Calling for the United States and China to engage in open dialogue with North Korea, Ryozo Kato LAW ’66, Japanese ambassador the the United States, spoke to about 40 Yale students and professors about security issues in northeast Asia at a Davenport College Master’s Tea Monday.
Kato’s visit, sponsored by Davenport residential fellow Michael Auslin, came amid increasing likelihood of a war with Iraq and rising tensions between North Korea and South Korea and Japan. He spoke briefly before answering audience questions, many of which focused on North Korea. In addition to urging the United States to play a larger role dealing with North Korea, Kato also said North Korea should disarm its weapons of mass destruction.
“North Korea seems to be interested only in talking to the U.S.,” Kato said. “North Korea as a country has been suffering. They feel they are surrounded by enemies — the U.S., Japan and South Korea.”
Kato said China needs to be more vocal and use its influence on North Korea to be “more helpful to the U.S., Japan and South Korea.”
He also said North Korea should step up conversation with Japan because he said Japan is vital to North Korea’s economy.
“It’s easy legally for Japan to normalize its relationship with North Korea,” Kato said. “But in [North Korea], there are a host of international security issues.”
Kato said if North Korea is declared a nuclear weapon power, Japan will not “go nuclear.” But he said North Korea is already a serious threat because it has access to other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological agents.
“Before they go nuclear, they can still fire missiles over Japan,” Kato said. “Legally, we have made it clear that Japan is justified in flying a preemptive missile strike. We will rely to a significant degree on U.S. preemptive missile defense capabilities.”
Kato said that Japan, like the United States, relies heavily on the Middle Eastern oil supply since it does not produce any of its own oil.
“Japan has been and will continue to be an aggressive donor to Jordan and Turkey, and it makes sense to be,” Kato said. “But we still have to be concerned about the terrorists.”
For that reason, he said, Japan has already deployed battle ships to the Indian Ocean.
When asked about the possibility of unification of North Korea and South Korea, Kato was optimistic.
“For Japan, it’s up to the Korean people,” Kato said. “If they would like to be unified, we should support it — At the end of the day, they are the same people, the same country.”
Kato was hopeful that the U. N. Security Council would expand its membership to include more nations. If expanded, Kato said the council would probably elect Japan.
The tea was so popular that students were required to make reservations to attend the talk, where sushi, along with the usual “tea treats,” was served in Kato’s honor.
Sarah Tomita ’06, whose parents are from Japan and encouraged her to attend the tea, said she was excited to meet Kato.
“He was very adamant about Japan’s position, but he was also very clear that the U.S. had to continue to do what they’re doing and continue to help Japan in the Middle East and the Iraqi crisis,” Tomita said. “I thought he was an interesting speaker and I was impressed that he could deal with so many areas so well.”