News / Asia

Transcript: Interview With Yoshihide Suga

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks to VOA, Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2013.  Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks to VOA, Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2013.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks to VOA, Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2013.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks to VOA, Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2013.
Steve Herman interviews Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga about the impending anticipated North Korean nuclear test, Japan’s territorial disputes with China and South Korea as well as the new Japanese administration’s goals for improving relations with Northeast Asia. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

VOA:  In terms of relations with Japan's Northeast Asia neighbors, what is the primary goal of the Abe administration? 

Suga: The Abe administration seeks to establish a strategic diplomacy, with a global vision, rather than working within bilateral frameworks. That's the basic stance. The strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region is ever-changing. And under those circumstances Japan wants cooperative relationships based on US-Japan relations, of course, with neighboring countries for global peace and stability.

VOA: In addition to being named Chief Cabinet Secretary, the Prime Minister has designated you as the "Minister in Charge of Strengthening National Security." Why was this new ministerial post designated and what is your objective holding that post?

Suga: I think the Prime Minister has a strong view on security issues and crisis management and wants them to be looked after in a comprehensive manner. From that standpoint he appointed me to that post, as the Chief Cabinet Secretary is supposed to be the primary coordinator.  After dealing with what happened with the terrorist attack in Algeria recently, as the Chief Cabinet Secretary I have realized how important this [security] role is.

VOA: In regards to the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands dispute with China, there is obvious concern in Tokyo about the increasing frequency of Chinese overflights and Chinese government maritime vessels in the area. There have been diplomatic protests by Japan and its JASDF fighters have scrambled in response. Yet the Chinese patrols continue. There is some concern that further incidents could result in some sort of exchange of shots. How concerned are you about this?

Suga: Historically, under international law, the Senkaku islands are our country’s sovereign territory and we are indeed governing them at present. We will assert our right to protect our territory and that is how we are working on the issue. On the other hand, Japan-China relations are very important for the Asia-Pacific region, as well as world peace and prosperity, so there shouldn’t be any kind of conflict between the two nations. We have to ease the tension with China through patient dialog.

VOA:  As you are well aware, historical animosity towards Japan lingers in China and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a reputation there as a "ultra right winger" or a "hawk" and that his Cabinet members include those who do not properly reflect on Japan's colonial past. What would you like to say to Chinese people about this?

Suga: After the last war (World War II), I think Japan has been contributing to Asia’s peace and prosperity. This is also a commonly held view of the Japanese people and it won’t change. The Japan-China relationship is one of the most vital bilateral relationships. As responsible countries in the Asia-Pacific region we would like to build a Japan-China strategic partnership that is mutually beneficial and try to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region.

VOA: Turning to the Korean peninsula, some analysts contend that if Japan asserts its claim to Takeshima (Dokdo), which is under control of the Republic of Korea, it weakens Japan's stance vis-a-vis China with the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands? How do you respond to that comparison?

Suga: Between Japan and Korea, there are some difficult issues, as you mentioned, including Takeshima.  But both nations share fundamental common values, such as liberal democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. So with the cooperation of soon-to-be President Park, from a broad perspective, we would like to establish a future-minded relationship.

VOA: The government in North Korea, through state-controlled media, regularly casts Japan as a villain. In regards to improving the relationship between Pyongyang and Tokyo how would you explain to the North Korean people why the two countries cannot normalize relations?

Suga: Between Japan and North Korea there are problems such as the unresolved fate of those Japanese abducted [by North Korea] and the nuclear and missile issues.

Those are the reasons why there have been no diplomatic relations established with North Korea. At the same time, there is the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration that was signed by leaders of both countries and that is significant. Based on the Declaration, we are to work to solve the abductions issue, the nuclear and missile problems in a comprehensive manner, and to try to make an effort for the normalization of relations by settling the unfortunate past.

VOA: As you know, there are reports a third North Korean nuclear test may be imminent.

Suga: Foremost, I think North Korea has to stop conducting nuclear tests and missile launches and they have to reflect on what trouble they are causing.  There was a resolution about their latest missile launch in the United Nations Security Council, right? So I think the international community is responding very harshly to North Korea. As for Japan, we have the abductions issue and are applying sanctions, too. But it would be difficult to be effective by ourselves. We need to cooperate with the international community, especially with those other nations that were parties to the previous six-nation talks [with North Korea] and by applying sanctions we put pressure on North Korea not to go ahead with further nuclear tests and missile launches. North Korea also has to make an effort to improve the relationship with Japan.

VOA: But rounds of sanctions do not appear to have dissuaded Pyongyang from further such tests.

Suga: It has to be done in close cooperation with the international community, otherwise, it won’t work.

VOA: And what else can and will Japan do if there is a third nuclear test?

Suga: As for Japan, we are currently making some preparations, including some involving the flow of people. We are preparing many things and we will do everything we can, within Japan. And of course, we will make our best effort to support the parties to the six-nation talks and the UN to put further sanctions on North Korea.

VOA: South Korea's government has warned North Korea of "grave consequences" if it conducts another nuclear test. There is some speculation that might include military action. How does the Japanese government react to that possibility?

Suga: The government's job is always to protect our people’s lives and assets, so we are doing the best we can in regards to that. We will deal with the worst case scenario the Japanese people might face. That is our stance.

VOA: In Washington and other capitals, there is obvious frustration with the revolving door of Japanese prime ministers and Cabinet members in recent years. Some in other governments argue that these frequent change have significantly weakened Japan's diplomacy. Do you agree? And what assurances can you give the international community that the second Abe administration will also not be short-lived?

Suga: In the past few years, Japanese prime ministers have changed within a year. The first Abe administration lasted about a year. However, in the recent election, the Liberal Democratic Party won with a sweeping victory. We maintain two-thirds of the Diet seats at the moment. We are working our hardest ahead of the Upper House election [later this year]. The economy is our priority and we are working on policies to improve the economy.  Thus if we focus on improving the economy for the coming election I am confident that the Abe administration will last a long time. 

Editors Note: Suga's responses have been translated from Japanese to English.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs