From April 1 to 12, U.S. Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs and a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, visited Japan, Thailand, and Burma. He held meetings with senior officials in each country responsible for foreign affairs, national defense, commerce, and energy, as well as U.S. diplomats, military officials, leading academics, business leaders, and news media representatives.
In Japan, Senator Webb visited Tokyo and Okinawa to engage senior government officials, U.S. diplomatic representatives, local officials, academia, the business community, and both Japan Self-Defense Force and U.S. military commanders on a wide range of issues relating to the critically important U.S.-Japan alliance. Their discussions covered such areas as regional defense issues, including base realignments on Okinawa and the security situation on the Korean peninsula; energy policy; and trade and economic matters. The senator's third visit to Okinawa in as many years afforded local mayors and other stakeholders the opportunity to share their views on the current status of the planned realignment of U.S. military bases on the island prefecture, including Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Senator Webb returned to Thailand to observe the progress made by the new government since his meeting last year with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra immediately following her election.
Senator Webb's third visit to Burma (Myanmar) since 2001, and his first since his groundbreaking visit in 2009, occurred at a pivotal moment for Burma following its historic parliamentary by-elections April 1. During this important return visit, Senator Webb met with President Thein Sein, the leaders of both Houses of Parliament, government ministers, business leaders, political party representatives, journalists, and the owners of major news media. Of note, Senator Webb also traveled to the Bago Region Government Office to observe and discuss peace negotiations with representatives from Burma's central government and the Karen National Union.
Following his three-day visit, Senator Webb said, "We have reached a profound moment in the history of Burma and of the relationship between the United States and that country. When such moments occur, history teaches us that it is important to act, and to act in a way that is clear and decisive." The senator said the United States should examine all of the economic sanctions imposed on Burma "with an eye towards removing those that would be appropriate given the recent and continuing gestures of the government." He urged that this be done in a "timely, but also careful, way." In 2009, Senator Webb was the first member of Congress to visit Burma in more than 10 years.
Senator Webb's continuous involvement in this region long predates his time in the Senate. He has worked and traveled throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia for more than four decades--as a Marine Corps officer, a defense planner, a journalist, a novelist, a senior official in the Department of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, and as a business consultant.
Key Meetings and Activities
* Met with Minister of Defense Naoki Tanaka, Minister of Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs and National Security Akihisa Nagashima, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Chairman of the Committee on Budget for the House of Counselors Hajime Ishii, and party representatives from the Diet to discuss the U.S.-Japan security alliance, regional security issues, including North Korea's planned missile launch; and ongoing negotiations relating to the realignment of U.S. Marine Corps forces on Okinawa.
* Met with Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yukio Edano to discuss trade and economic issues, as well as Japan's current energy policies.
* Held a roundtable discussion of foreign policy and national security issues with noted Japanese academics and regional experts.
* Conducted a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
* Met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos to discuss U.S.-Japan relations, alliance issues, foreign policy, and national security affairs.
* Held luncheon roundtable discussion with senior corporate executives from the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
* On Okinawa, met with Governor of the Okinawa Prefecture Hirokazu Nakaima, local mayors, university educators, and news media to discuss local views on the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and other national security issues. Met with senior U.S. Marine Corps commanders at Camp Foster and toured MCAS Futenma to observe the condition of the facility. Met with Naha Airport President Katsuko Asato and Lt. Gen. Takashiko Hanzawa, the Japan Self-Defense Force Commanding General of Naha Air Base for a briefing on the command's geographic defense mission, assigned forces, and capabilities. Conducted press conference with Okinawa-based news media.
* Met with U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie A. Kenney for a country-team briefing addressing relations between the United States and Thailand, domestic and regional issues, foreign affairs, and national security.
* Met with Deputy Prime Minister Na-Ranong Kittirat, who is also Thailand's Minister of Finance, to discuss regional and domestic issues, foreign policy and national security affairs.
* Held press conference with domestic and foreign correspondents.
* Met with President Thein Sein, as well as Thura Shwe Mann and Khin Aung Myint, the speakers of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, respectively, in the capital city of Naypyidaw to discuss issues relating to the recent parliamentary by-election; the impact of continued sanctions on the country's economic, social, and development programs; the government's progress on peace talks with ethnic groups; and its continued evolution to a more democratic and transparent political system.
* Met with senior ministers from the Government of Burma in Rangoon, U.S. and Burmese business leaders, representatives from political parties, and executives representing major Burmese print and broadcast news media. Held press conference with Burmese journalists and foreign correspondents.
* Traveled to the Bago Region Government Office. Met with Minister of Rails Aung Min and Minister of Industry So Thein on issues pertaining to U.S-.Burma (Myanmar) relations. Addressed peace delegates from the Karen National Union and observed negotiations.
* Visited the British Commonwealth World War II Military Cemetery in Rangoon.