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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Yusuke Takahashi, NHK Television

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 31, 2003

Takahashi:  Thank you Mr. Secretary.  First of all let me ask you about the Iraqi reconstruction process.  Now there is intense discussion in Japanese Diet about how can we help the Iraqi people by sending not just money but also personnel, like Japanese Self Defense Force.   Now, would you give us a sense from your point of view what contribution that Japanese Self Defense Force can make to stabilize the situation in that country without engaging in combat situation?


Wolfowitz:  There are I think a variety of tasks, and of course the recent resolution of the UN Security Council I think also opens the way to encouraging all members of the international community to contribute to the stabilization and it’s really construction.  You know, the war didn’t damage Iraq but 30 years of this dictator has really set them back a long way.  And I think there are a variety of things that Japanese peacekeepers could do from simply providing a stabilizing presence in areas that are not any longer hostile or providing medical support in parts of the country, helping to train the Iraqi police and security forces.  So there’s I think going to be right now, there are parts of the country where we’re still engaged in something that has to be called combat but there are other parts of the country where it’s already quite peaceful and I think there would be many roles for Japanese peacekeepers.


Takahashi:  But would you specify what kind of activities are helpful from US point of view?


Wolfowitz:  Medical units, engineer units, simply the kinds of peacekeepers, I think that for example Japan sent to East Timor.  That will undoubtedly be helpful in parts of Iraq.  I believe, but I’m not sure about this, that you have a liaison officer who works with Central Command, and we’re really waiting to hear what kinds of discussions come through military channels.  We really need the experts to sit down and talk with one another.  But certainly a Japanese contribution would be very positive and very welcome.


Takahashi:  Second question is the rebalancing of US defense posture in the region and the LA Times story.  But would you tell us where exactly we are in the discussion into rebalancing the US forces in the region especially in Okinawa.  Is it one of your options to reduce the heavy burden that Okinawa?


Wolfowitz:  Well, first of all, while there’s a certain general truth in the LA Times story, many of the specifics are sensational and not accurate, particularly the idea that we’re about to remove our Marines from Okinawa and move them to Australia.  That has no foundation that I’m aware of, in any serious discussion.  Obviously, we’ve been working for some time with your government, with the people of Okinawa, to find ways to reduce the burden there.  We’ll continue to work in that direction.  We haven’t made any decisions beyond where we are already, and I think the important thing now is actually implementing some plans that we already have developed with your government.


Takahashi:  Mr. Secretary, a month ago, Secretary Rumsfeld said that he talked about US forces in the Korean peninsula, and of course of the DMZ, and he tried to more (inaudible) or more air oriented and sea oriented, and that that kind of discussion and impression for Japanese that the United States have been thinking about to increase the presence in Okinawa.


Wolfowitz:  No, it’s rather, we’re still doing our thinking, so I don’t want to say that we’ve come to conclusions.  But the thinking I’ve seen about Korea involves rationalizing our posture in Korea, not shifting our posture from Korea to Japan.  I think in fact in some ways it would be to give our posture in Korea a little bit more of the character that it already has in Japan, which is not so focused on heavy ground force deployments and a bit more outward looking, a bit more of a maritime orientation.


Takahashi:  And fifth question is North Korea.  This morning you sounded a little soft spoken (laughter).  I’m sorry to say that nobody expect that Mr. Kim Jong Il suddenly become a reformer like Deng Xiao Ping in communist China.  Why don’t we seek a regime change in that country like we did in Iraq and if not, why can’t US give the North Koreans the security guarantee they ask?  That non-aggression pact or some such kind of guarantee.


Wolfowitz:  Well, I’m not quite sure what anyone thinks that by itself is going to accomplish.  It’s not -- if we were talking about it in the context of the kind of major change that I talked about, there are many things that could be on the table, but if take a view that North Korea’s never going to change, that Kim Jong Il will continue to rule the country and continue to pursue the insane policies he’s pursuing, then it’s hard to see any successful outcome other than that country increasingly heading towards collapse.  But I think what is essential is for everyone in North Korea to get a message that comes not just from the United States, but from all the regional powers, that they face a fundamental choice.  Now it’s true, maybe there are only a few people in North Korea who have any ability to make that choice, but I think the clearer it can be presented to them including to Kim Jong Il, the better chance there is of a peaceful outcome and I think we all want to see a peaceful outcome because war in Korea would be quite a terrible thing.


Takahashi:  But if they were to escalate the situation again, would you specify that what is the additional step that we can make to stop them from exporting nuclear reactive materials?


Wolfowitz:  Well, there’s a great deal we can do in that regard.  In fact this wasn’t the purpose of our operation in Iraq, but we’ve just taken one customer away from them.  There are a lot of other things that can be done to prevent the export of those materials and it will be important, because as I said in my comments, I think the greatest single danger posed by what they’re doing is in fact the potential export.  But, look, the further North Korea goes up this escalatory road, the further it’s going to have to climb back down at some point.  They’re not improving their security by what they do and they’re wasting their limited national resources and what they need to understand very clearly, and that message has to come not just from the United States, but from Japan and South Korea and Russia and most of all from China, is that the help that they are getting now is going to dry up if they keep going down this road of provocative behavior.


Takahashi:  If I may ask one last bonus question about missile defense, would you give us your thoughts on how US-Japan cooperate to study and developing the missile defense capability in the near future?


Wolfowitz:  Not so long ago people were saying missile defense was a fantasy and nothing could be done.  We just saw in the Persian Gulf the enormous advances have been made in missile defense in just the last ten years.  I remember during the Gulf War in 1991 when we shot a lot of Patriots at Scud missiles, but even though we at the time thought maybe they were being effective, we realized that afterwards it was not an effective system.  Now we have a more effective version of the Patriot that can literally hit a bullet with a bullet, and we’re increasingly developing the capability to do that against longer range, that is to say faster systems.


Takahashi:  Is that also then the case of Japan?


Wolfowitz:  I think it’s important for Japan and Japan is increasingly threatened by the developments in North Korea, and we’re not talking about coping with the kind of very sophisticated missile threat that the old Soviet Union presented which probably wasn’t possible at (inaudible).  We’re talking about something that I think our technology and your technology co-operatively should find a way to make a difference.  We’re planning ourselves to have a deployment in Alaska completed within a couple of years that will give us a limited capability against long range missiles and I think we can find ways to work together with Japan, if that’s what Japan wants to do to improve your capabilities.


Takahashi:  Thank you.

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