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Interview with Chief of the Joint Staff Office
Admiral Takashi Saito

Admiral Takashi Saito

Would you tell us about the results of your visit to China and your impressions?
During the trip I had a chance to meet with Chen Bingde, chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army. With a view to developing defense exchange between our two countries, we were able to reach an understanding on carrying out regular exchange visits between the chief of the Joint Staff Office and the chief of general staff, and promoting staff-level exchange among the next generation of leaders. While this was my first trip to China, I believe it was highly successful to have talked face-to-face with the chief of general staff. During the hour and a half of our discussion, we were able to gain some understanding of each other’s personality.
    I was given a tour of the units of the PLA Ground Force, Navy, and Air Force in Beijing and Shanghai. I inquired about various matters at each installation, and I think I received frank replies. The high level of discipline among the military personnel impressed me.
    It is likely that our two countries still hold misunderstandings about each other in some respects, and it’s important to use opportunities for exchange to bridge the gap. I have the intention of preparing the way for the promotion of government-level exchange among younger staff members hereafter. The relations of nations go through storms and peaceful periods, but I hope we can set up channels of exchange that are not seriously affected by such environments.

What is your viewpoint on the replenishment support activities in the Indian Ocean?
Replenishment operations in the Indian Ocean were suspended in November last year, but they resumed this January. Since the fight against terrorism is turning into a long-term endeavor, we must join hands with other countries in the world to address it. Since each country has its strengths and weaknesses, it seems that all must press forward by complementing each other in areas of weakness. I’m pleased that Japan, as a member of the international community, was able to resume these operations.

What are your thoughts on the future shape of the SDF?
The Defense Agency has become the Ministry of Defense, and international peace cooperation activities were upgraded into a primary mission of the Self-Defense Forces, alongside national defense. In the international environment at present, there are things that cannot be accomplished by the efforts of any single country. I believe that the security and prosperity of the state of Japan are secured by stability in the international environment.
    Henceforth, in view of this situation, the Ministry of Defense and the SDF need to allocate human and other resources so as to fit national defense together with international peace cooperation activities, maintaining a proper balance. I think it is important to think deeply about how to balance four elements—national defense, international peace cooperation activities, the fight against terrorism, and responses to large-scale natural disasters—while listening to the views of others, and to steer a proper course, adjusting it a little bit at a time. This is a very difficult task, but it is the challenge facing us, and it is the task we must carry out.