Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (09:41-10:10 A.M. February 7, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:41-10:10 A.M. February 7, 2017
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
At today's Cabinet meeting, a Cabinet decision was made on the submission of a bill to partially amend the Act on Special Measures on Smooth Implementation of the Realignment of United States Forces in Japan. In order to realize the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan that was approved in May 2006 by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, this bill provides for revisions including the extension of the effective period of the Act on Special Measures on Smooth Implementation of the Realignment of United States Forces in Japan for 10 years. Meanwhile, concerning the results of the SDF's activities related to the avian influenza outbreak in Saga Prefecture, the MOD/SDF has been implementing influenza epidemic prevention measures since February 4 in response to the Saga governor's request for disaster relief. Yesterday, as we received the Saga governor's request for terminating the activity, we terminated all activities. The GSDF 4th Field Artillery Regiment deployed a total of around 300 personnel and a total of around 60 vehicles and implemented such activities as slaughtering chickens, packing the dead birds, and disinfecting and cleaning the chicken houses. As there is the risk of future outbreaks of avian influenza in regions other than the one where the latest outbreak occurred, we will continue to cooperate with relevant ministries and agencies while maintaining a sense of alertness and respond quickly and appropriately if an outbreak occurs. The total number of slaughtered chickens at the farm is around 71,000.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
This weekend, the Japan-U.S. summit meeting will be held. What results are you expecting in the field of security?

Minister:
Secretary Mattis came to Japan and reaffirmed that into the future, the Japan-U.S. Alliance will continue to contribute to the stability and peace of the East Asia-Pacific region. The summit meeting scheduled for this weekend will be the first since President Trump officially took office, so it is important for the two leaders to first establish a firm relationship of trust and then make clear, domestically and internationally, that the Japan-U.S. Alliance remains rock-solid amid the increasingly severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

Question:
In relation to that, the Prime Minister and President Trump are also planning to play golf together in Florida. What do you feel about that?

Minister:
I am not aware of the specifics of the schedule. In any case, as the Japan-U.S. Alliance is really vital, it is important to build a firm relationship of trust and reaffirm the importance of the alliance.

Question:
Under the plan to relocate the U.S. Forces' MCAS Futenma in Okinawa, reclamation work has started in earnest in an offshore area in Henoko in Nago City, to which the base will be relocated. Could you explain how you will proceed with the Futenma relocation plan and tell me about the progress in sinking of concrete blocks?

Minister:
As the Supreme Court issued its ruling and the Okinawa governor revoked the cancellation of the approval of the reclamation that was judged to be illegal by the judicial authority, the MOD resumed the project to construct a replacement facility for MCAS Futenma on December 27 last year. Since the resumption of the project at the end of last year, we have been making preparations. With the preparations completed, we started offshore work related to the reclamation yesterday. We plan to proceed with the installation of silt fences to prevent the spread of muddy water and a boring survey. As for the specific future schedule, we will proceed with the work while watching the progress and weather conditions. We will proceed with the work for relocation to Henoko based on relevant laws and regulations with maximum consideration for the natural environment and local residents' living environment while continuing to pay due attention to the safety of the work. As for the concrete blocks, the Okinawa Defense Bureau and Okinawa Prefecture have communicated through 13 documents, the most recent of which was a written reply related to the detailed facility plan concerning the installation of silt fences that was given on February 3. We have promptly given replies one by one to a total of as many as 45 questions. Yesterday, we received another document, to which I intend to have the Okinawa Defense Bureau promptly give a reply. The most important thing to do is realizing the elimination of risks at MCAS Futenma as soon as possible, so we will firmly proceed with the work.

Question:
I would like to ask you about the Freedom of Navigation operation. At his recent meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Mattis said that he believes the Freedom of Navigation Operation is appropriate and that it will be conducted in the high seas. In a television appearance the following day, you said that the expansion of the role does not mean the deployment of the SDF abroad. Does that reflect the view that the SDF will not participate in the operation for the moment, or that future participation will be unnecessary?

Minister:
As you pointed out, Japan has expressed its support for the Freedom of Navigation operation in the defense ministerial meeting. Ensuring the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the safety of the sea lane is for the public good, so firm cooperation across the international community is important. However, there is no plan to dispatch the SDF there for joint implementation of the Freedom of Navigation operation. The Prime Minister has repeatedly been asked about this in the Diet and has given such a reply. As a policy decision, Japan is not considering participating in the Freedom of Navigation operation. However, as for the issue of how to expand the role, Japan will make contributions through such activities as providing capacity building assistance, as it is already doing in the Philippines and Vietnam, for countries surrounding the South China Sea and conducing joint exercises between the MSDF and the U.S. Navy and other foreign forces in the South China Sea, rather than participating in the Freedom of Navigation operation.

Question:
In relation to that, did you tell Secretary Mattis that there is no plan to participate in the operation? Or will there be a request from the U.S. side in the future-did you get a feeling about that or get a commitment?

Minister:
I expressed support for the Freedom of Navigation operation, but there was not a request for participation, nor did I mention what I said just now. However, I said that Japan will make contributions to the thorough pursuit of the rule of law in the South China Sea by actively engaging in such activities as providing capacity building assistance and conducting joint exercises.

Question:
Concerning the relation with the United States and others, you and the Prime Minister have said in relation to Japan's response to the Islamic State that Japan will not provide logistical support in military operations against IS. How did you arrive at this policy decision?

Minister:
Concerning Japan's response to ISIL, our approach is to fulfill our responsibilities in the international community in non-military fields by enhancing assistance activities which Japan has the ability to perform adequately, such as food and humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced people. As we have already explained, the Government is not considering participating in military operations against ISIL under this policy decision.

Question:
In relation to that, was there a calculation that it would make Japan a more likely target of acts of terrorism by the Islamic State if the country participated in logistical support activity?

Minister:
As this is a policy decision-generally speaking, when making a policy decision, we comprehensively take into consideration all possibilities and various matters, including priorities and what the appropriate thing is for Japan to do-in consideration of all those things, we have made the policy decision to fulfill our responsibilities in nonmilitary fields by enhancing assistance activities which Japan has the ability to perform adequately, such as food and humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced people, while refraining from providing logistical support for military operations against ISIL.

Question:
Going back to the South China Sea issue, are you not considering conducting constant surveillance by dispatching vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea separately from the Freedom of Navigation operation?

Minister:
We are not constantly conducting surveillance activity, nor is there a specific plan for that.

Question:
I have a question concerning the relocation to Henoko. The Okinawa governor has repeatedly said that he will use all possible measures, including the exercise of the gubernatorial authority, to stop the reclamation. What action is the MOD considering taking in response to that?

Minister:
I do not know specifically what the governor means by "all possible measures," so it is difficult to hypothetically give a reply concerning how we will respond. However, we have until now followed the terms of the settlement mediated by a court, and at the end of last year, the Supreme Court issued its ruling, so we intend to proceed with the relocation to Henoko in order to eliminate risks at MCAS Futenma as soon as possible.

Question:
For the moment, has the MOD not determined any particular measure?

Minister:
Rather than taking measures, we will give maximum consideration to the natural environment and local residents' living environment and also appropriately reply to questions from the prefecture.

Question:
Concerning the expenditures related to the realignment of the U.S. Forces that were mentioned earlier, some members of the city assembly of Nago, which the Government is asking to accept the relocation plan, requested an arrangement for the distribution of grants not only to the three wards of the Kube region but also to other wards at the time of the renewal of the realignment-related expenditures. However, I understand that distributing grants to other wards will be impossible under the revision of this law. Is the MOD considering any measure with respect to other wards?

Minister:
At this time, the period has been extended. Realignment grants are distributed to municipalities located around defense facilities that have the impact of the realignment of the U.S. Forces in order to facilitate smooth and secure implementation of the realignment. As for measures for local community groups and local governments, we implement necessary budgetary measures on a case-by-case basis when it is considered to be necessary to give special consideration to an increase in the impact on the stability of local residents' everyday lives as a result of the realignment of the U.S. Forces. Therefore, we will make appropriate decisions while continuing to listen to the voices of the local people.

Question:
I would like to ask you about daily reports prepared by the GSDF unit that is participating in the PKO in South Sudan. When the security situation deteriorated in the SDF's area of activity in September last year, there was an information disclosure request concerning the daily reports. At one time, a reply was given that the reports had been disposed of, but later, they were discovered. Could you tell me the facts and share your comments on that?

Minister:
First, the daily reports that were mentioned now are documents prepared every day by the engineering unit dispatched to South Sudan for the purpose of reporting to its higher-echelon unit. They are documents that are supposed to be disposed of when their purpose has been served upon completion of reporting. In December last year, in response to the information disclosure request, we replied that the reports in question had been disposed of and so they did not exist. Concerning the daily reports, additional information disclosure requests were made later and there was also a suggestion from lawmaker Taro Kono that the search for the reports should be conducted again. In consideration of these requests, I instructed that the search be conducted again to look around more widely. As a result, I was recently informed of the discovery of the daily reports in the form of electronic data at the Joint Staff Office. The daily reports, whose storage period was shorter than one year, were supposed to be disposed of as their purpose had been achieved upon completion of reporting to the higher-echelon unit. Concerning the information disclosure request that you mentioned, after the necessary search was made, mainly at the engineering unit, which prepared the reports, and the Central Readiness Force, which is its higher-echelon unit, it was confirmed that the daily reports had already been disposed of and did not exist. However, as I mentioned earlier, as a result of the renewed search made upon my instruction, I was informed that the daily reports for the period relevant to the information disclosure request had been discovered in the form of electronic data. When we received the information disclosure request, there was a time limit of 30 days, but regarding the fact that the MOD was not able to exhaustively search through the documents, I recognize that our response was not sufficient.

Question:
In relation to that, what periods do the discovered daily reports cover? Do they cover periods other than the one relevant to the information disclosure request?

Minister:
That is correct.

Question:
Didn't the staff possessing the data contact you when this was reported by the mass media in December?

Minister:
What I said just now is the big picture, and as for the details of the proceedings, such as the information from the Joint Staff Office about the discovery of the reports in the form of electronic data, I will have my staff provide explanations later.

Question:
I have questions concerning two points. My understanding is that the search was made at the place where the daily reports were prepared and at the place where they were preserved. It was explained that the reports were disposed of there, but I do not understand why they existed at the Joint Staff Office. What I mean is that if they were sent from the place where they were prepared to both, the search should have been made at the Joint Staff Office from the beginning. However, the search was made only at the two places from the beginning. That is the first point. For another thing, there is the view that the disposal of daily reports itself is inappropriate. Furthermore, some people are pointing out that if the turn of events leading to the discovery is taken into consideration, this may have been in effect a cover-up. Under these circumstances, you said in the Diet that concerning information related to South Sudan, information disclosure would be made to the maximum possible extent. Could you explain the consistency with that?

Minister:
Concerning the situation in South Sudan, which you mentioned in your second question, information disclosure will be made to the Japanese people to the maximum possible extent, and I believe that this is the right thing to do. I would like to inform the people as much as possible about the situation in which the SDF is conducting engineering activity while ensuring its own safety. As for your first question-why the daily reports were discovered at the Joint Staff Office-I also have strong doubt about that point, but as we are now checking on the detailed facts, including that point, I will have my staff provide explanations later.

Question:
I have a question concerning the information disclosure that was mentioned just now. You say that you would like to make appropriate information disclosure. But has there been no change in your view that daily reports are something that may be gradually disposed of?

Minister:
When I heard about this matter, it was explained that the reports were sent from the engineering unit to the Central Readiness Force and they were appropriately compiled at the receiving end, and as the compiled reports were almost the same as the reports originally prepared by the engineering units, they were disposed of. It was explained that there was no legal problem, and I believe that there was no legal problem. However, as you mentioned, primary documents in which what the personnel operating out there saw and heard is described should be adequately stored.

Question:
Will you consider reforming the institutional system?

Minister:
It is natural to treat the reports based on relevant laws and regulations, but primary documents-although we must consider what the scope of such documents should be-should be stored for a certain period of time regardless of the legal obligation.

Question:
From the circumstances, this is apparently either a cover-up or a loss. Which would you say it is?

Minister:
There is no legal problem with the disposal that was made based on laws and regulations, so this is not either a cover-up or a loss. Even so, as I have been saying, since they were actually discovered at a place other than places where they were supposed to exist, I believe that disclosure is necessary.

Question:
In the Diet, intensive deliberations are being held with respect to the amakudari (which means that senior civil servants retire to join organizations linked with or under the jurisdiction of their ministries or agencies when they reach mandatory retirement age) issue. In relation to that, could you tell me about the progress in the investigation, including whether or not cases of the kind of amakudari that would be viewed as a problem have been discovered at the MOD as of now?

Minister:
Following the latest violation of the regulation on reemployment at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Technology and Science, the Prime Minister instructed the Minister of State for Regulatory Reform to conduct appropriate investigation into all ministries to check whether or not there are similar cases. At the moment, the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs is conducting the investigation based on the Prime Minister's instruction. Regarding the details of the investigation by the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs, I would like you to refer to the bureau. The MOD will continue full cooperation with the investigation, including responding to inquiries from the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs. At the MOD, a monitoring organization comprised of outside experts who have no record of serving as SDF personnel has been monitoring reemployment of personnel, and I have so far received no report about any case of violation. In any case, in consideration of the latest case, we will provide thorough education to ensure that personnel comply with the rules concerning reemployment.

Question:
Going back to the previous issue, what prompted you to decide to conduct the renewed search for the daily reports? Did you make the decision in consideration of the information disclosure request or because of lawmaker Kono's suggestion?

Minister:
That is partly because when we received the report, lawmaker Kono had already requested a renewed search. So, I instructed that a search should be conducted once again in order to check whether the daily reports, which are primary documents, did not really exist.

Question:
I have not heard about a case in which a request for investigation came from the inside. How do you feel about that?

Minister:
What do you mean by "from the inside"?

Question:
What I mean is that I have never heard about a case in which a demand for investigation came from within the Liberal Democratic Party. As the head of the MOD, how do you feel about that?

Minister:
First, it is not that the daily reports were disposed of in violation of law. However, I believe that we must always have readiness to appropriately make disclosure concerning information requested for disclosure. Generally speaking, it is natural to adopt this approach, regardless of whether the request comes from the ruling or opposition parties, from the inside or the outside.

Question:
Concerning the daily reports, why was the search conducted only at the dispatched engineering unit and the CRF? Who instructed that? In other words, as I am sure that the reporting to the CRF must be for the purpose of preparing morning reports for the Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff, it is not hard to imagine that the reports naturally reached the Joint Staff Office. Why did the search stop at the CRF? Who instructed that?

Minister:
As for the detailed facts, I will have my staff provide explanations later.

Question:
The other day, in the Diet, the Prime Minister replied that daily reports are appropriately sorted and stored at the higher-echelon unit. Did that reply mean that the reports are sorted and stored at the Central Readiness Force, as you mentioned earlier?

Minister:
What the Prime Minister's reply in the Diet meant is that the engineering unit dispatched to South Sudan is preparing reports every day for the purpose of reporting to the higher-echelon unit and that the reports are stored at the higher-echelon unit that receive them, as I understand it.

Question:
Are you saying that they are stored at the Central Readiness Force?

Minister:
What I mean is that what is summarized in the form of morning reports, rather than the daily reports themselves, is stored.

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