Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(11:52 A.M.-12:08 P.M. December 10, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:52 A.M.-12:08 P.M. December 10, 2013
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)
(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purposes only)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements
I would like to give you a briefing on the counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. The Government decided in July this year that the Deployment Surface Force for Counter Piracy Enforcement (DSPE) would join the Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) and take part in zone defense in order to achieve more efficient ship defense in cooperation with forces of other countries involved in counter-piracy operations. Thus, the 17th DSPE will start exercising zone defense in the Gulf of Aden from today. The MOD and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will well prepare for counter-piracy operations by successfully carrying out zone defense as a part of the CTF 151 while coordinating with associated ministries, agencies and nations. That is all from me.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
In his press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Abe stated in relation to the Chinese-claimed air defense identification zone (ADIZ), “It is necessary to strengthen the communication system for the defense authorities between Japan and China.” In what specific way will you as the MOD encourage the Chinese side to take part in the development of such communication system?

Minister:
One of the matters agreed upon between the leaders of Japan and China during this first Abe administration is the development of a maritime communication mechanism which also serves as a hotline that can be used for airspace communication. Although this agreement had been concluded, unfortunately, negotiations for the development of a communication system were suspended in September last year when the plan was being finalized. The Japanese side has been frequently approaching the Chinese side in an effort to resume the negotiations. I myself also directly requested the Chinese Minister of National Defense to resume the negotiations when I had a chance to meet with him in person at the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Brunei in August. However, his response was negative. In any case, we will continue our effort to develop a maritime communication mechanism taking advantage of every opportunity. With the same spirit as the Prime Minister who often says that he always leaves the door open for dialogue, we will actively approach the Chinese side through diplomatic channels.

Question:
The approval rating for the Abe Cabinet has dropped rapidly. What is your reaction to this trend?

Minister:
I assume that the fall of the approval rating is related to the controversy over the state secret bill. As the Prime Minister always says, it is important to provide the Japanese people with careful explanations on bills. Whatever the situation is, we will continue to fulfill the role of the MOD, which is to take actions to ensure national security.

Question:
I believe that deliberation has been carried out on the use of the P-3C patrol aircraft for the counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. What is the current status of the deliberation?

Minister:
The deliberation is still underway. I will announce our decision when it is made.

Question:
You recently visited the Philippines and observed the current situation in the disaster-affected areas. What is the current status of the deliberation by the Government on the timing of the SDF’s withdrawal from the Philippines?

Minister:
We as the MOD gave a briefing on my on-site inspection in the Philippines at the 9-Minister Meeting today. In any case, we are considering that the timing of withdrawal will be within this year. However, the final specific decision will be made after consultations with the Philippine side and the SDF units there.

Question:
In relation to the issue concerning the Chinese-claimed ADIZ, you stated earlier that the MOD had approached the Chinese side many times in an attempt to resume the consultation on the creation of a maritime communication mechanism. Has the Japanese side still been continuing to approach the Chinese side after the 23rd last month when China declared its ADIZ?

Minister:
I do not believe that the MOD has made a request to the Chinese side since the 23rd. I am not aware of the current status with other organizations such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this regard. I presume that the Japanese side is not intentionally suspending its effort to approach the Chinese side, but I suspect that we probably have not found the right opportunities to bring this issue up lately.

Question:
I have a question on the ADIZ as well. My understanding of the Japanese Government’s stance is to disapprove of the Chinese-claimed ADIZ and to demand the Chinese side to retract it. However, Japan’s effort to create a communication system seemingly implies that the Japanese side has admitted the Chinese-claimed ADIZ. How would you reconcile these conflicting ideas?

Minister:
Basically, we have made our stance clear from the beginning that we cannot accept the Chinese-claimed ADIZ based on China’s one-sided action and the implication that the airspace over the Senkaku Islands is Chinese territory. This and yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister are two separate issues. However, it is certain that both issues ought to be addressed through dialogues and discussion.

Question:
According to a press report, the MOD has conducted surveys on the personal histories of defense industry employees. Could you confirm the facts on that? Also, what are your thoughts on that?

Minister:
The procedure we follow when we make a contract with a company in the defense industry is that we check the credibility of the company upon receiving a security regulation document prepared by the company in accordance with the MOD’s enforcement ordinance. Regarding the press report concerned, which I also have read, we are not in a proper position to comment on the authenticity of what the article describes. In any case, I understand that when we make a contract with a defense equipment company, we request the company to submit a security regulation document, and each company has its own standards for meeting the MOD’s requirements.

Question:
I would like to go back to the issue of the ADIZ. Will the Japanese side not hold a talk with the Chinese side unless China retracts the ADIZ it has set up first?

Minister:
We will not demand the Chinese side to accept certain conditions before holding a talk. In fact, we intend to solve that problem involving the ADIZ through dialogue. Whatever the problem each country is dealing with, dialogue is always the way to address international issues.

Question:
Are you considering a talk between Japan and China, or a multilateral talk?

Minister:
While it is necessary to hold a talk between Japan and China, if the issue to be discussed concerns the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), for example, it is also necessary to hold a meeting at an international level in a framework of the ICAO.

Question:
Due to the successive incidents such as the radar lock-on case in February and the setting up of the ADIZ in November, extremely tense conditions have been persisting, and despite the continuing effort to hold a talk with China, the situation has not changed in a positive way. Do you have an idea about how to break through the current standstill?

Minister:
I believe that we have been making a series of statements that are logical and consistent. Again, it is vital to solve this issue through dialogue and in an international framework.

Question:
Is there a chance that the Japanese side will request the Chinese side to retract the ADIZ it is claiming at the meeting between Japanese and Chinese defense authorities?

Minister:
Given that we as the MOD take actions based on the policies of the Government, we make necessary statements that are consistent with the policies of the Government.

Question:
You stated earlier that you gave a briefing on your visit to the Philippines at the National Security Council 9-Minister Meeting. Was there anything else you informed the meeting of? Also, could you tell us what was discussed during the meeting?

Minister:
Do you mean any subjects unrelated to the Philippines?

Question:
That is correct.

Minister:
Other than topics related to the Philippines, I gave an explanation on the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program, and we carried out discussion on them. The Chief Cabinet Secretary is scheduled to hold a press conference at which he will answer questions on certain topics discussed at this meeting that can be disclosed.

Question:
Regarding the counter-piracy operations, I have learned that participating countries will take turns at providing a commander for the CTF 151. After joining the CTF 151, is Japan also expected to provide a commander?

Minister:
Since Japan is just joining the CTF 151, it is not expected to immediately provide a commander or to be involved in the coordination function of the headquarters for now. If Japan is requested to play such roles in the long run, we will discuss the matter. In any case, we are not considering playing a commanding role soon at this moment.

Question:
It has been suggested by some people that since the ADIZ that China has set up is greatly different from those managed by Japan, the U.S. and South Korea, it should be called something else. According to some opinions, it should be called an “air defense identification area” instead, since the Chinese has been calling it so. What do you think about that, although you probably have not heard about such argument?

Minister:
Normal ADIZs do not interfere with the freedom of civil aviation as is guaranteed by the ICAO treaty, and usual actions taken by a country setting up an ADIZ include anti-airspace incursion measures, which are taken against foreign entities approaching its territorial land, for example. In contrast, the ADIZ China recently declared is of a different nature. Although I call it an “air defense identification area,” like China does, these two names are rather confusing to everyone. So, I think perhaps it is a good idea to discuss the naming issue.

Question:
In relation to the Mid-Term Defense Program, which was mentioned earlier, there is a big difference between the total amount of the budget requested by the MOD and the amount proposed by the Ministry of Finance, according to a press report. Do you think that the Ministry of Finance will ultimately accept the MOD’s request?

Minister:
We will make our utmost effort to convince the Ministry of Finance.

Question:
I have a question on the procurement of the AAV7 or Amphibious Assault Vehicle. In his answer to the previous diet deliberations, Mr. Tokuchi, the Director General for the Bureau of Defense Policy stated that the procured AAV7 will be assessed from FY 2015 to FY 2016 before planning for further purchasing. However, according to personnel in the Ground Staff Office, the assessment will be carried out in May next year and the vehicle model will be selected by December. In addition, based on the same information source, the amphibious task force consists of about 6,000 personnel, and 22 AAV7 vehicles will be procured for each battery of three infantry regiments, which serve as central forces. If this information is true, then the AAV7 seems to be procured for deployment and not for assessment, which is supposed to be the purpose of the procurement. From the perspective of civilian control of the military, it seems to be a problem because the defense budget will be acquired based on incorrect information being submitted to the Diet. What is your view on this?

Minister:
I am afraid that I did not quite understand the context of your question or who provided that information. In any case, we plan to purchase sample products of the AAV7 model this time, and we will decide a future plan with that model upon assessing its performance.

Question:
If that is so, I assume that four used APC vehicles will be procured for assessment using the budget for FY 2013 and those vehicles will be delivered to the SDF next year. In addition, one Command Communication Vehicle and one updated model will be requested using the budget for FY 2014. Then when all these models become available, decisions will be made on vehicle selections through testing. Is my assumption correct?

Minister:
While your story is a very detailed one, our basic approach is to purchase sample products first, then to finalize our procurement plan upon deliberation. Since you just pointed out some details, I would like to check later if our procurement plan agrees with your view.

Question:
In relation to South Korea’s announcement to expand its ADIZ, the South Korean side has reportedly expressed its intention to work with the Japanese side to create a framework, so to speak, which allows close communications and advance flight notification between the two countries. What are your thoughts as a representative of the Japanese side on South Korea’s proposal?

Minister:
There is a hotline established between the ASDF Kasuga Air Base in Japan and Taegu Air Base in South Korea, and communications are carried out several dozen times a day using this exclusive line. If South Korea expands its ADIZ, up to the borders of Flight Information Regions I suppose, I hope that this action will rather promote the development of more active bilateral relations in terms of surveillance of this region through closer communications and information exchanges.

(End)

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