Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo answered questions at a news conference he held on May 19 to make public a letter from the U.S. government conveying President Barack Obama's response to his letter requesting that the United States take the initiative in launching international negotiations aimed at concluding a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Shii responded to reporters' questions as follows:
QUESTION: When did you receive the letter?
SHII KAZUO (JCP CHAIR): It reached the JCP head office on May 16. We initially planned to hold a news conference to release the letter yesterday (May 18), but we had to make some adjustments regarding how it should be published after consulting the U.S. Embassy as well as the U.S. government. We are releasing the letter after obtaining U.S. consent.
QUESTION: Did you expect to receive a response from the U.S.?
SHII: I did not ask the president for a response to my letter. I wrote the letter because I wanted to convey to him that we welcomed his remarks in Prague and that we wanted him to display the initiative to turn the speech into action so that its power will influence international politics. I also wanted him to know our ideas regarding what we believe is important in making this happen. We thought it would be sufficient if this message was conveyed to the president. At the same time, we noticed seriousness in the attitude of the U.S. Embassy when accepting our letter, making us think that some response might be forthcoming.
QUESTION: Isn't it noteworthy for you to be responded by the U.S.? Is there a possibility that the Japanese Communist Party will review its view on the United States? Was it necessary for you to communicate with the U.S. yesterday and today, to hammer out an appropriate way to make the letter of response public?
SHII: As for the method for making public the letter we received in response, we thought it would be better for us to do this by obtaining the consent from the U.S. There can be various ways to publish such a letter, including only publishing the outline of the letter. We contacted the U.S. Embassy. Apparently, after communicating with the U.S. government, the U.S. Embassy agreed to this way of making public the U.S. letter in response. This is why we needed some time before holding this news conference.
JCP's Program and its letter to Obama
SHII: Let me say something about the relation between the JCP and the United States. It is the first time that a JCP letter was officially responded to by the U.S. government. The JCP has sent letters to U.S. presidents regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons , but the U.S. government never responded.
This makes me feel that major changes are underway in U.S. society. In short, the present U.S. president is willing to listen. In other words, the United States for the first time is led by a president who is ready to listen to various opinions, including critical ones.
President Obama's statement in Prague convinced me that we now have much in common regarding the issue of eliminating nuclear weapons. In my letter to President Obama, I said I welcome the agreement. I was also candid in pointing out that there are also points of disagreement between us. Regarding abolition of nuclear weapons, it is a fact that change is underway so we want to make every effort to achieve this goal.
It will be too early to foretell the possible outcome of the Obama administration's foreign policy. Unfortunately, no change seems to be forthcoming as far as Japan-U.S. relations are concerned. No policy change is seen on the issues of U.S. bases in Japan and the dispatches of the Self-Defense Forces abroad. The problem lies mainly in the fact that the Japanese government is reluctant to seek any change. As a matter of course, we will express our views concerning these issues based on the facts.
I said that U.S. society is now undergoing major changes. When the JCP revised its Party Program in 2004, we said that a monopoly capitalist nation needs not be an imperialist country. That was how we developed out theory regarding when we revised the JCP Program. We now make it a rule to determine whether a country is imperialist or not by judging its actual acts based on facts. That was a new theoretical development in the JCP Program.
The JCP Program defines the United States as an imperialist country based on an analysis of its foreign policy in its entirety. When we revised the JCP Program, we decided that we must not be influenced by preconceived notions that we should oppose any U.S. action. In other words, we should look at the United States from various perspectives.
If U.S. action shows a positive change reflecting international opinion, we will appreciate it. We will criticize anything that is negative.
I can say that the letter I sent to President Obama was in line with the JCP's programmatic position.
Japanese government should act to represent the only A-bombed country
QUESTION: The United States in its letter in response says that it will "look forward to working with the Government of Japan." What are you going to do vis-?-vis the Aso government in order to make the JCP call heard?
SHII: The U.S. letter in response states, "We look forward to working with the Government of Japan." Now that U.S. President Obama has taken a step forward towards "a world free of nuclear weapons," the government of Japan, the only A-bombed country, should also take the initiative to promote international negotiations aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons. I think what I called for in the letter is something that Prime Minister Aso should have done in the first place. This is the kind of cooperation that the Japanese government should extend.
Emerging relations between the JCP and the United States
QUESTION: With your letter responded to by the United States, the JCP and the United States have begun to communicate. What relations will the JCP have with the United States?
SHII: The latest exchange of letters focused on the issue of nuclear weapons, which has an important bearing on the survival of humanity. I visited the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and handed the U.S. ambassador a letter to the U.S. president. An Assistant Secretary of State on behalf of the president officially responded to my letter.
Although this is a correspondence between the Japanese Communist Party and the government of the United States of America, I feel that it is significant that a channel for discussing issues has been opened between the JCP and the U.S. government.
It is true that the JCP is critical of a number of U.S. policies. However, this does not mean that the JCP has been refusing to communicate with the United States in the first place. We do not want to be hostile to the United States. We want to establish a relationship of genuine friendship based on an equal footing.
It is significant that we have come to the point in which we can discuss issues freely and understand each other's position through direct contact, even though we maintain different positions.
Akahata, May 20, 2009