Japan intends to ask North Korea directly to resolve the matter of its nuclear program by taking «a forward-looking response.» Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Kathimerini shortly before his arrival in Athens yesterday for a two-day visit. The premier of the world’s second largest economic power says the goal of his country’s foreign policy is to shore up its relations with the United States, and he enumerates the peaceful means Japan plans to employ to take action in Asia. In Europe, the war in Iraq has stirred up fears of a unipolar world. Do you think Japan can act as an autonomous pole in a multipolar world order? In addition to the issue of Iraq, the international community currently faces many challenges: including the situation surrounding North Korea, measures to counter international terrorism, the issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and achieving sustainable development. The active engagement of the USA is essential for the international community to effectively respond to these issues. As one of the leading members of the international community, Japan will be proactive and take initiatives in its approach, in order to realize peace, stability and prosperity for the entire international community, which is essential in order to ensure the security and prosperity of our nation and our people. To that purpose, Japan will continue to maintain and strengthen its alliance with the United States, which is the fundamental basis of our diplomacy, while at the same time closely cooperating with neighboring countries, including the Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, as well as with the nations of Europe, international organizations and fora, such as the United Nations and G8. Japan is a world-class economic player which stands to gain from deeper global economic integration. Do you think economic globalization is being hindered by fears of terrorist strikes and the prospect of wars, such as the one in Iraq? The globalization of the economy has already imbued new vitality into global economic development through the expansion of trade and investment. Even if there is a deceleration stemming from concern caused by terrorist activities, or the projection of and the occurrence of crises like the war in Iraq, Japan believes that economic globalization is an irreversible and massive current which will continue. Japan’s political and economic preponderance in Asia does not seem fully reflected in your country’s expected leadership role in the affairs of the continent. Are you planning to endorse a more active stance, including enhanced military presence, for example, in peacekeeping operations? Many countries in Asia have achieved economic development and are growing as new economies. Japan takes pride in the fact that these countries have made effective use of Japanese economic cooperation. However, some are lagging behind in development and Japan believes it that it must continue to provide assistance in the areas of basic infrastructure, health, medicine, alleviation of poverty and human resource development. In this region, we see a steady implementation of good practices whereby those countries that have achieved higher levels of development combine their strengths in order to assist those countries that are lagging behind. Japan will actively contribute to the development of this region, including cooperation for such assistance. In order to secure the security and prosperity of Japan, it is essential to maintain the peace, stability and prosperity of the entire international community, including the Asia-Pacific region. Japan intends to intensify coordination and cooperation with interested states and, in Southeast Asia, it will become actively involved in issues of regional and global significance, such as the North Korea issue. In Southeast Asia, in addition to the positive efforts made by Japan in the latter half of the 1980s toward reaching peace in the Kingdom of Cambodia and nation-building thereafter, through various forms of assistance, Japan believes that it has contributed to achieving the economic development of various nations in Southeast Asia and ensuring the stability of the overall region. Furthermore, there remain internal conflicts stemming primarily from religious and ethnic factors in places such as Aceh [in Indonesia] and in Sri Lanka, and great damage has occurred. Japan will strengthen its cooperation toward the consolidation of peace and nation-building efforts and will make them a pillar of international cooperation in order to assist those nations suffering from internal political conflicts. In particular, in order to achieve a permanent solution on the issue of an approach to achieving peace in Sri Lanka, Japan already provides assistance – such as through the hosting of the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka – to enhancing the momentum for peace before achieving a final solution. In East Timor, Japan provides humanitarian and reconstruction assistance as the largest donor. Japan also actively cooperates in United Nations peacekeeping operations (PKO) and has participated in PKO in Cambodia and elsewhere, and specifically, it has dispatched its largest-ever engineering unit of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to participate in United Nations PKO in East Timor. Japan will continue to actively contribute to approaches seeking peace and stability via the United Nations. Would you be willing to consider a US-led pre-emptive war as a means to solving the Korean problem or do you believe that diplomatic, political and other peaceful means will suffice? The issue of development of nuclear weapons and other issues concerning North Korea are a grave concern to Japan’s own national security. At the same time, Japan believes that these matters must be resolved peacefully and there has been no change to our views in that regard. As the United States has repeatedly stated that it has no intentions of invading North Korea, Japan understands that there has been no change in the basic stance of the United States to date, that it intends to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue in North Korea and that it is prepared to engage in dialogue with North Korea in a multilateral framework regarding North Korea’s implementation of its obligations. Moreover, Japan understands that it is based on this stance that the United States held tripartite talks with the People’s Republic of China and North Korea in Beijing from April 23 to 25. For its part, Japan will strive to achieve a verifiable disposal of the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea and will maintain close tripartite coordination among Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea in order to achieve a peaceful solution to this issue, while continuing to coordinate with other concerned nations and international organizations, including continuing to directly call upon North Korea to take a forward-looking response in order to resolve this issue.