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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs