News / Asia

    Transcript of VOA Interview with Japanese Defense Minister

    Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera sits down for an interview with VOA about several key issues, including North Korea and China, in Tokyo, Feb. 12, 2013.
    Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera sits down for an interview with VOA about several key issues, including North Korea and China, in Tokyo, Feb. 12, 2013.
    Here is the transcript of an exclusive interview by VOA's Steve Herman with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in Tokyo.

    VOA: As you know, North Korea has confirmed that it carried out a third nuclear test today. This had been widely expected. From your viewpoint as defense minister, how does this affect Japan?

    Onodera: North Korea has announced their nuclear test succeeded. I think this means a big threat, not only to Japan, but also to the East Asia region, as a whole. North Korea has also managed to develop an improved version of the “Taepodong-2” - a long-range ballistic missile - last December. Therefore this nuclear threat is not only a concern for Japan, but also the world.

    VOA:  But, specifically, what concerns do you have as the Japanese defense minister about this for Japan's security?

    Onodera: Because North Korea has conducted such a provocative action, we need to bolster our country’s defense system to face this kind of threat. But due to our [pacifist] constitution, our country is in a very restricted situation when it comes to having nuclear weapons, as well as increasing our [conventional] forces. Therefore, it is very important to strengthen the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

    VOA: As a lawmaker for many years, in your party, you have been involved in foreign affairs. As a response to this we're hearing talk about more sanctions - from Japan, from South Korea, from the United Nations. But sanctions obviously have not prevented North Korea from launching these rockets and carrying out three nuclear tests now. Is there something that needs to be done beyond sanctions?

    Onodera: Placing a heavy tax [by China] on North Korea would be the most effective sanction. China has the strongest economic connection with North Korea, but it has been reluctant about many sanctions in the past. But we saw that prior to this test even China joined in the harsh U.N. resolution against North Korea. Yet North Korea with this action has even betrayed that resolution. So I think the first step is to strengthen sanctions and I am expecting to see more effective sanctions.

    VOA: Speaking of China, Japan has its own security issues with China. They are denying Japan's claim that its fire locked-on radar 'painted' a Japanese ship. What evidence can you release to verify that this indeed happened, which China denies?

    Onodera: If we release that information in detail our intelligence-gathering ability will be revealed to another country, so I am cautiously debating this within the government. That said, in realistic term, the actual use of fire-control radar clearly occurred and we have a number of records and data, in this case, including transmissions that are specific [to this kind of radar].

    Also, the U.S. supports our contention. The U.S. defense secretary as well as the [State Department] press secretary the other day, supported the view that Japan’s assertion was indeed, correct.

    I feel we need to clearly state this issue to our ally, the United States, and also to the international community. But more importantly, we have to avoid a big conflict and actually we have a maritime communications mechanism between Japan and China. When an incident like this happens, we are supposed to negotiate with a hotline. Or we are supposed to be able to communicate between vessels and fleets or between vessels and airplanes. That is what we want to have [with China].

    Japan has already urged China to restart talks to establish these communications mechanisms through diplomacy. It is very important for the two nations to exchange and share information, in order to avoid such incidents.

    VOA: Have you had any response from Beijing about this hotline idea?

    Onodera: China and Japan basically reached an agreement about this a few years ago. We already had working-group level meetings a few times on how we would work out specifics, but this has not taken place since last fall. So we are suggesting to re-start the talks, but we have not heard anything yet from China, but that is the process we desire.

    VOA: Some analysts believe that China may have been trying to provoke in this incident that happened with the radar for the Japanese forces to fire first. Do you believe that might have been the case, and how worried are you that your forces may not be able to restrain themselves if this type of thing does happen again?

    Onodera: We have many capabilities. Whatever China’s intention was, it is our duty to protect our land, territory and airspace. So we will firmly enhance our level of ability and we are continuing to increase it.

    VOA: As you mentioned, Japan faces constitutional restrictions on what it can do with its self-defense forces as they are called. And you're heavily reliant on U.S. forces being under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Based on the challenges that you are facing in this job and your country is facing right now from potential hostilities in the region, is it enough to rely on the status quo with the U.S. forces? Or would you like to see something change as far as the alliance or the composition of Japanese forces?

    Onodera: I think military power should be flexible in order to respond on a case-by-case basis regarding opposing threats. We have been facing bigger threats recently. For example, North Korea's missiles and nuclear weapons, China's enhanced military power and its increasing defense budget, as well as enhancements being made by other surrounding countries. Change is happening around us. And besides actual military power, there are new kind of threats emerging, including cyber or from space. In order to respond to such threats we are reviewing our defense system and also we are in the process of revising U.S.-Japan guidelines, as well as to be prepared for new kinds of threats.

    VOA: This interview, your words, will be seen and heard in China, in North Korea. These are places which were former colonies of Japan. And Japan is not seen as a victim there. It's seen as a past aggressor and a potential future aggressor. Is there anything you'd like to say to people in China, in North Korea about Japan's military?

    Onodera: Japan always seeks peace in line with its constitution and the Japanese people hold the same view. What we are trying to do is to merely defend the country to protect our lives and property. That is what we are focused on and are building our defenses accordingly. I think Japan’s stance on this will never change.

    VOA: Mr. Onodera, thank you very much for your time today.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.