Japan: An Interview with Yasuhiro Nakasone

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"We will make contributions to enhance the solidarity in the West" Since taking office last November, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has displayed a forthright, outspoken style unusual for Japanese leaders. Abandoning the somewhat dispassionate manner of his predecessors, he has begun to usher his nation firmly into a full partnership with the West. He has increased military spending and expanded his country's defense commitment in the western Pacific. At the same time, he has moved rapidly to open Japanese markets to more Western imports. Following his party's good showing in the recent parliamentary elections, Nakasone met with Tokyo Bureau Chief Edwin Reingold in the spacious salon outside the Prime Minister's office in downtown Tokyo. Excerpts from the interview:

On Japan's relations with the West. Up to now the Japanese people tended to feel they were quite open. In reality, however, I think they were confined within a very narrow, self-centered domain. I decided to push forward so we can become a Japan open to the world. I have made all-out efforts to improve access to the Japanese market. We have reduced tariff rates, and despite resistance, we have improved import certification and safety standards. We have been able to make tremendous progress, and that progress will continue. Another major change is that we have moved forward to assume a political role that is commensurate with Japan's economic potential. This means when we are faced with various international problems, we will make contributions to enhance the solidarity in the West.

On Japanese reaction to his more open policy. It has caused major repercussions. Perhaps over half of the major influential newspapers in Japan criticize my policies, and the other parties strongly denounce them. However, I have tried to explain my way of thinking to the people. I have made a hard-working effort to gain the people's understanding, and I think the results were fully reflected in last month's elections. Ultimately, I think the Japanese people do endorse the policy I have introduced.

On his diplomatic initiatives. I have visited the U.S., Korea and other Asian countries. On these occasions, I enunciated Japan's policies more clearly than had been done in the past. At the Williamsburg economic summit, I stated Japan's strong resolve to contribute actively to the cause of the West. These efforts, I believe, have been instrumental in dispelling doubts about Japan that existed abroad. Compared with previous Japanese policy, it seems to me that we have entered a new age, especially with respect to the political role Japan should play in the world.

On Japan-U.S. relations. Various disputes do exist. However, the Japanese and U.S. governments have reaffirmed their resolve to find solutions to these problems. That in itself, I believe, represents a major achievement. In the free world, problems always exist. It would be rather strange to see no conflicts. What matters is the fact that we can frankly discuss solutions. I have shown my willingness to find solutions, and I am aware of the same sincere resolve on the American side.

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