The 10th IISS Asia Security Summit (The Shangri-La Dialogue)
Speech by Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa
(Singapore, Saturday 04 June 2011)

Director-General Dr. Chipman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am most flattered and honored to be given this opportunity to make a statement at the Shangri-La Dialogue, which has significant role as the largest venue for multilateral exchange at the defense minister-level in the Asia-Pacific region. I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Government of Singapore.

I would like to speak about the response of the Japanese Government following the Great East Japan Earthquake and some new proposals related to this response, as well as Japan's defense policy.

I am sure you are all aware, at 14:46 on March 11, an enormous magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of East Japan. It was the largest earthquake to have ever hit my country, and the fourth largest earthquake in the history of the world.

When the earthquake hit, I was in a committee meeting room of the Diet with Prime Minister Kan and other Cabinet members. When a member of an opposition party was asking Prime Minister Kan severe questions at the session, I felt tremors which were initially slow and gradually became bigger. The chandelier of the room swayed hard and the entire room shook so violently as if the room was getting distorted by some strong force. We could easily foresee from the harshness of the shaking that no doubt there would be terrible damages caused by this earthquake. The Diet session was suspended, and Prime Minister Kan rushed back to his Office to set up the Disaster Relief Task Force with himself as its head. In the following weeks, Japan had to respond to the damages caused by three large-scale disasters, the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident. In order to save as many lives as they could, Prime Minister, members of the central Government, local governments as well as the Self-Defense Forces then set out their long-lasting work without taking rest since then.

The Great East Japan Earthquake was characterized by slow, large amplitude seismic waves. These waves in turn gave rise to a giant tsunami more than 10m high. The region hit by the tsunami this time is one that has suffered countless such disasters in the past. Local municipalities and residents had been working together before the earthquake for disaster-preparedness training, and had already built seawalls in many areas. Thanks to the daily efforts of the region and the high disaster safety awareness of its residents, in the first 30 minutes the tsunami took to reach land, a large number of people were able to seek higher ground safely. The Self-Defense Forces too, quickly responded to the disaster and could save more than 10,000 people on the first three days.

However, the devastating tsunami was of a size greatly exceeding any we had previously expected. At latest count, over 15,000 people had been reported dead, and nearly 10,000 people were still missing. We believe that 90% of these victims and missing were caused by the tsunami. The affected regions were all filled with sorrow. Among the bodies recovered from the debris were those of mothers who held tight their babies and maternity health record books in their arms. Those scenes brought tears to the eyes of the SDF rescue team members. In the quake-hit areas, many parents were seen to keep looking for their children day after day, who would always say "thank you" to the SDF rescue team members who worked to help them find their children.

Many members of local governments, police departments, fire departments and medical institutions lost their lives working until the very end to help others escape to safety. I have no words to express the sorrow I feel for them.

Situations at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station where radiation was leaked into the air and the sea, were even more serious. The nuclear power station was installed with a layer of equipment to ensure its safety and, even right after the big earthquake, the power supply for the power station was safely shifted to its emergency power generators and its safety was maintained. 30 minutes later, however, the emergency power station was hit by a gigantic tsunami that nobody had ever imagined, pulling away the power generators for the reactors. The cooling system lost all of its functions, causing the meltdown of fuel rods. Faced with the unprecedented situation, the Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company began to tackle this nuclear disaster, one that the world had never experienced before. Especially, in the initial phase, due to the power loss and other reasons, we lost almost all the data related to the reactors. Moreover, hydrogen explosions occurred suddenly, scattering over radioactive rubble. We needed to tackle the situation where three reactors in operation and four spent fuel pools all at the same time.

Faced with this difficult situation, many members from ministries and agencies including the SDF and TEPCO and its contractors made every effort to contain radiation, have continued to cool down the reactors more than 80 days until today. I would say that the critical phase of this disaster is almost over. There still remain many problems, but as a Japanese, I am deeply proud of those members who have worked so hard to deal with this crisis.

As soon as the unprecedented earthquake occurred, the Self-Defense Forces of Japan sprang into action. The dispatch once reached as many as 107,000 SDF personnel, 540 aircrafts, and 59 ships - the largest scale ever. The Self-Defense Forces took up responsibility for a wide range of operations, conducting search and rescue operations for the missing; supporting those caught in the disaster by providing them with meals, bathing facilities and medical treatment; working to reopen roads by clearing away rubbles; and transporting relief supplies. For the nuclear incident, we dumped and sprayed water on the power station, undertook decontamination operations and supported radiation monitoring. It has been over 65 years now since the end of the War, but I believe, at no time in the past, the Japanese people were so close to the SDF and felt so much trust in it like today.

Japan has received generous support from 159 countries and regions, 43 international organizations, and countless private organizations and individuals. Many have even gone as far as joining us in the rubble and mud as we work for relief operations. Among those who have worked with us is our alliance partner the United States, which offered us tremendous support, sending as many as 16,000 military personnel to assist us under the Operation Tomodachi. While it has been a challenging task, if anything, this ordeal has reminded us of the close and good friends we have in neighboring countries and across the globe. On behalf of the Japanese Government and the people of Japan, I express my sincere gratitude for the support extended by our friends.

Through this disaster, spirit of mutual assistance, enthusiasm for recovery and awareness of crisis preparedness are growing. Japan now truly understands the bonds of friendship we hold with the people all over the world. I would be very grateful if all of you present in this hall today will have even more feeling of confidence in Japan and the SDF which have been riding out this difficult situation.

Thanks to the support, we have received from the international community, we have been able to overcome this ordeal and we are now taking the first steps toward reconstruction. I believe that this reconstruction is not only vital for Japan but for the Asia-Pacific region, and the global economy, and security situation as well. It is our responsibility to respond to the support from the international community.

Japan has received a great deal of support from a number of countries. In the future, we hope to play further role to realize speedy and truly effective disaster relief operations through cooperation such as capacity building support for disaster relief.

Now I am going to speak about three issues that I think particularly important.

The first issue concerns the territory of Japan. Japan is a long archipelago which stretches over a great distance from the north to the south. Within this territory lies a number of locations, such as the Nansei Shoto Islands (the South-western Islands), which offer easy access within the Asia-Pacific region. By stockpiling and assembling needed resources and equipment on the islands, which are with various infrastructure and excellent geographical conditions, they can be a base of international disaster relief when large-scale natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region occur.

The second issue I would like to tough upon relates to nuclear incidents. We realize that we had not had sufficient measures or plans in place to conduct operations in an extremely high-radiation environment. Through this disaster, the usefulness of unmanned aerial vehicles and robots was once again recognized. Therefore, as a leading nation in science and technology, Japan Ministry of Defense, with other related organizations, will positively consider utilizing and possessing technology of unmanned aerial vehicles and robots, envisioning possible future participation in international cooperation in this area.

I hope that going forward, we will be able to share all the lessons we have learned this time with defense authorities of each country; what we were expected to do, what we were able to do, and what we were not at the very beginning of our efforts to respond to this unexpected situation and nuclear disaster. It is my hope that this information will assist other countries in their own preparations for the future. To this end, I would like to propose to hold a meeting for discussion on the cooperation among defense authorities for unprecedented issues like nuclear incidents.

The third issue I would like to speak about is that so many experts are gathering in Japan and responding to the nuclear incident. Our response has proceeded forward thanks to the support we have received from the network of specialists. Once we have finished this work of bringing the nuclear incident to a close, we will begin a thorough investigation into the nuclear incident. We hope to share what we learn from this investigation in an open and transparent manner with the international community. I believe that cooperation with the IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, will be indispensible in this regard. For this reason, I will dispatch a Self-Defense Force medical doctor with experience working on this incident to the IAEA. I expect him to both learn from the international community and share with it the experience that we have acquired in this disaster.

Ladies and gentlemen, next I would like to speak on one of the themes of this plenary session, military doctrine, and explain about Japan's own defense policy including implication of the earthquake.

In December of last year the Government of Japan revised its National Defense Program Guidelines. The new Guidelines take into account the multilateral and complex nature of security issues, as well as the destabilizing factors, and in consideration of all of this do not stop at merely clarifying the basic concept of maintaining a defense force, but focus on its dynamism, proposing that Japan create what we call a "dynamic defense force." We have moved beyond the idea of ensuring military deterrence through the simple existence of a defense force, and have proclaimed the concept of achieving national security through actual defense activities.

The response to the massive earthquake was extremely difficult in nature, requiring a tremendous manpower for the disaster relief operations in the affected region, as well as a specialized response team for the nuclear disaster.

We swiftly established a joint command center and mobilized a force of more than 100,000 personnel. The SDF's capabilities were fully exerted during this period when the SDF was speedily dispatched in such a large-scale disaster relief, while it continued to undertake a number of other regular operations such as warning and surveillance, and scrambles. This clearly shows what the new Guidelines propose as "dynamic defense force" is in the right direction. Moving forward, under this principle set out by the Guidelines, we will continue to study the future SDF unit disposition and the structural reform of the SDF such as that of personnel management system, and make efforts to put them into practice, taking due care to integrate the lessons we have learned from the response to the earthquake.

As the final topic of my address today, I would like to say a few words on the significance of the Shangri-la dialogue which reaches 10th anniversary, as a forum for multilateral discussion.

The new National Defense Program Guidelines emphasize the importance of promoting multifaceted security cooperation through the deepening of our relationship with the United States, and the promotion of networks for bilateral and multilateral security cooperation. As I mentioned earlier, the earthquake really has made us realize once again the relationships of trust we have with many countries. I believe that it is important to promote further dialogue with the international community in order to strengthen and maintain these relationships of trust. For it is through such dialogue that we can confirm our shared rules and values.

Allow me for a moment to explain what I mean here by quoting from "Bushido: The Soul of Japan," which is a greatest work of an agriculturalist and early Under-Secretary General of the League of Nations, Nitobe Inazo. It was there that Professor Nitobe famously said, "Without veracity and sincerity, politeness is a farce and a show." Relationships of trust among nations must start from sharing understanding of what veracity and sincerity are, that is to say, respect for rules and values.

The largest principle supporting world peace and global economic activities are values like human rights and equality, rules of the free trade framework and international law such as freedom of navigation, which were established by continuous and repeated national practices. When we share our understanding of rules and values like these, we build everlasting relationships of trust as true friends.

Many opportunities now exist for sophisticated multilateral exchanges. In addition to the Shangri-La Dialogue, last year the ADMM-Plus Meetings inaugurated, and this year's East Asia Summit will feature the participation of Russia and the United States. I sincerely hope that each of these meetings including the Shangri-La Dialogue, will be further developed, creating dialogue free of taboo topics, ones that address every challenge we face, including traditional security issues.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.