(Jiji.com: November 26, 2015 – 18:11)
WASHINGTON, Jiji Press – Following is the gist of the interview with U.S. National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for Asia Daniel Kritenbrink:
Q: What is Japan’s role in the South China Sea, where China is building artificial islands?
Kritenbrink: All countries must recognize the importance of the principles of freedom of passage and navigation and demilitarization in the South China Sea. We hope that our allies and friends will speak up and take action to defend these principles.
Q: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told President Barack Obama that Japan will consider Self-Defense Forces (SDF) operations in the South China Sea.
Kritenbrink: It’s up to Japan’s leaders to decide whether the SDF will engage in operations in the South China Sea.
Q: Is it possible to stop China’s operations in the South China Sea?
Kritenbrink: It is not possible to resolve overnight an issue that has existed for more than a decade. However, the principle of freedom of navigation bears on the U.S.’s basic national interest, so we intend to take action to support and maintain this principle.
Q: The Japan-ROK relationship is improving.
Kritenbrink: This issue was a topic at the Japan-U.S. summit on Nov. 19. We urge the leaders of Japan and the ROK to have the necessary courage and flexibility to move forward. We hope that (with regard to the comfort women issue,) the focus will be on reconciliation between the two countries and their people and on overcoming the past.
Q: Are you concerned about progress being made in Japan-Russia relations?
Kritenbrink: We are not concerned. However, the present situation with regard to Russia is different from that in peacetime. This is because we are concerned about Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Japan will be hosting the G7 Summit next year. We ask our friends in Tokyo to take notice of such issues.
Q: What do you think of the U.S. military base issues in Okinawa?
Kritenbrink: We believe that the relocation of the Futenma Air Station (in Ginowan City) to Henoko in Nago City is the only realistic and feasible option. President Obama and Prime Minister Abe agreed (at their meeting in Manila) to stand firm on implementing the relocation plan. We are good neighbors of Okinawa and other communities in Japan. The U.S. forces make important contributions to common bilateral security efforts.