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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Asahi Shimbun

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 31, 2002

(Interview in Singapore with Asahi Shimbun reporters Yoichi Funabashi, Nobu Sakajiri and Yoichi Kato.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for sharing your precious time with us. Asahi Shimbun is a sponsor of this conference. We are part of this new beginning and are delighted that we are given this opportunity. Given the time, let me first ask you a question about Iraq. What kind of role do you really expect Japan to play, if and when the United States should attack Iraq?

Wolfowitz: I think it's very important to emphasize, we are not at the point of talking if and when. The president in his State of the Union message laid out the problem very very clearly, which is that there are countries that are hostile to the United States, to what we stand for, therefore our allies, who support terrorism and have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and are acquiring more of it.

And as he said, it's not something we can continue living with indefinitely. He didn't set a deadline, he didn't decide yet on what the solution to the problem is. One of the reasons I think he laid it out that clearly and strongly in public was to invite discussion with our own Congress, with our own people, and with our friends and allies about what the solutions are. Each of the three countries he mentioned are very different as you know -- so we're still in the stage of discussing what the courses of action would be, so it's very premature to say what roles and responsibilities different countries would assume.

But I think everyone would agree that if terrorists get a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon, especially nuclear and biological, they could do things that could do things that would make September 11 look like a minor event in comparison so we have to do what we can to prevent it.

Q: Sir, the defense minister, Nakatani, is going to propose the creation of a new strategic dialogue regime in this area, specifically with a mind that it is necessary to have a new forum where each country of this region can talk about security issues, and I was wondering how you would see this kind of proposal to create a new security arrangement institution in this area.

Wolfowitz: Well, I'd want to hear the details of the proposal before commenting on it specifically. I think I'd say two principles are important. Number one, I think that the general idea is a very good one. It's the reason why Secretary Rumsfeld and I express such strong support for this conference when it was first proposed by the IISS. He would have very liked to be here but his schedule didn't permit it but I'm the lucky one -- I'm delighted to be able to come here!

And I would say in some ways there's a message in that too which is that in spite of our concerns about the war on terrorism, we very much believe that Asia is critical for the future of the United States and Asian security is critical to us and we haven't forgotten about it by any means. So we think that dialogues are opportunities to discuss issues among, especially among like-minded countries, but sometimes it's also with not so like-minded countries you can have a difference that those are very valuable.

The second thing I would say is it's important as we build new institutions to make sure that we keep the existing ones healthy. I think the reason we've had as much success as we have had in East Asia rests on the foundation of a strong U.S. bilateral relationships especially I think the one with Japan. Although South Korea, Australia, Philippines, Thailand -- the steps they have been taking over the last 20 years I think have been very very important so one has to make sure that as we bring in new ideas that we don't weaken the old ones; but I'd be very interested in hearing what he has to say, I think it's -- and I must say any new ideas that come from our strong ally Japan are ones we pay close attention to.

Q: Just a follow-up sir -- how do you see the role of this kind of multilateral effort? Like this conference of kind of a Asia-NATO counterproposal that Mr. Nakatani is going to proposal in terms of dealing with the global war on terrorism and also the kind of situation in India and Pakistan are facing right now?

Wolfowitz: You just called it Asia-NATO -- if it's Asia-NATO, I must say I will listen carefully but I have a certain skepticism that Asia is very different from Europe. You need institutions and mechanisms that are adapted to Asia so it depends on what one means there.

But I think you put you put your finger on one of the reasons why we think multilateral dialogue in East Asia is so valuable. We are facing a potentially catastrophic crisis between India and Pakistan today and every country that can bring influence to bear needs to do so to try to prevent what could be a real catastrophe and I think it's an interesting and more than interesting, a very important fact that this vast region that we call Asia Pacific region which over much of the last 100 or 200 years of history is at hostility between almost every pair of neighbors now has clearly identified common interests between almost every pair neighbors.

So there's a real basis for working together and coordinating and I think almost without question there is common interest in preserving peace and security and it's partly related to the stunning economic growth in Asia. I think everyone in Asia can see that the real road to progress is through economic activity and production, not through war.

But you mentioned terrorism and it give me a chance to say -- if I have two messages myself for this conference, one is the one I already mentioned that the United States remains very much engaged in Asia, very much understands its interest to be engaged in Asia, and understands the important role that we have to play in preserving peace and stability in this huge and important part of the world. The other message is that terrorists are an attack on all of us, not just the United States and very much on attack in Asia.

And I was reminded it's almost 15 years ago to the day that we were sitting in my embassy in Jakarta and mortar bounced off the roof and landed in the courtyard. Almost simultaneously another improvised mortar landed in the courtyard of the Japanese embassy in Jakarta and a third bomb went off in the British Cultural Centre. All the work of a Japanese Red Army terrorist who was on a plane out of Indonesia at the time. It took ten years to catch him, thanks to cooperation and the United States, he's now sitting in a jail in the United States where he belongs.

Terrorism is not something new to Asia. The Tokyo subway attack was one of them, should have been a wake-up call to the whole world and these terrorists, the ones that we're most concerned today have as their principal target the world's Muslim population. They want to take those billion Muslims and lock them up in a kind of a medieval darkness that will serve their ends.

Half the world's Muslims live in countries in the Pacific region, if you stop and think about it -- Indonesia, India, China, Bangladesh -- it's over half a billion right there. So there are plenty of reasons for Asians to take terrorism seriously even though New York and Washington may be 10,000 miles away, the threat is right here and I think multilateral forums like this one is an opportunity to bring home to everybody that we have a common interest in the need to coordinate common action.

Q: How do you deal with terrorists in Pakistan for instance you know who apparently have engaged in terrorist activities in Kashmir while the Musharraf government does not seem to be serious about dealing with them? On a multilateral basis -- how really do you -- ?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think there are many countries in this region who have influence on Pakistan in different ways. China obviously has long-standing influence, U.S. has newly acquired influence, Japan has huge economic influence -- I'm sure if you go down the list -- I'd pick the top three, but I think if you keep going down the list you'll find a lot of people have access and ability to tell Musharraf terrorism in Kashmir is a disaster for Pakistan and not just to tell Musharraf but also to tell the Pakistani people. We feel he wants to do the right thing, in general, but he's under an enormous amount of political pressure.

At the same time, we need to use influence with India also to say, look, war is not the solution here and a war between India and Pakistan could be catastrophic. But the solution is not terrorism -- terrorism is a problem, it is the problem, and we all have to work fight it. We've had great cooperation from Pakistan in many aspects of this war on terrorism, but as you rightly point out, Kashmir is still a black mark.

Q: Do you think that the upcoming G8 will also talk about Kashmir issue?

Wolfowitz: I'm sure the upcoming G8 summit will address the South Asian crisis. I would assume so. I shouldn't be predicting -- it's not my responsibility to set that agenda, but it's such an important issue I would assume it would be on the agenda. In what exact form probably depends again on what is happening in the meantime.

Q: Leading back to this conference -- what do you think of the merit and potential of this newly launched track two mechanism and exercise of this conference? From an American point of view?

Wolfowitz: From an American point of view -- and I think from the point of view of the entire region -- it's a very important issue when John Chipman of the IISS came to Secretary Rumsfeld about a year ago and asked for his support by coming. It's very hard to get my secretary to commit to trips beyond a week ahead because of the way his schedule is. He said this is such an important conference, I will promise either I will come or if I can't come I'll send my deputy. Well, as I said, he got squeezed in his own travel. He has to be in Brussels for a NATO meeting, so I'm the lucky one who gets to come here!

We believe it's important -- we believe that we've seen in Europe how informal dialogue brings together government officials with non-government experts from the business sector from the defense industrial, from the academic world -- that kind of dialogue can be very valuable. I think it's going to have a different quality here in Asia and it always is. I shouldn't say always, but it probably will be a little while before people get accustomed to the pattern.

One of my Asian colleagues remarked to me when he visited the conference in Munich, being surprised at how frank the exchanges were there. Exchanges may be a little more frank there than they are in Asia, but I found that Asians have a way that even though they seem to be speaking indirectly, they know exactly what one another is saying and they get to the point -- so I'm hopeful.

Q: What do you think of the implication of the rise of China and strategic nations like Japan, particularly in economic terms and economic field, for a strategic landscape in Asia Pacific region?

Wolfowitz: I wouldn't tend to compare to put the two sort of side by side, but I do think that China's growing power is steady. The country is huge, and as people become more productive, which Chinese are bound to do, they're talented people -- there's no reason Chinese per capita output shouldn't be the equal of Japan and the U.S. eventually. If there are twice or four times as many Chinese it's going to produce the economy colossus, we know that. What it mustn't produce is a military colossus that throws its weight around and tries to impose its will by force.

But it's very clear that all the nations of East Asia, led I believe by the two biggest, I should say, the Pacific, the two biggest being your country and mine, Japan and U.S. It made it clear that we welcome a China that is a full partner in the region, a peaceful partner in the region. We made it clear in many ways including pioneering China's membership in the World Trade Organization. But one shouldn't underestimate that this is a challenge and historically these challenges have not been met. But I believe that there's more focus now than there has been in early periods in history on making it work well.

What you call Japan's stagnation in any case Japan's sluggish economy, is troubling more for a different reason which is that Japan really has been the engine of growth. I suppose Japan and the U.S. are two economies that have been the engine of growth for the poor countries of East Asia and particularly in South East Asia. Their growth and their prosperity is very important not just for themselves but for the stability of the whole region. So the sooner Japan can get its economy back healthy again, the better it will be for the whole region. I think it's more in that light that I would view it that counterbalances specifically against China.

Q: Some predict that North Korea is now really on the verge of collapsing as much illustrated in the pouring of refugees from North Korea to China for instance which already has serious risk to Japan's relationship with China and the others. Do you agree to this subscription the views that North Korea is really now on the verge of collapsing?

Wolfowitz: I think I heard those predictions 8 years ago. There's a famous Yankee baseball player named Yogi Berra who was famous for comments. One of them was it's dangerous to make predictions especially about the future. There's no question that North Korea has failed and is failing. It could go on failing maybe for a long time, but the failure is unmistakable unless they make some rather significant changes of policy at least of the scale Deng Xiaoping undertook in China 20 years ago. There's very little sign that they're doing so. How long they can stagger along, I'm not sure. I do believe there's an enormous humanitarian problem, and you alluded to refugees, I believe that the whole region should think about those refugees. And the way we thought about the refugees from Indochina 20 years ago. As it turned out Vietnam didn't collapse, but two million or so people were rescued and given a better life and I believe it wouldn't be bad to view North Korean refugees in somewhat the same way.

Q: Just one question about sir. It seems that the expansion of NATO, the new deal with Russia seems to make them feel more isolated. I was wondering, can you take advantage of this expansion of NATO to a better relationship with China?

Wolfowitz: Certainly our goal is not to isolate China. Our goal is to bring China constructively into the region, into the world and if anything perhaps the Chinese ought to see in the way in which Europe has welcomed Russia, a model of the way in which Asia wants to welcome China, but it takes two. It certainly requires a China that adopts constructive policies towards its neighbors and toward the region. It requires a China that doesn't stop proliferating dangerous technologies -- a China that is genuinely committed to peaceful resolution of its disputes including the disputes of Taiwan. But I think there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. I think it should be very clear to China that the to path to avoiding isolation and that there is, as far as I can tell, no one in this region that wants to see an isolated China.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

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