Written Interview with Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio by the Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT)
July 12, 2023
Q1. You have repeatedly stressed after February 24, 2022, that “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.” How has Russia’s aggression of Ukraine made Japan rethink its own security situation?
Even before Russia's aggression of Ukraine, the security environment in the Indo-Pacific region has become the most challenging and complex in the postwar era. China continues its attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, while China and Russia are stepping up their military activities around Japan and strengthening military coordination between the two countries. North Korea has escalated its behavior, launching ballistic missiles with unprecedented frequency and in new ways.
Under these circumstances, Russia has taken the step of invading Ukraine, an act of aggression that shakes the very foundations of the international order. This has made it clear once again that attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force will not be tolerated anywhere in the world, and that it is important to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law.
Against this backdrop, Japan formulated a new National Security Strategy at the end of last year. The strategy first of all lists diplomatic power as one of the main elements of Japan's overall national strength for security. At the same time, diplomacy requires a supporting defense capability. From the perspective of whether Japan can protect the lives of its citizens as it confronts the most severe and complex security environment of the postwar era, it was decided to take concrete steps to fundamentally strengthen its defense capability, and to take necessary measures in FY2027 so that the budget level for this purpose will reach 2% of the current GDP, together with efforts to supplement this capability.
We need to make the most of our comprehensive national power including diplomacy and defense capability. We are determined to develop realistic diplomacy actively and vigorously, and to take immediate measures to drastically strengthen our defense capability.
Q2. You attended the NATO Summit in Madrid last year for the first time. Now, you’re back at it in Lithuania. What is the importance of the Vilnius NATO Summit for Japan? What issues do you hope to address here?
The international community continues to face a challenging security environment as Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine, and the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable. NATO and Japan are partners who share fundamental values and strategic interests, and this attendance is an important opportunity to take cooperation between NATO and Japan to new heights.
It is significant that the leaders of NATO countries and major partners are gathering in Lithuania, an important partner that shares values and principles with Japan, to discuss future cooperation and other issues. At this NATO Summit, we intend to further specify and strengthen NATO-Japan cooperation in light of the current international security environment, including Russia's aggression against Ukraine, and to take this opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Lithuania and other countries to confirm cooperation with like-minded countries on the Indo-Pacific situation and other issues. We leaders will also take this opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Lithuania and other countries to confirm cooperation with like-minded countries on Indo-Pacific affairs and other issues.
Q3. When is the announced NATO liaison office in Tokyo expected to open? There are talks that some NATO countries are blocking it. Is it true?
We are aware that NATO is currently considering the establishment of a NATO liaison office in Japan from various angles.
Japan recognizes that the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable, and intends to further strengthen cooperation between NATO and Japan in order to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law.
Q4. China has repeatedly criticised NATO-Japan rapprochement. Does it worry you?
In order to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law amid serious challenges to the international order, it is important to cooperate not only with allies and like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific but also with European like-minded and institutions such as NATO. Such cooperation is not something that will increase tensions in the region, but will contribute to peace and stability in the international community as a whole.
Japan and NATO are partners who share fundamental values and strategic interests, and we intend to cooperate with NATO, its members and partners, and other like-minded countries in order to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law.
Q5. National Security strategy of Japan includes a goal to hit 2 percent of GDP spent on defence by 2027, a goal similar to NATO countries. Is it still a realistic goal, despite some suggestions to the contrary? Why is this goal necessary?
In the new National Security Strategy, it was decided to take concrete steps to fundamentally strengthen its defense capability, and to take necessary measures in FY2027 so that the budget level for this purpose will reach 2% of the current GDP, together with efforts to supplement this capability.
The fundamental reinforcement of the defense force was derived from the contents of the defense force necessary for Japan to rebuild an adequate defense in the face of the most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II.
This is necessary in order to protect the lives of the Japanese people and their peaceful way of life, to improve Japan's deterrence and coping capabilities, and to reduce the likelihood of armed attack itself.