Why The Prime Minister Job Is Hard To Keep In Japan This past week, Japan's ruling party selected a new prime minister, Naoto Kan, to fill the role of Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned after failing to fulfill campaign promises. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, about the change of leadership.
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Why The Prime Minister Job Is Hard To Keep In Japan

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Why The Prime Minister Job Is Hard To Keep In Japan

Why The Prime Minister Job Is Hard To Keep In Japan

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

This past week, Japan's ruling party selected a new prime minister, Naoto Kan. He stepped in to fill the role of Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned after failing to fulfill campaign promises. To talk about Japan's new leadership and politics in the region, I'm joined once again in the studio by Japan's ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back.

Ambassador ICHIRO FUJISAKI (Japanese Ambassador to the United States): Thank you very much, Liane. I'm very happy to be back.

HANSEN: Mr. Kan will be your country's fifth prime minister in four years. Why is it such a tough job to keep?

Mr. FUJISAKI: Well, I personally think that the prime minister should stay longer, and I hope that this will be the case this time. And, of course, it's very important to know other leaders well and for the people in the world to know the Japanese prime minister. But because of political situations, the last time when Hatoya-san(ph) came, it was a change of party.

This time Hatoya-san thought that he was not able to fulfill his commitments and he thought that he should resign and give to other people.

HANSEN: The last time we were here, we talked about American military bases in Japan and this seems to be the fulcrum of some of the problems the prime minister had. Many Japanese want to see some of those bases closed. The prime minister promised during the campaign he would remove an American base on the island of Okinawa, he didn't. There was public anger over the issue and one of the things that led to the resignation. What do you expect from Mr. Kan on this issue?

Mr. FUJISAKI: First of all, Japanese feel that U.S. presence in Asia Pacific is important and indispensable. That is point one. Point two is that there's a problem in Okinawa because 75 percent of U.S. bases is concentrated on the little island of Okinawa, which is less than one percent of Japan. So, there's improportionate(ph) burden on Okinawa people. We have to change the situation.

Prime Minister Hatoyama thought that he would try to move one marine air base station out of Okinawa and in the end, he found that this was difficult. We made an agreement with the United States on May 28th, and our new prime minister said he will continue on the basis of the agreement but at the same time will fortify efforts to lessen the burden on Okinawa people.

HANSEN: We can't have a conversation without talking about North Korea. On Friday, South Korea officially asked the United Nations Security Council to take action against North Korea for the sinking of a navy ship, which killed 46 sailors. Will Japan support South Korea in those efforts?

Mr. FUJISAKI: Yes. We are very clear on this issue. We have condemned North Korean act on the basis of South Korea and other countries internationally involved. They have issued a very credible report, so we have condemned North Korea and we have said that we strongly support Republic of Korea in that effort. We'll stand by Republic of Korea.

HANSEN: What's the status of Japan's relationship with China over the issue of North Korea? Because after all, China did not at all condemn what North Korea did.

Mr. FUJISAKI: On this issue, I think we have to really have the cooperation of China because China has a very big role in dealing with North Korea. So, I think Japan, United States are okay, will continue to be talking this issue with China.

HANSEN: Ichiro Fujisaki is Japan's ambassador to the United States. Thank so much for coming in. It's nice to see you again.

Mr. FUJISAKI: Thank you very much, Liane-san. It was so nice to talk to you.

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