Japan Wants U.S. To Move Out; Can They Still Be Friends?

This week, President Obama is scheduled to begin a 10-day tour of Asia. He is expected to visit Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. A variety of topics will be on the agenda, including trade relations, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and climate change. When the president visits Japan, he'll have several issues in mind, including a dispute over U.S. military bases in that country. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki about U.S.-Japan relations.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This week, President Obama is scheduled to begin a 10-day tour of Asia. He's expected to visit Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. A variety of topics will be on the agenda, including trade relations, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and climate change. When the president visits Japan, he'll have several issues in mind, including a dispute over U.S. military bases in that country.

I'm joined in the studios by the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki. Thank you so much for coming in.

Mr. ICHIRO FUJISAKI (Japanese Ambassador to U.S.): Thank you very much for having me. Before that, I'm sorry, can I just say that I'd like to express condolences for the victims and families of Fort Hood and Orlando on behalf of the people of Japan.

HANSEN: Thank you very much, sir. I know that's appreciated. Let's talk about the military bases in Japan and the dispute. Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said while he was campaigning that a U.S. Marine base on the Japanese island of Okinawa should be moved off the island. The U.S. military wants it moved to a different part of Okinawa. The issue is still unresolved. Can you explain why the prime minister wants the base out of Okinawa?

Mr. FUJISAKI: It's not just one person's view, it's reflecting the people's view as well. I think a lot of people appreciate that we need a U.S. presence because of our security condition. There's a threat from North Korea. But if it's concentrated too much on one area, it is natural that people think that we have to lessen the burden. But we are now looking at the issue and discussing it with Americans. And I think I am very hopeful that we will come up with a conclusion that would be acceptable to both.

HANSEN: The people of Okinawa have been upset about crime that occurs around the bases. Is this a factor?

Mr. FUJISAKI: Yes. If accidents, crimes happen, it is natural that people around the bases are concerned and we wish that this will not happen again. But, still, U.S. presence all in all in that area is important to us. And we appreciate the service of men and women serving in U.S. military in Japan and around the world. At the same time we cannot justify the crimes, so we'll have to try to abolish them.

HANSEN: There will be talks about many things when the president visits.

Mr. FUJISAKI: Yes.

HANSEN: One is your country announced it would end its military support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan, but will increase financial aid to the country. What's behind that change in strategy?

Mr. FUJISAKI: I don't know if you should call it military support. That was a refueling of ships which are engaging in Operation Eduring Freedom in Indian Ocean. The new government is trying to seek a best way of assisting Afghan people. And, for example, I think we'll be looking at our assistance towards agricultural development, villages, education and security - police. And we think those areas will be most effective and be helpful to Afghan people.

HANSEN: So rebuilding, reconstruction.

Mr. FUJISAKI: Yes. We have been number two in the world for reconstructions of Iraq. Number one being United States, of course. In Afghan we are number three.

HANSEN: If you're just joining us, I'm speaking with the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki. Another topic on the agenda is North Korea. The Obama administration has said it's willing to engage directly with the North Koreans. Do you think that will be effective?

Mr. FUJISAKI: Yes. As for North Korean issue, we have to solve three issues comprehensively: nuclear, missile, abduction. And we think Six-Party Talks is the best organization for - to discuss this. And we appreciate very much that U.S. is engaging with North Korea bilaterally in the context, in the framework of the Six-Party Talks. And we hope that through this U.S. effort, we'll have this full Six-Party Talks as soon as possible.

HANSEN: I would be remiss if I did not ask you about an event this past week. As you know, the New York Yankees won the World Series, and the Most Valuable Player was Hideki Matsui. And I know you are a baseball fan. What do you think his success means for your country?

Mr. FUJISAKI: Ten, 15 years ago, there were very few Japanese baseball players. Now you have more than 15 baseball players, and we are exporting our best, like Matsui, Godzilla Matsui, Ichiro - Seattle Mariners and all these top players are here. And they are really doing very well. And I really appreciate and it's not only me, but all Japanese were excited to see how Matsui was doing, Ichiro was doing. But this was a great game, really.

HANSEN: I noticed you referred to Hideki Matsui by his nickname Godzilla. Is that a name that he had in Japan?

Mr. FUJISAKI: I think it's more here.

HANSEN: Well, he's a tribute to your country.

Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki. Thank you so much for coming in.

Mr. FUJISAKI: Thank you very much, Liane, for having me. It was a great honor to be here.

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