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Interview with Vice-Minister of Defense
Kohei Masuda

Kohei Masuda

What have been the most memorable experiences during your career at the MOD?
Since entering the Defense Agency (now MOD) in 1975, I've spent the bulk of my career in the Bureau of Defense Policy, which is responsible for charting the direction of Japan's overall defense policy. I've also been involved in various positions in the formulation of such laws as the International Peace Cooperation Law, the Law concerning Measures to Ensure the Peace and Security of Japan in Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan, the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, and the Iraq Special Measures Law, as well as in the drafting of the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Buildup Program.
    I particularly remember the long discussions I held with the counselor of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau in drafting the PKO Law and my involvement—as a member of the Cabinet Secretariat—with the Iraq Special Measures Law from the drafting stage to the dispatch of SDF personnel. I visited Iraq on two occasions and gave serious thought to what the SDF can do there, where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius and where changing security conditions could be felt firsthand.
    These were opportunities to formulate policies in areas that were new to the SDF. So I felt a mixture of anxiety and excitement, but I think I was able to express my opinions in a straightforward manner.

What role do you think the MOD and SDF should play in the international community?
In the past, the only SDF activities outside Japan were training, but today SDF personnel are performing actual duties. This is a major change, and I believe that our presence in the international community has been growing.
    The world has been fighting against persisting terrorism since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many countries have continued their activities within Afghanistan and in the Indian Ocean. I believe that it's a matter of course for Japan to participate in these activities as a member of the international community.
    There has recently been increasing incidents of piracy in the seas around the Indian Ocean. In April 2008, for instance, a foreign vessel that had been refueled by the MSDF came to the rescue of a Japanese oil tanker (Takayama) that was attacked by pirates. For Japan, which relies on imports for 90 percent of its crude oil, the replenishment support activities by the MSDF are very important.

What do you hope to accomplish as the Vice-Minister of Defense?
The MOD and SDF were charged with a number of incidents of misconduct since I was appointed in September 2007, and much of my time has been focused on dealing with them. We take these incidents very seriously, and I hope to continue steadily implementing reforms of the Ministry—both structurally and in terms of staff awareness—based on the report of the council of experts set up in the Prime Minister’s Office.
    I'll also need to devote my energies to preparing for the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines in December 2009.
    In addition, I'd like to come up with concrete proposals on how we can better contribute to the maintenance of order in Northeast Asia.
    The MOD has been gaining a bigger presence through its involvement in a wide range of activities, and the role MOD officials are expected to play has consequently changed, from simply managing the SDF to taking the initiative in Japanz's defense policy. I would like to duly fulfill my duties as a government official—a public servant for the people.