Q & A: Koizumi talks security and shoguns
Koizumi says he supports the U.S.-led efforts to bring democracy to Iraq.
I believe the international community attaches greater importance to the authority of the United Nations rather than to the views of a single country, the United States.
-- Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon spoke exclusively to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi about international security issues, including the worldwide influence of the United Nations, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and his own country's intended role in Iraq.
CNN: Terrorists are threatening to attack your country if you send troops to Iraq. What is your response?
Koizumi: We shall never succumb to threats by terrorists. Fighting terrorism is a common battle around the world and we should never succumb to terrorists. We in Japan intend to cooperate as much as possible by providing humanitarian and reconstruction support to Iraq.
CNN: But is it worth putting the Japanese people at greater risk just for the sake of sending a small and largely symbolic group of self defense forces to Iraq?
Koizumi: I am aware the situation on the ground in Iraq is very tough and difficult. And therefore we shall first of all assess the situation on the ground, and upon doing that we will consider and judge very carefully when to send our troops. But we believe there are areas where the Japanese self defense forces can provide humanitarian and reconstruction support.
If you ask is there the possibility of terrorist attacks on the self defense forces' troopers or ordinary Japanese citizens, well you've seen attacks on the United Nations, attacks on the International Red Cross, and we could go on for days on end discussing the possibility of such attacks. The terrorists are trying to mobilize all means available to turn Iraq into utter turmoil. Considering that situation, as I look at numerous countries, the United States and others who are striving to help Iraq reconstruct itself, I have to pay respect to those countries.
CNN: Would you say its definitely a question of when and how you send the troops rather than a question of if?
Koizumi: On the question of when to send the troops we would like, as I said, to make the judgment by assessing the situation very carefully. We already have in place a law that enables us to dispatch self defense forces. So it's a matter of judging the situation very carefully.
CNN: If any self defense forces were to get killed in Iraq after you sent them there, do you have a plan in place to handle the situation?
Koizumi: There will be no end to debate if we speak in terms of possibilities. That is why we've been saying that when we send the self defense forces we will pay due and full consideration to their safety and that is an unchanging policy of the government.
CNN: So is it fair to say then there is no possibility that you won't send them?
Koizumi: Well, we have to ... carefully judge the situation in Iraq.
CNN: Do you ever lie awake at night wondering if you're doing the right thing?
Koizumi: When I make decisions I listen to the views of various people, I also rack my brains over the issue, but I wouldn't really say that I have sleepless nights because of those issues. As I said, I would make a decision on any matter taking into full consideration the situation surrounding that matter, and it is true that when it comes to Iraq there are certain aspects that make me worry, but more important than that I think the international community should cooperate for the reconstruction of Iraq.
CNN: Two of your very close allies, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are meeting today in London to discuss how to bring peace to Iraq. Do you have any message or advice for them?
Koizumi: I don't know what sort of meeting it will turn out to be but I think there is one point that always remains the same. That is both president Bush and Prime Minister Blair are determined to provide support to create a democratic and stable regime in Iraq. And I believe that is an unwavering determination.
Now I've been telling President Bush ... it is extremely important to build international cooperation, and to fully utilize the roles the U.N. can play.
CNN: What specific role do you think the United Nations should play?
Koizumi: As you know, the United Nations security council recently adopted a resolution that provides support to reconstruction of Iraq. And I believe that now the resolution is passed, the United States should lend its ear to the voices of even those countries that opposed the war in the first place like France and Germany, and build international cooperation.
I believe the United States feels frustrated. Why wouldn't the Arab countries, the Iraqi people, understand this U.S. ideal or America's good will. And I think it is advisable for the United States to once again give full thoughts to what would be necessary to gain the understanding on the part of many countries of this deal or goodwill.
CNN: So in other words, you feel that the U.S. could be doing more to gain consensus and understanding around the world?
Koizumi: Yes, I think the U.S. needs to redouble its efforts.
A Japanese team of Self-Defense Forces experts met local authorities in southern Iraq.
CNN: On the North Korean issue, there are likely to be six-party talks very soon with North Korea. What kind of guarantee or agreement on North Korea's security would be acceptable to Japan?
Koizumi: I believe in the first place the major interest for the North Koreans is to first obtain from the United States a guarantee for their security.
And the United States has no intent to invade North Korea and also is prepared to provide a guarantee for North Korea's security, provided North Korea abandons its nuclear development program. And I shall say the crux of the matter right now is which goes first or would both take place at one and the same time. And the negotiation at this moment is on that question.
I believe the fact North Korea invited me to Pyongyang last year doubtless shows they have the will, the desire to normalize relations with Japan. However, for Japan we need to address comprehensively the various issues that we have between us, between Japan and North Korea -- not just the nuclear issue but the abduction issue as well as the missile issue. And in this respect Japan's relations with North Korea somewhat differ from the relations between the United States and North Korea.
So how, or in what form, would the United States provide guarantee for North Korea's security, and in what manner would North Korea dispel the nuclear concern the United States, Japan and others have, how are we to make concrete steps towards achieving those objectives? These are matters that have been on the negotiating table, and the very tough question is how those steps should be expressed in concrete terms in the days ahead.
CNN: Now as you've mentioned you've met Kim Jong Il in person. Based on your impression of him, is he a man who will live up to an agreement that he makes?
Koizumi: That is an often asked question and I would not provide a direct answer in yes or no fashion to that question of is he a trustworthy or not a trustworthy person. But I always tell people that for the government of Japan, he is a person that we have to negotiate with.
CNN: You're very good friends with President Bush. What do you suggest to him that he should do to improve international understanding about what the United States is trying to do?
Koizumi:Japan today has the emperor, the emperor system, and Japan also has the parliament. But as you know in the days of yore Japan had the shogun who singlehandedly controlled the military as well as the executive, the judiciary branch of government as well. But this shogun with all that power still respected the emperor.
So back in the days of the shogunate, which had all the military might under it, and the shogun who was the most powerful person in terms of military might as well, still payed respect to the authority that was embodied in the emperor.
And back in those days there were times when the emperor would feel that this shogun was a troublesome existence that would not really do as he wishes, and there were moments when the shogun also felt that the emperor was difficult to handle. And there were moments of tension from time to time between the two.
So even the shogun that had absolute power could not ignore the emperor's authority. Not that he could not but he did not ignore the authority. So whenever the shogun exercised power or exercised a military force, he always did it in a fashion that was under the order of the emperor. So the people in power back in those days of the shogunate always struggled very hard to figure out the ways to get the emperor's authority, the emperor's imprimatur for their cause as being just whenever it came to exercising their power.
I'm fully aware that today's age is totally different from the days of the emperor and the shogunate but today the United States has a military might that no other country around the world can rival.
Yet there are numerous problems that cannot be resolved by military force. So I believe the United States needs to be fully cognizant of the authority of this institution, the United Nations, if it wishes to gain the understanding and cooperation of the international community for the realization of the American ideal or the American good will.
There may be moments when you feel that the U.N. hasn't got any power but I believe the international community attaches greater importance to the authority of the United Nations rather than to the views of a single country, the United States.
So I believe it will be important for the United States as well as for the international community that the United States strives to enlarge the involvement and the roles of the United Nations so the international community will come to understand the American ideals and American good will.