WASHINGTON, D.C. – North Korea’s latest nuclear test is “a big threat, not only to Japan, but also to the East Asia region as a whole,” according to Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, in an interview with Voice of America’s Steve Herman.
Herman landed an exclusive on-camera interview with the Japanese defense minister minutes after North Korea announced it had conducted a nuclear test of “several kilotons.”
Defense Minister Onodera said Japan will need to bolster its defenses, but constitutional limits on the composition of its military forces mean it will be important to strengthen Japan’s alliance with the United States.
“Due to our constitution, our country is in a very restricted situation when it comes to having nuclear weapons as well as increasing our (conventional) forces. Therefore it is very important to strengthen the U.S.-Japan security alliance,” Onodera said.
He also called for China to toughen sanctions on North Korea. “Placing a heavy tax on North Korea would be the most effective sanction” by China, Onodera said.
Herman was one of the first English language journalists in the region to report the underground activity detected in North Korea early Tuesday. “We were tweeting virtually in real time as much information as anyone probably knew who didn’t have access to classified information,” Herman says.
VOA’s Seoul-based Northeast Asia bureau chief/correspondent happened to be in Japan when the first signs of seismic activity were detected from the area around the North Korean test site. “This is not an area with a lot of earthquakes, so we suspected immediately it was some kind of underground explosion,” says Herman, whose Twitter feed (@w7voa) is widely followed in Asia by government officials, diplomats and journalists.
Herman, who landed an interview with Japan’s chief cabinet secretary last week, is the only reporter to have interviewed two of the top members of the new administration in Tokyo. “It was good timing,” Herman says, “we had been working for weeks to arrange a sit-down interview with the defense minister and it just happened to be confirmed for today.”
Voice of America is one of the leading international broadcasters in Asia, with language services in Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Indonesian and others. VOA broadcasts on radio, television and the Internet in 43 languages with an estimated worldwide weekly audience of more than 134 million.