Transcript: VOA's Steve Herman sat down with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss regional territorial disputes and other issues. (The following questions were asked in English; answers are translated from Japanese.)
VOA: Mr. Foreign Minister, members of this Abe administration and some of your own diplomats have, in the past, expressed a desire for Japan to pursue a foreign policy more independent of Washington. How is it possible to do this while, at the same time, having a closer defense alliance with the United States as both Washington and Tokyo seem to desire?
Kishida: First of all, in terms of our countries' diplomacy, the U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone. That is what our country has decided on its own in implementing such policies. Strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance is not only important Japan but to all of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific regions because it leads to regional peace and stability. This was affirmed at the recent Japan-U.S. summit. Our country, at the same time, has to make efforts to strengthen our defense capabilities, including increasing our defense expenditures as well as reviewing our defense program guidelines. Based on the U.S.-Japan alliance we have to strengthen our deterrence. We will place the emphasis on our partnership with the United States.
VOA: Related to that, are you satisfied with the level of support that you're getting from Washington related to the [Senkaku/Diaoyu] island territorial dispute as you confront Chinese vessels and aircraft?
Kishida: Based on the understanding of the United States vis-a-vis Japan's stance on the Senkaku islands, we highly value the U.S. position — its commitment to our alliance. Such understanding and support of the United States was affirmed at the recent Japan-U.S. summit, as well as in the meeting between the U.S. and Japan foreign ministers. All of this is important in light of the escalation of Chinese actions and behavior.
VOA: North Korea remains defiant with a recent nuclear test, and the December missile launch, despite sanctions already being in place. What further sanctions do you intend to put in place against Pyongyang?
Kishida: First of all, North Korea conducted a nuclear test and such an action is a threat to international peace and stability and we cannot accept such an action. In response to this, the international community needs to work together. This was confirmed at the recent Japan-U.S. summit, [and in] my meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State. We also need to have the United Nations Security Council adopt a resolution [of] increasingly strengthened sanctions against North Korea. To achieve that the United States and Japan should work closely with related countries in order to counter North Korea. However, at the same time, we need to deal with North Korea [with] a balance between dialog and pressure. Based upon the  Pyongyang declaration between Japan and North Korea, we need to firmly and strongly continue to ask North Korea for a comprehensive resolution to the nuclear issues, the missiles and the abductions [of Japanese citizens].
VOA: You are planning to go to Africa next month. Can you tell us which countries you are going to and what is the goal of the trip?
Kishida: As for Africa next month, I am planning to visit Ethiopia. That is because we're planning to hold the TICAD-5 (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) in Yokohama this year, and we're making preparations for it.
VOA: Thank you very much.