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Gist of interpellations at Lower House Budget Committee, Feb. 14, 2018

The following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Feb. 14, 2018:

 

North Korea

 

Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): Reports say that Vice President Mike Pence is willing to engage in direct dialogue with North Korea.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: In light of media reports, Mr. Pence tweeted: “There will be no reward for talks” and “The maximum pressure campaign will only intensify until North Korea abandons its nuclear program.” I coordinated closely with Mr. Pence on plans for the future both during his visit to Japan and in Pyeongchang. We agreed on the policy of applying maximum pressure to achieve North Korea’s complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization. This has been confirmed with U.S. government officials. We confirmed that there will be no surprises between Japan and the U.S. All sorts of things may happen from now on, but we will coordinate closely in advance.

 

Mikio Shimoji (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): ROK President Moon Jae-in has been invited to visit North Korea.

 

Abe: Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is meaningless. It is necessary to make North Korea commit to abandoning its nuclear programs in a verifiable and irreversible manner and taking concrete action on this. Our goal is denuclearization. ROK Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun also visited North Korea in the past. The reason behind North Korea’s smile diplomacy is intensifying pressure from the international community. Japan, the U.S., and the ROK need to cooperate in maximizing pressure, in order to make North Korea change its policies.

 

Yuichiro Goto (Party of Hope): Is North Korea a nuclear power?

 

Abe: Since it has conducted successful nuclear tests, it possesses nuclear weapons. However, questions have been raised as to whether it is capable of loading these weapons on ICBMs.

 

Goto: Are the mid-range Rodong missiles capable of attacking Japan?

 

Abe: Our understanding is that North Korea deploys hundreds of these missiles.

 

Goto: Are Rodong missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons?

 

Abe: I am not able to say for sure.

 

Defense capability buildup

 

Akinori Eto (LDP): You must declare that the strictly defensive security policy will remain unchanged. Is it necessary to introduce standoff missiles?

 

Abe: The strictly defensive security policy is based on the spirit of the constitution. It is Japan’s basic defense policy. However, viewed purely in terms of a defense strategy, it is actually quite problematic. Japan will have to endure the first attack from an adversary and its territory will become a battlefield. (Enemy missiles) are able to attack very accurately. In reality, the side that launches the first strike enjoys an overwhelming advantage. It will be difficult to dodge an attack.

 

Kazuhiro Haraguchi (Group of Independents): Procurement under the U.S. FMS (Foreign Military Sales) program (in which Japan accepts the prices and delivery schedules proposed by the U.S.) is increasing.

 

Abe: This is very important for procuring cutting-edge equipment. We are working on ensuring appropriate pricing.

 

Hajime Hirota (Group of Independents): Legal procedures in a survival-threatening situation should be simplified.

 

Abe: We need to make constant improvements.

 

Japan-China relations

 

Kiyohiko Toyama (Komeito): There needs to be more frequent high-level exchanges.

 

Abe: We would like to hold the Japan-China-ROK summit at an early date, after which I will visit China, to be followed by a visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping.

 

Japan-Russia relations

 

Goto: President Vladimir Putin is concerned that if the Northern Territories are returned, U.S. military bases may be built there under Article 6 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

 

Abe: It is definitely not true that the U.S. forces can build bases wherever they wish. Japan’s consent is required. I would like to discuss this issue at the summit meeting to be held during my visit to Russia in May.

 

Constitutional revision

 

Yukio Edano (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): You said that the scope of operations of the Self-Defense Forces will remain unchanged even if Article 9 is revised. We would like to see the wording of the provisions.

 

Abe: If you want to see the provisions, discuss this at the Diet’s Commissions on the Constitution.

 

U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)

 

Yasufumi Fujino (Japanese Communist Party): Why do you hail the new NPR?

 

Abe: North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs constitute a serious imminent threat. This document deals with ensuring the security of the U.S. and its allies and providing extended nuclear deterrence. (Abridged)

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