Defense Minister's Remarks

New Year's Address by Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa (January 4, 2012)

(Provisional Translation)
January 4, 2012

Before I deliver my New Year's address, I would like to offer my prayers to the people who lost their lives in the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred in the previous year for their souls to rest in peace, and to express my heartfelt sympathy to the people who have been affected by the disaster. I wish with all my heart for the swift reconstruction of the areas affected by the disaster.

With the start of 2012, I would like to offer this speech as well as my respect to all personnel who are working in their duties around the country regardless of day or night, and to the personnel who are active overseas in the anti-piracy activities and PKO activities, and those who are working in the embassies.

The previous year was one in which we worked in earnest to respond to the Great East Japan Earthquake. In the disaster dispatch through the "posture of 100,000 personnel," I believe that through the efforts by the personnel who had worked directly at the scene, as well as those who had worked to support these personnel on the scene, we have done work that has measured up to the expectations of the people. Also, it has been a year in which we displayed the capabilities of the SDF through our daily intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities, as well as our overseas PKO activities and anti-piracy activities.

On the other hand, I also strongly feel the need to engage in necessary intelligence collection/analysis, to strengthen our daily alert surveillance and to improve the training proficiency of the units through rigorous training, which are dictated under the dynamic defense force concept. In the next fiscal year, we have some important projects coming up, including the commencement of the maintenance for the next fighter that has been previously selected, and I feel that we need to work towards the steady implementation of these projects.

This year will be a milestone year in that many of our neighboring countries such as Russia, ROK and China will be having elections or will undergo changes in leadership. In North Korea, which is developing nuclear/missile technology, National Defence Commission of North Korea Chairman Kim Jong Il died at the end of last year, and there is a need to keep a close watch on the political/military developments there. Also, China has been modernizing its military power through its substantial increases in defense spending, and has intensified its activities in the waters near our country, and we also see Russia intensifying its military activities. Therefore, the security environment surrounding our country still remains severe.

In view of this situation, I would like to talk about the various challenges that we will be tackling for this year.

First, concerning the structural reform that is being conducted under the National Defense Program Guidelines, this must be steadily moved forward even under the tight fiscal conditions. To do this, each and every organization within the Ministry must work in their duties with the mentality of progress and change, and each of the units stationed around the country must perform to their maximum capabilities. In addition, through the lessons and reflections learned through the Great East Japan Earthquake, we will enhance our equipment and training in order to serve the high expectations the people have for us, and to link it to our performance in our daily activities.

Next, with regard to the Japan-U.S. alliance, its importance towards maintaining peace and stability not only for Japan, but also for the Asia-Pacific area has increased in light of the difficult security environment surrounding our country. The security relationship between the two countries has been exceptionally close. However, in the future, we will need to enhance the defense cooperation between Japan and the U.S. through progressing with the dynamic Japan-U.S. defense cooperation to strengthen the deterrence power and responses to crisis. Also, with regard to the reorganization of the U.S. forces, which includes the relocation issue for Futenma Air Station, we would like to make steady progress on this through accepting in earnest the harsh opinions from Okinawa and to work towards improving the relationship of trust. We will also work towards reducing the burden on the local area as soon as possible, while retaining the deterrence power of the U.S. forces, and to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance further, thereby playing an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the area.

Then, in order to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific area, it is also essential to enhance the cooperation relationship with the countries in said area as well as the bilateral relationship between Japan and the U.S.. We will proactively conduct cooperation/exchanges with countries such as ROK, Australia, South-East Asian nations and India that share many of the basic values and/or benefits gained from the security alliance, and strengthen the peace and safety of Japan.

Furthermore, I would like to comment on the activities conducted by the SDF overseas. At the end of the previous year, the government made the decision to dispatch the facilities unit to the United Nations Mission in theRepublic of South Sudan. This is to fulfill the request from the international community towards engaging in the nation-building of South Sudan as a country that has just gained independence last year. I believe that this is something that will mark the arrival of a new age of international cooperation for our country. As with the dispatching of the current headquarter staff, we will be fully prepared for this unit dispatch as well. Also, this year will mark the third year for our anti-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden. These overseas activities by the SDF have been highly appreciated by the various countries, and we will be developing the necessary preparations to respond appropriately to requests from the international community in the future.

Lastly, in the previous year we lost precious lives among our personnel through accidents in the earthquake, disaster relief dispatch and in training. The loss of these important personnel in duty is a tragic loss not only for the relatives of the deceased, but for the MOD/SDF and the country as well.

At the same time, accidents caused by our units will cause anxiety to the people in the local areas with which the SDF coexists. I feel that for this year, we will need to eliminate such accidents, and to pay more attention than ever in our daily training/activities.

One of my favorite phrases is "A hundred schemes may never win over a single truth." No matter how many schemes one may devise and set up, the display of diligent yet true sincerity is what will really move people's feelings. The duty of defending our country is not something that can be done with a half-hearted feeling, and it is filled with challenges that can never be solved without engaging in it with a feeling of true sincerity. In addition, as I may have mentioned beforehand, the expectations of the people towards us have risen, and in order to continue meeting these heightened expectations, it will require the diligent efforts of everyone. With the start of the New Year, I would like everyone to go back to the basics and give conscientious care when conducting their duty, and to concentrate on the noble duty of protecting the life/property of the people, and in securing our territories.

I would like to close my address by wishing the best of luck and sound health to all of you and your families, and hoping that this year will be a year of great progress for the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces.

Yasuo Ichikawa
Minister of Defense