April 28, 1997
Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto met with President Clinton last week to confer about security in Asia and the global economic outlook. He talks to Charlayne Hunter-Gault about Japan's relationship with the U.S..
JIM LEHRER: Now a Newsmaker interview with Prime Minister Hashimoto of Japan. He talked with Charlayne Hunter-Gault at Blair House.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
April 24, 1997:
Jonathan Miller provides an update of the hostage rescue from the Japanese embassy in Lima, Peru.
October 21, 1996 :
What does Liberal Democratic Party's victory in the lastest round of elections mean for Japan?
Browse the Online NewsHour's Asian coverage.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Prime Minister, yokoso, welcome
RYUTARO HASHIMOTO, Prime Minister, Japan: (speaking through interpreter) You speak very good Japanese.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Prime Minister, I know that much of your conversation with the President had to do with security issues, and a lot of U.S.-Japan watchers say this was a very different summit because the principal focus wasn't trade, is that correct?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) As you have touched upon, the United States for us is the most trusted and most reliable friend. Of course, the Japan-U.S. security treaty is a very effective regimen, however, for a long time our discussion tended to focus too much on defense of Japan. Last year, when President Clinton was in Japan, the two of us issued the joint declaration on security in which we reaffirmed importance of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements. Now, we are doing the review of the guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation which is to have more effective defense cooperation between the two countries. In other words, we're trying to find better ways to cooperate to the U.S. forces as well.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, one of the things that the U.S. Secretary of Defense said recently was that he anticipated a large American presence in the region into the indefinite future. Do you agree with that?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) In the Asia-Pacific region the situation could be described as quite different from that in Europe in that we have too many uncertain factors in the region still. The Korean Peninsula situation is one example, but there are many others as well, so the fact that the U.S. forces are in Japan does serve our benefit as well as at the same time by providing the basis for U.S. forces. We're securing the presence of the U.S. military forces in the Asia-Pacific region as well.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What kinds of threats do you see justifying that kind of American commitment?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) I will take one characteristic example of North Korea. There is the suspension of the dialogue among the United States, the Republic of Korea and North Korea.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The top ranking North Korean official who recently defected said just the other day that he--that North Korea was preparing for war. Do you have confirmation of that or any indication that this is the case?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) I think no one can be very sure of what North Korea exactly thinks, but it is certain that they have severe food shortages and they were about to embark on really dangerous nuclear development, but thanks to the initiative taken by the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, we have decided to provide light water reactor and the Japanese government is actively cooperating as well. I wouldn't like to predict that there is a great danger ahead of us; however, despite the national starvation, they are putting money into the development of long range missiles--a deployment. And if this happens to be true, we cannot help being alarmed by it and be ready for the consequences.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The United States and other nations are considering sending food aid to North Korea, but Japan has said it won't do it. Why?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) We have provided humanitarian assistance, including food assistance, not only to North Korea but also to regions in the Middle East and Bosnia. So we have been implementing those programs in wide-ranging areas, and we can be proud of that. And we are asking the North Koreans to pay attention to humanitarian issues on their side as well. Those people of North Korean ancestry residing in Japan can go back and forth freely between Japan and North Korea. There were quite a few Japanese women who married North Koreans back in the 60's, and they went to North Korea. But we have not received any letter from any of those Japanese women ever since. They've never come back to Japan to see their parents either. They have not been heard from ever since. So I have been strongly requested by the family members, the parents that are concerned about the health and well-being of their child, or the brother trying to take care of his younger sister, but we have requested many times the North Koreans to provide this information, and there is no answer.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You see China more as a potential ally than adversary?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) Maybe not an ally but the presence of China in this Asia Pacific region the presence of that big country is not deniable by anyone, and it does have very sizeable amount of influence in this region. That's a fact. So rather than seeing China as adversary, we should try our best how to incorporate China as constructive partner of this region that will serve the benefits of Japan and the U.S. and also the interest of the region as a whole. When I had the summit meeting with President Clinton last year, I urged him to improve this relationship with China, and I said that Japan on its own will try to improve the relationship with China as well, so we talked about our mutual cooperation to have China participate in the WTO for example as early as possible. And also in July this year Hong Kong will be reverted back to China from UK. And we have major challenge ahead of us after the reversion of Hong Kong if the framework to have the economic prosperity in Hong Kong could be maintained.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Are you concerned about the possibility that China will clamp down on Hong Kong, denying its civil liberties and freedom and abusing human rights as many are at this point and there have been indications of some of this already in China's behavior; is that a big concern to Japan?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) We do have some concern, of course, but at the same time I think the Chinese leadership are fully aware that China stands to lose if they try to crush the system that has made possible the prosperity in Hong Kong.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Has Japan said that to China?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) Yes, we have.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And the reaction?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) I think reaction depends on the individual. Some did not seem very pleased but others--some others said specifically said that they have no intentions of eliminating the basis for the prosperity of Hong Kong. And I think in reality the Chinese will be very cautious in their approach towards Hong Kong, because if they are to crush the basis for prosperity for Hong Kong, they will lose major market opportunities. But we are not quite sure exactly--the people in Hong Kong may feel they have enjoyed freedom so far and they may feel constrained by the basic force of the Chinese society.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How prepared is Japanese public opinion in particular for Japan to take a more active role in its defense in the region, provided some of these problems bubble up?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) I think there is going to be much national debate inside Japan because the Japanese tended to focus more on how to be protected by the U.S. forces, but now we are beginning to explore the boundaries of our cooperation with the United States forces. So if we have this national debate, I think I can better answer your question at that time. I must say that for a long time the Japanese tended to view our relationship with the U.S. forces as something to be protected by the U.S. forces, and that awareness has not been changed completely yet.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sounds like you wanted to change.
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) Yes. And we are seriously exploring how much cooperation is possible under our Constitution.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Prime Minister, changing the subject briefly, how much compatibility or conflict do you see between your vision of reform and Japan and the U.S. push for deregulation, market forces? I mean, your thrust has been to protect the underdog, to preserve elements of the bureaucracy, and those might be incompatible with the vision the U.S. has. What do you think?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) I am now initiative six reforms--in Japan, those six reforms are the administration reform and fiscal structural reform, economic structural reform, social security reform, financial system reform, and education reforms. I think we have made much progress on the regulation, and there is expanding opportunities for the U.S. businesses in Japan. I talked about this with the President yesterday, but last year when the President was in Japan, I heard that President Clinton was fond of Starbuck's coffee, so we had to have embassy here buy it. Today we have Starbuck's coffee in Tokyo, so yesterday I told the President that he can come to Tokyo any time to enjoy Starbuck's coffee there.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Prime Minister, finally, let me turn to Peru, and the successful outcome of that crisis. Has that caused Japan to re-think its position on how it deals with terrorists, in some cases--in all cases preferring safety over the kind of action that the Peruvian president took, because Japan has even paid ransom to terrorists to free hostages. Are you re-thinking that position now?
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: (speaking through interpreter) We have changed our thinking. This time we did have some temptation that there may be a possibility for the release of hostages if we were ready to offer some financial resources; however, we chose to squarely face the challenge of terrorism, but at the same time we did pursue the possibilities for peaceful solution. But I had no intention of paying ransom to the terrorists. Of course, there were so many lessons to be learned from this incident, and it's very memorable, and we're very appreciative that the American government people, and many other countries in the world offered kind advice and cooperation up to the solution of this incident.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.
PRIME MINISTER RYUTARO HASHIMOTO: Charlayne, thank you.