Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors.
The United States hopes that both Japan and its neighbors will find constructive ways to deal with sensitive issues from the past, to improve their relations, and to promote cooperation in advancing our shared goals of regional peace and stability.
We take note of the Prime Minister’s expression of remorse for the past and his reaffirmation of Japan's commitment to peace.
QUESTION: So as we know, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine last week, and we already saw the press release by U.S. Embassy in Japan --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and China said on Monday that Chinese people don’t welcome him. Any comments from the State Department?
MS. HARF: Well, you saw – I think folks our statement, and I’ll repeat it, that Japan is of course a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, in this case, we were disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors. We hope, as we always do, that both Japan and its neighbors will find constructive ways to deal with sensitive issues from the past, to continue improving their relations, and to promote cooperation in advance of all of our shared goals in the region.
QUESTION: And according to The Washington Post, he says his visit was a provocative act. And there is news about Secretary John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel advised Shinzo Abe to avoid ratcheting up regional tensions by visiting Yasukuni Shrine in October. So does the State Department communicate with – this issue with Japanese Government before and after his visit?
MS. HARF: We do communicate with them. I can check. I don’t know if those reports about October are true or not. It’s from a few months ago. I’m happy to check on that. I think we’ve made very clear what our position is, and I just don’t have much more for you on this.
QUESTION: And last one.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Some media reports that U.S. officials from State Department discussed with officials from White House and finally chose the word “disappointed” rather than “regret” or “concern” to express a stronger or tougher tone. I mean, what kind of message does U.S. trying to send to the Japanese Government?
MS. HARF:Well, I think our message is very clear from the words we chose. I don’t know those reports about interagency communications. Obviously, we talk to our colleagues at the White House all the time. I think we’ve made very clear that we were disappointed, that we think this will exacerbate tensions. I think those words are very clear in their meaning, and I wouldn’t probably wordsmith them any further to try and get deeper meaning out of them.
QUESTION: So you have no differences between “regret” --
MS. HARF: Us and the White House?
QUESTION: No, I mean the differences between “disappointed, “regret,” or “concern.”
MS. HARF: I’m happy for you to get a dictionary and look up what the difference is. I think it’s pretty clear what I mean when I say “disappointed.”
QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe at the same time announced his statement. He didn’t mean – he prayed for war criminal, and he visited – pray for – just for sacrifice, for loss their life --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for their country. And at the same time, he’s also saying he – it is not his intention at all to hurt the feeling of the Chinese and the Korean people. But what do you think about this?
MS. HARF: Well, we definitely took note of the prime minister’s expression of remorse for the past and his reaffirmation of Japan’s commitment to peace. We have a close partnership with the Japanese Government. They’re a valued ally and friend, as I said. So we’re going to keep talking about this issue with them. One of the, I think, hallmarks of a strong partnership is the ability to talk honestly with each other when there maybe are differences that we need to express. So I think we’re focused on the relationship moving forward and how Japan and others in the region can work more constructively together.
QUESTION: And disappointment – the U.S. Government and the State Department also announced the United States is disappointed. This disappointment is about – this is about his visit to Yasukuni or the result or the consequences --
MS. HARF: Well, the --
QUESTION: -- and the reaction from the China and the South Korea (inaudible).
MS. HARF:That Japan’s leadership took an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors. I’m not going to probably parse that further.
QUESTION: Does this --
QUESTION: What’s the difference between this time and a former prime minister’s visited many times and we had a really strong reaction from neighbors, but the United States never commented, but this time you show the disappoint.
MS. HARF: I think every situation’s different. I wasn’t here for those. I’m happy to check with our team and see if there is a difference, but every situation’s different. We were commenting on something at a certain period in time that we thought would hurt tension in the region – or increase tension in the region, I should say, and I think that’s probably all I have to say on that.
QUESTION: Does this visit give you any doubts in this – in Abe administration and may affect your relationship with Japanese --
MS. HARF: As I said, they’re a valued ally and friend. We’re close partners on a range of issues. That won’t change. And we’ll continue talking about areas where we disagree going forward.
QUESTION: Will it going to affect --
MS. HARF: Just a couple more on this, guys. I’m going to --
QUESTION: Yeah. Will it going to --
MS. HARF: I know I was late for this, but I’m on a little bit of a schedule.
QUESTION: Will it going to affect --
MS. HARF: I’m going to get to everyone’s questions.
QUESTION: -- President’s coming visit in April, estimated, of countries --
MS. HARF: I have – I would refer you to the White House, I think, for that. I have nothing at all on that.