrain. The Saudis intervened. The other – the UAE and others moved in, even after you had appealed for calm and expressed your deep concern. What does this say about the U.S.-Saudi relationship? Defense Secretary Gates was in Bahrain only last Friday and had no heads-up that this was going to happen.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. I think it’s fair to say from everything we are seeing that the situation in Bahrain is alarming. We are in touch with the highest levels of the Bahraini Government today, as we have been for the last – a period of time. And our message is consistent and strong: There is no way to resolve the concerns of the Bahraini people through the use of excessive force or security crackdowns. There have to be political negotiations that lead to a political resolution. We have urged all the parties, including the Gulf countries, to pursue a political resolution. That is what we are pushing, along with others who are concerned by what they see happening. We would remind the Bahraini Government of their obligation to protect medical facilities and to facilitate the treatment of those who might be injured in any of the demonstrations and to exercise the greatest restraint. Get to the negotiating table and resolve the differences in Bahrain peacefully, politically.
QUESTION: They’re ignoring us so far. Is there anything more that you can do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very concerned and have reached out to a lot of different partners. There’s a lot of the same messages coming in from across Europe and the region to the Bahraini Government. And in fact, one of our assistant secretaries for the region is actually there working on a – literally hour-by-hour basis. We do not think this is in the best interest of Bahrain. We consider Bahrain a partner. We have worked with them. We think they’re on the wrong track, and we think that the wrong track is going to really affect adversely the ability of the Bahraini Government to bring about the political reform that everyone says is needed.
QUESTION: And you went to Tahrir Square.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: An emotional experience to walk in that square. At the same time, women have been kept out of the new government, and there are some concerns that they are moving too quickly here in Egypt to create a new constitution without developing political parties and being more thoughtful about what it requires to create a democracy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, going to Tahrir Square was exhilarating. It was a tremendous personal experience to be there and to see Egyptians with smiles on their faces saying hello, welcoming me to the new Egypt. That was an extraordinary uplifting experience.
I know and the Egyptian people know – because I’ve been talking with a broad cross-section of Egyptians – that translating the enthusiasm and the energy of Tahrir Square into the political and economic reforms necessary to establish a strong, functioning democracy, more jobs for people, a real sense of a positive future, is going to be challenging. But they’re up for that challenge. I feel very good about what the Egyptians are doing. It is an Egyptian project, an Egyptian story. They are making their own history. The United States stands ready to assist in any way that is appropriate. But this is being molded by Egyptians themselves, as is only proper. I told them that they have a 7,000 year old civilization; we’re a young country, but we’re the oldest democracy, so we stand ready to help them as they navigate into this very exciting period of their long and storied history.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.