PM Abe gave an exclusive interview to “Evening Fuji”.
– Can you tell us about the results of president Obama’s visit?
The situation with security assurance in Asia is changing. China is getting stronger in both military and economy and tries to change the current situation in the East and South China Sea by force. ASEAN countries are very concerned. President Obama and myself confirmed that Japan-US alliance has the utmost responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Our views that the change of current situation by force in unacceptable have fully coincide. In the joint statement we mentioned that the Senkaku Islands fall within clause five of the Japan-US Security Treaty. Also, it was mentioned that America supports and welcomes Japan deliberating on the right to exercise collective self-defense. This is a groundbreaking achievement.
– During talks between the leaders of Japan and America China was conducting unauthorized surveillance in the Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the Kume Island.
Japan did not give permission for any scientific surveillance. On the ground patrol vessels of Japan Coast Guard and airplanes are requesting China to stop. Using diplomatic channels we are requesting Chinese government every day to explain what they are investigating and stop the surveillance at once. We are firmly exercising our right of sovereignty.
– Will the joint statement serve to further the discussion on the right to exercise collective self-defense?
We are discussing the right for collective self-defense solely in the context of contributing to peace and stability of our country. The key to this is Japan-US alliance and America, our ally, says that it welcomes and supports our right to exercise collective self-defense. It will make our alliance even stronger.
– What was the atmosphere at the “sushi party”?
Basically president Obama likes to talk about work, but we did not talk about the work out of the blue. When we entered Sukiyabashi Jiro place in Ginza, Tokyo, president was very happy: “I always wanted to come here.” At the entrance there was a picture of Mickey Mouse eating sushi, and I explained jokingly: “Walt Disney CEO presented this when he visited this place. It is not copyright infringement.” President laughed.
– So it was very relaxed?
We were eagerly talking about golf. President Obama asked: “Do you play golf these days?”, and I answered: “I am so busy that I do not have time. My score has fallen since I have become the PM.” President asked: “How quick you can finish the course?”, I answered: “In 15 handicaps.” President replied: “I need 18. Let’s play together in Japan some time.” Then he asked: “Do you have good golf courses in Japan?”, I replied proudly: “Sure, we have as many as there are stars in the sky”.
– Can we expect golf talks between Japan and US at the highest level?
Yes, if there is a chance.
– Regarding TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), it was decided to continue consultations.
There is a big economic framework to be formed in Asia-Pacific. It is not only about access to markets, it is also about creating the new rules. It is a new economic zone of 21st century. It is a far-sighted policy for our country that will be led by Japan and US, the countries that have the same values like “liberal democracy” and “basic human rights”. It will benefit not only two our countries, but all countries in the region. Here we also have absolutely similar position with president Obama.
– I see.
That reminds me, president Obama said: “On the way from Haneda airport to Sukiyabashi Jiro I have seen no Ford or GM cars. This is the only country where I observe such a situation.” I replied: “No, it is not like it. We have a lot of BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars”. I explained that Japan is an open economy.
– Agreement is near?
It is difficult to create the path for reaching an agreement in order to come to joint understanding in diplomatic negotiations. This time we have succeeded in creating this path.
– Do you feel that the distance between you and Korea’s president Park Geun-hye has shortened after the joint Japan-US-Korea talks in Hague, Netherlands?
The foremost is sense of trust between people. I will start with talking about the common subjects. At the moment we have a danger from North Korea in the North-Eastern Asia. We share a common understanding with president Park that “this problem is to be worked on by all three countries and it is leaders’ duty to overcome this danger.” In this sense I am very pleased that thanks to president Obama we could have talks at the highest level between Japan, US and Korea.
– How would you confront the issue of certain countries trying to slander Japan and Japanese people?
It is important to properly answer to any baseless and unjustified criticism. I am already doing so. But Japanese people should be more sure of themselves. Recently we conducted attitude survey in all ASEAN countries and found out that Japan has retaken the first place as the most trustworthy country. Even in EU we are number two after America. Japan is enjoying unshakable trust and confidence from other countries.
– What about the consequences of consumption tax raise?
I think those are still to come. Fortunately, many companies agreed to raise wages from April. According to the latest research the average monthly wage increased 6200 yen, which is the highest number in ten years. Then we spend 5.5 trillion yen on economic stimulus and 1 trillion yen on taxation policy, and these spendings were efficient. We are following the state of economy closely and if there is a change, we will act quick. We must not miss our chance to get rid of deflation.
– In June soccer World Cup is to begin in Brazil. Who will you be paying attention to?
I think it will be Keisuke Honda (Serie A club Milan). Players of such class can be badly criticized in foreign media, but I would like him not to pay much attention to it and give his best.
– If Japan is to go to finals, will you go to Brazil to support the team?
I remember that Germany PM Gerhard Schroeder hurriedly coming to Japan for 2002 World Cup finals in Tokyo. If Japan is to go to finals, I would like to go. But it is so far away… (laughs).
– Young Japanese athletes are also working hard ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Minami Katsu (high school freshmen in Kagosima) became the youngest winner of the home tour of KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open, and she is only fifteen.
In ladies golf the competition is very high, so this win is very valuable. I have hopes for her in the future. She ate Japanese rice balls during the play. It was not banana, which is very heartwarming. I also like the episode when she was saying that her grandfather taught golf to her. It is six years until the Olympics. Seeing the young generation having the goal make me feel excited as well.
– What book would you read during the golden week holidays?
I think it would be historical mystery “Kuroshoin no Rokubei” by Jiro Asada. I have only started it recently.
– What kind of music do you like?
I am into classics lately. It helps me to relax. Schubert, Haydn. When I am at home reading books or working with documents I listen to classics. Oh, and I also listen to it when sitting in a massage chair in the official residence. I close my eyes and become sleepy.
– Is there a massage chair in the official residence?
When I was the PM for the first time there was not one. But now there is a great model that can massage your legs too. Perhaps someone (one of the five previous PMs) left it there…
– I believe you will be busy visiting Europe during golden week holidays. If you had one free week, how would you spend it?
I would probably do nothing. Reading books. And golf too. I would refresh myself preparing for my next official duty.