Member of the House of Representatives Hiroyuki Nakamura was president of a construction company before entering politics as part of the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly. In his third term as a member of the National Diet, today he is serving as a bridge between construction organizations and national politics as chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Committee on Organizations Involved with Land Development and Construction. Toshio Motoya spoke with Nakamura about the North Korea threat in East Asia and the path Japan should take.
(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today. You were a businessman before becoming a member of the National Diet, is that right?
(N) My father managed a construction company, which I took over as its president at the age of 30. Afterwards, I served three terms in the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly. That included the nightmarish three years of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government, and I thought leaving things up to them was a risky thing to do. I then successfully ran for the House of Representatives.
(M) I imagine that was difficult, as Hokkaido is known for its powerful left wing.
(N) I ran against Yoshio Hachiro, who had won seven consecutive terms, in 2012 and 2014. I was victorious both times.
(M) You are currently chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Committee on Organizations Involved with Land Development. What does this position involve?
(N) I serve as a bridge between the LDP and various organizations. I receive requests on the tax system and budgets from construction organizations, and then do my best to fulfill them. This year the economy was not very good, so the requests included major revisions, increased budget amounts, and the abolishment of stamp duties.
(M) So you play a very important coordinating role.
(N) I believe my job is to build trusting relationships with the organizations and contribute to the party’s strength.
(M) North Korea launched yet another missile on November 29 that fell into the Sea of Japan in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) offshore Aomori Prefecture. North Korea announced it was a new-model Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). North Korea has conducted 16 missile launches this year, and two of these have passed over Hokkaido. We truly cannot stand for this.
(N) The citizens clearly feel different levels of fear depending on whether the missile falls into the Sea of Japan or passes through Japanese skies and lands in the Pacific Ocean. I cannot suppress my indignation about North Korea launching missiles that travel over Hokkaido.
(M) The November launch used a “lofted trajectory,” in which the launch angle is set higher than normal so the missile can fly at a higher elevation. Unlike the previous two missiles, it did not pass through Japanese skies. Nevertheless, its predicted maximum range is 13,000 kilometers, meaning it could strike the American mainland. North Korea did not launch any missiles for 75 days, but that did not indicate that its attitude had changed. Rather, I think it was continuing its missile research and development during that time, including engine combustion tests. These launches must not fail, so I suspect that North Korea needed those 75 days to achieve improved accuracy. As time passes, I am sure that North Korea will create miniaturized nuclear arms and also successfully develop warheads that can withstand atmospheric reentry (which they are said to be poor at). Its nuclear weapons and ICBMs are just steps away from deployment for actual combat, I believe now is our last chance to destroy them via military means. I advocate for the United States to use B-1 bombers, cruise missiles, and Tomahawks in a limited air strike on North Korea with prior warning. The U.S. should give advance notice of the time of the attack, and then strike only nuclear weapon- and ICBM-related facilities. I also think Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should suggest this to President Donald J. Trump.
(N) I see.
(M) A background of military strength is essential for diplomatic negotiations. Today, Japan’s problem is that its only option for exercising military force is having the U.S. act on its behalf. This means we fundamentally cannot negotiate through diplomatic channels, which is deplorable. I think the citizens should have the awareness that we must protect our own country, and also systems to that end. Japan is surrounded by the nuclear weapons states of Russia, China, and North Korea. The worst-case scenario would be the U.S. permitting North Korea’s possession of nuclear arms, which would lead to Japan being eternally threatened by the nuclear weapons of its neighboring country. One reason North Korea has nuclear arms is to annex South Korea and establish the “Federation of Korea.” This would mean the creation of a country with a population of 80 million people that is clearly hostile to Japan on the Korean Peninsula, where it can attack the Japanese archipelago from the side. This federation would probably also demand that Japan pay pre- and post-war reparations to North Korea and compensation to South Korea for the comfort women and worker requisition issues. Moreover, China would certainly use the Korean Federation as an advance guard for attacking Japan. The East Asian situation is growing increasingly strained, rivaling the past Cuban Missile Crisis, yet the Japanese news ignores the crucial issues and focuses only on ridiculous ones such as the Moritomo Academy and Kake Educational Institution. The people of Japan lack a sense of crisis. All citizens must have more earnest concern and consideration for Japan’s future, and discussions should take place in the National Diet about safeguarding citizen lives. Despite this, questions are being raised about these schools. Regarding the Moritomo Academy, perhaps there were improper price reductions as shown in the investigation results by the Board of Audit of Japan, but this is an issue for the Ministry of Finance. This is not the result of involvement by Abe, as has been pointed out from the beginning. As for the Kake Educational Institution, the media has mostly disregarded the statement by former Ehime Prefectural Governor Moriyuki Kato, who said the special zone system has opened cracks in difficult-to-change regulations and that the distorted administration has been reformed.
(N) Some media outlets are engaging in biased journalism about the Moritomo Academy and Kake Educational Institution issues, trying to drive the government into a corner. Regarding the North Korea issue, it is certainly true that we must depend on the U.S. because Japan lacks its own attack capabilities. That is the aim of the Japan-U.S. alliance, and Japan and the U.S. play different roles based on that. Abe declared that he supports Trump’s attitude of leaving all options on the table, but this is within the limit of what Japan can do, and I endorse it fully. We must resolve the North Korea issue through international collaboration, and from a long-term standpoint I also think we should consider giving the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) the ability to strike enemy bases.
(M) I think our first step should be abolishing the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, which were a Diet resolution. Laws uphold the prohibition on Japan possessing or producing nuclear weapons, but there are no specific laws that stop us from permitting their introduction. A new Diet resolution should repeal the principle prohibiting the introduction of nuclear weapons, and then Japan should enter into a nuclear sharing arrangement with the U.S., like that concluded between five North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations during the Cold War. In the 1970s, the U.S. deployed Pershing missiles in Germany and other countries as a response to the Soviet Union’s deployment of SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) equipped with nuclear weapons in East Europe. A nuclear balance of power was created in this way, and talks were started on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed in 1987. Negotiations begin by both parties displaying their strengths; if one party has strength and the other does not, negotiations do not start because the strong party cannot find any reasons to yield to the weaker party. Now that North Korea is close to obtaining nuclear arms, Japan also needs these weapons to maintain a balance of power. First, Japan must abolish the principle that prohibits the introduction of nuclear weapons to allow Japan to officially bring in the nuclear arms of the U.S. Armed Forces. Next, it should conclude a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S. to gain the right to use these weapons in emergencies. Two thirds of the Diet members must agree to constitutional amendments, but just a majority is needed to pass Diet resolutions. This must be done now that Japan and the U.S. are enjoying a “honeymoon” thanks to Abe and Trump.
(N) It’s true that Diet resolutions can be passed with a majority of votes.
(M) I think Japan’s relationship with the U.S. could be further strengthened by breaking the “curse” placed on the U.S. when it dropped the atomic bombs. The Soviet Union was victorious on the European front of World War II. Having occupied Berlin before the other Allies, it was poised to communize all of Europe including Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and even Britain. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an offset strategy, using these new weapons to counter-balance this disadvantageous state of affairs. As a result, the U.S. halted the momentum of the Soviet Union, transformed World War II from a “hot” to a “cold” war, and saved the lives of many people. To carry out these nuclear attacks on Japan, the U.S. first removed the Potsdam Declaration’s stipulation about the continuance of Japan’s Emperor System, thereby encouraging Japan to vacillate regarding its surrender. The U.S. used this time to complete and drop the bombs, and then permitted the duration of the Emperor System afterwards. If the U.S. had refused its continuance, Japan probably would not have surrendered. The U.S. knew this could lead to fighting on the Japanese mainland in which many Allied soldiers would die. Having chosen to take the inhumane step of using these atomic bombs, the U.S. had to create a story in which the righteous U.S. used these weapons to transform Japan from a bad country into a good one. That is why it carried out the War Guilt Information Program to implant self-torturing historical views among Japanese people, including the story that the Japanese Army massacred 300,000 people in Nanjing. Many Soviet Comintern spies had entered the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration at that time, and it is thought that these powers were also complicit in encouraging the masochistic trend in Japan. The atomic bombs were enormous tragedies for Japan, but from a global viewpoint we can say they did save the lives of many people. If the Japanese government recognized this officially, I think the American stance would change. I also think that the U.S. negating the Nanjing Massacre and comfort women stories would prevent more vehement arguments from China and South Korea.
(N) That is definitely one view. It is wonderful how you express your opinions with extreme frankness. I have also spoken my views loudly in the LDP, such as saying I am against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but now I am thinking of holding back my feelings in some situations.
(M) Until now I have not minced matters, and have clearly insisted that the Nanjing Massacre is fictitious history. This led to the scandal about my book in January 2017. A couple, consisting of one Chinese and one American, stayed in an APA Hotel and posted a video on a Chinese website about my book – which denies the Nanjing Massacre – being placed in the guest rooms. Many people saw this video, leading to an outcry about my book. In the end, a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically criticized APA Hotel, and measures were put in place so no rooms could be booked from inside China. Yet I stood firm, replying that freedom of speech exists in Japan, and asking to hear any counterarguments for my future reference. However, China has not refuted my claims at all.
(N) Did this affect your business?
(M) It actually improved our performance (laughs). APA Hotel suddenly gained more global recognition, we received tens of thousands of positive e-mails, and many guests came to stay with us in support. Thanks to them, we keep setting new monthly sales records since the scandal. More Taiwanese people are also staying at APA Hotels because they don’t want to be mistaken for Chinese citizens. Most Taiwanese come to Japan as individual travelers, and their manners and other sensibilities are quite close to Japanese people. Perhaps because most travelers from mainland China come on group tours, they abide by their local etiquette and speak in very loud voices. It seems that Taiwanese people don’t want to be lumped in with these Chinese tourists.
(N) I also saw various news reports on the Sapporo Asian Winter Games.
(M) The Sapporo Asian Winter Games Organising Committee concluded a contract with us to rent out the entire APA Hotel, which specified from the first that all books and other materials be removed from the rooms. We simply abided by the agreement, but the Chinese media reported that the books had been removed because of the outcry, and then The Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media outlets referred to these reports when writing their own articles. I believe the Chinese government gave instructions to the media about this mistaken reporting. Yet I yielded not an inch, and I think the Chinese government didn’t know where to bring down its fist that it had raised – it probably wanted to put an end to this matter with the books being removed from the APA Hotel. At a press conference in June, a Reuters reporter said, “You removed the books in Sapporo. What are you going to do during the Tokyo Olympics?” I responded that we did not remove the books in Sapporo and do not intend to do so in Tokyo, either. However, the article posted online four or five hours later insisted that the books had been taken out of the rooms in Sapporo. This is the kind of thing that happens even with top media outlets like Reuters and The Asahi Shimbun. I’m not Trump, but I also think there is a great deal of fake news and believe we cannot trust the media. There is lots of good and bad information on the Internet, but its accuracy is verified by many people and accurate data is available. However, with the traditional media, unverified information that is written or spoken by a small number of journalists is transmitted to many people. I think many people still give more credibility to The Asahi Shimbun or Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) than the Internet, and consequently the mass media has great responsibility. In addition to offering clear proof, I think the media companies should be held legally responsibility for their mistaken reporting. If it seems likely that these mistakes will be continually broadcast, they should be halted according to law. There was previously an issue about the statement by Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi, but she was merely describing a respectable interpretation of the law. The criticisms directed at her were bizarre.
(N) I agree.
(M) The media companies should be held responsible for their reporting, but I don’t believe we should restrict statements made by individuals from the viewpoint of stressing freedom of speech as much as possible.
(N) I basically agree with what you are saying. In the 2009 House of Representatives election, the media instigated the public opinion and encouraged them give the DPJ a chance at governing, saying that Japan should be a country where regime changes are possible. There were actually many problems with the DPJ administration, but the media has not been held accountable for helping put it in place.
(M) Right now there is a discussion underway on changing the current question time breakdown – in which the ruling party is given 20% and the opposition parties 80% – to increase the time for the ruling party. If the opposition parties are going to focus only on trivial issues like the Moritomo Academy and Kake Educational Institution, I think an appropriate ratio would be 50/50.
(N) For instance, in the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly the question time is allotted for each party depending on the number of members. I think that’s the best way to satisfy their responsibility to the people of Hokkaido. I simply wonder why so much time is given to the opposition parties in the National Diet…
(M) Me too. And speaking of the excessive price reductions as mentioned in the Moritomo issue, the media companies have received those benefits as well because Kakuei Tanaka lavishly distributed state-owned land in the best areas to the media outlets. In fact, I think LDP Diet members could even ask if the reduced land prices for these sites given to the media companies were based on proper investigations. The media shelves its own issues while doing nothing but bashing the government. That is not a proper attitude at a time when the people should be joining together against the North Korea crisis.
(N) Many citizens think as you do, which is probably one reason for the recent election results.
(M) I think that’s because more and more people are no longer being manipulated by TV programs, newspapers, and other types of media. More Diet members are in favor of constitutional change, so urgent motions should be submitted to reform the constitution. The issue is, although they support revising the constitution, they don’t agree on what exactly to change. I think Abe’s suggestion of adding a clause to recognize the JSDF is a good one. However, just recognizing its existence isn’t enough – we must position it as “war potential.” At the same time, we should revise the constitution to remove the second clause of Article 9 and recognize the JSDF as an army that is different from a police force. There are no court-martials in the JSDF, so JSDF personnel who kill people during combat are criminals. I think we could put off revising anything except Article 9, and that a two-step approach would be good: first the Diet members should agree to recognize the JSDF and revise the constitution, and then discuss any further revisions later.
(N) It’s true that no motions have been submitted and no specific options have been presented. I think we must first try. However, I believe we should hold more discussions and conduct public-opinion polls about removing the second clause of Article 9.
(M) If the constitution was revised once, it would show the people and Diet members that constitutional change is possible. However, even if motions were submitted in both houses of the Diet, I think the national referendum would be a problem. Some people say one should be held at the same time as the House of Councillors election in 2019, but I think the House of Representatives should also be dissolved for a triple election to encourage more lively discussions among the people. These three elections must be conducted in such a way that people feel they are changing the very foundation of Japan. If the constitution is not revised during the Abe administration, I think that it will never be accomplished. While Abe is in office, we must solidify Japan’s readiness as much as possible. If we don’t, we likely would not be at all able to deal with the appearance of the Korean Federation and increasing prominence of China. China is showing a particularly strong desire to expand its territory in the East and South China Seas, and the Philippines and Vietnam are losing their ability to complain while yielding to China’s military force and assets. I hope the Diet members will make great efforts so Japan does not end up as one of China’s autonomous regions.
(N) First, we must repeal the principle that says Japan cannot introduce nuclear weapons.
(M) Yes, having nuclear weapons for self-defense would not violate our existing constitution. The “nuclear umbrella” over Japan will vanish the second North Korea gets nuclear weapons that can reach the U.S. Japan must enter into a nuclear sharing arrangement with the U.S. right away to maintain a balance of power in East Asia. I hope you will work hard to that end.
(N) I will.
(M) At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”
(N) China and South Korea are engaging in information warfare to spread incorrect history across the world, including the stories about the Nanjing Massacre and sex slavery of comfort women. I hope that young people will learn correct history and share it with people from other countries.
(M) This information is being increasingly spread across the world, such as the comfort woman statue in San Francisco. Instead of just standing by and watching, Japan must make a counteroffensive. Thank you for joining me today.
(N) Thank you.
Born in Yoichi Town, Hokkaido in 1961. After graduating from Hokkai-Gakuen University, he worked at the Sapporo Kitado Tax Office in the Hokkaido Prefectural Government General Affairs Department. He entered Nakamura Construction Co., Ltd. in 1989 and became its president in 1992. He was elected to the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly for the first time in 2003. During his third term, he ran in the House of Representatives election for the first time and was elected in 2012. He is currently in his third term in the National Diet, where he is chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Committee on Organizations Involved with Land Development and Construction (General Affairs and Organizations Head Office).