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DM Kono expresses displeasure about not being able to have contact with U.S. counterpart

By Akihito Yamaguchi

 

Defense Minister Taro Kono expressed his displeasure about being unable to have a teleconference with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper to discuss the parachute training at the U.S. military’s Kadena base (Kadena Town, Okinawa Prefecture). It is unprecedented for a Japan’s cabinet minister to publicly express displeasure about a U.S. government counterpart.

 

During a press conference held on Oct. 29, Kono explained that he tried to arrange a one-on-one teleconference with his U.S. counterpart to call for the cancellation of the parachute training but has “not been able to get hold of Mr. Esper as of 5:00 a.m. today.” He thus stated publicly things that would usually not be revealed. After taking office, Kono was quick to build trust with Mr. Esper, speaking with him twice by phone. Kono is apparently frustrated by not being able to have direct dialogue with his counterpart when, as he said, “there has been a very regrettable incident that could impact the Japan-U.S. alliance.”

 

During the director-level discussions held in the place of a ministerial-level conversation, the U.S. side reportedly said that Kono’s concern about the implementation of parachute training would be conveyed to the defense secretary. Still dissatisfied, Kono said, “I need to talk with a higher authority than the unit commander [of the parachute training].” The defense minister intends to take advantage of an international conference slated to be held in Bangkok next month to speak directly with the U.S. defense secretary.

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