Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (09:51-10:02 A.M. April 7, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:51-10:02 A.M. April 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
None

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I will ask you about the plan to relocate the U.S. Forces' MCAS Futenma to Henoko. Following the expiration of the period of permission for crushing of the reef in the restricted area in Henoko, Okinawa Prefecture issued an administrative guidance for the Okinawa Defense Bureau to apply for the permission once again. Yesterday, the Okinawa Defense Bureau replied that crushing of the reef is unnecessary. Could you tell me once again how the MOD will proceed with the construction in the future?

Minister:
The other day, the Okinawa Defense Bureau received the document that you mentioned from Okinawa Prefecture. Regarding the permission for crushing of the reef, I understand that Okinawa Prefecture's fishery adjustment regulation prescribes that persons who seek to crush reef within fishing grounds where fishing rights have been established need to obtain permission from the governor. On the other hand, concerning the sea areas around Henoko, the fishing rights have already expired through the implementation of the legal procedure prescribed by the Fishery Act, so this area does not correspond to an "area within fishing grounds where fishing rights have been established." Therefore, our understanding is that it is not necessary to obtain permission for crushing the reef in connection with the construction related to the relocation of MCAS Futenma. After the MOD checked on this point with the Fisheries Agency, which has jurisdiction over the relevant laws and regulations, the Okinawa Defense Bureau already conveyed its intention not to seek the permission to Okinawa Prefecture. However, yesterday, the same message was conveyed in writing to Okinawa Prefecture once again. I believe that the Government and Okinawa Prefecture share the recognition that it is an extremely important challenge to realize the return of MCAS Futenma and remove risks posed by the air station as soon as possible. Following the recent final court ruling, the MOD intends to continue to proceed with this project in accordance with the intent of the settlement reached in March last year.

Question:
In the seas off Henoko, the installation of silt fences is proceeding in preparation for shore protection work, which is part of the main reclamation work. When is the shore protection scheduled to start? Have you issued any instruction as to the timing of the start?

Minister:
Concerning the construction work off Henoko, Nago City, I have been informed that the preparation of necessary equipment and materials and the installation of silt fences intended to prevent the spread of muddy water are now proceeding. The MOD intends to steadily and promptly proceed with the construction work in order to realize the relocation of MCAS Futenma and the return of the land as soon as possible. However, the start of the shore protection work will depend on the progress in the ongoing work, the weather, the hydrographic conditions and others there, so it is difficult for now to predict when that work will start.

Question:
Have you issued any instruction as to the timing of the start?

Minister:
I have not issued an instruction.

Question:
Earlier, the U.S.-China summit meeting started. The meeting between the U.S. and Chinese leaders comes after the series of ballistic missile launches by North Korea. What are your expectations for the results of this meeting?

Minister:
The threat from North Korean ballistic missiles has entered a new stage. Amid the very severe security environment surrounding Japan, we would like China, which has significant leverage over North Korea, to appropriately use its influence concerning the North Korean activities that threaten the safety and security of this region, so I am expecting that matters like that will be discussed between the United States and China.

Question:
How do you view the possibility of North Korea engaging in further acts of provocation to coincide with the U.S.-China summit meeting?

Minister:
I should not answer your question with any prejudgment, but we will diligently gather and analyze information concerning North Korea's activities with serious concern. Generally speaking, as there are now important political events for North Korea, such as the U.S.-China summit meeting and the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, we will diligently gather and analyze necessary information concerning North Korea's activities while maintaining close cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Question:
Yesterday, the United States announced that the missile launched by North Korea the day before yesterday was a Scud ER. Has Japan been able to identify the missile type? Has it been able to determine whether or not the launch was successful?

Minister:
I am aware that at first, the United States announced that the missile was a KN-15, and I am also aware of the point that you mentioned just now. However, the MOD is now analyzing the details. We are conducting a comprehensive, professional analysis carefully based on various information. As to whether or not the launch was successful, it may have been a failure given that the flight distance was approximately 60 kilometers. In any case, our analysis is still ongoing.

Question:
Although the United States has announced that the missile was a Scud ER, are you suggesting the possibility that it was not a Scud ER?

Minister:
What I am saying is that we are not ruling out various possibilities. I refrain from answering your question with any prejudgment. Rather, we need to conduct a comprehensive, professional analysis carefully, so our analysis is still ongoing.

Question:
According to a media report yesterday, concerning the issue of the daily reports which is being examined in the special defense inspection, the GSDF submitted a report to the Inspector General's Office of Legal Compliance. Is that true?

Minister:
As I have been saying, following series of media reports, I have ordered a special defense inspection in order to ensure that the facts are examined in a thorough probe. Under the special defense inspection plan, I have also ordered that the facts concerning the sequence of events leading to the decision to disclose the daily reports at issue be investigated in light of the findings of the investigation conducted by the GSDF. At the moment, the Inspector General's Office is inspecting the case. It is holding interviews with relevant people, conducting onsite visits where necessary and strictly checking documents. I understand that the inspection is making steady progress. Therefore, for the moment, I would like to refrain from commenting on a specific process in response to a specific media report.

Question:
In relation to the daily reports, you have been saying that you have instructed that a report concerning the special defense inspection be issued as soon as possible. Do you have in mind any timeframe, such as during the current Diet session?

Minister:
When I approved the plan, I instructed the Inspector General to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible. At the same time, I believe that the facts should be thoroughly examined from a fair, neutral standpoint. Therefore, we are not yet at a stage where we should set a deadline or predict the timing.

Question:
At your press conference on March 21, you said you were considering submitting a report in some way as there was a request for the submission of an interim report to the Diet. May I take it that you are no longer planning to submit an interim report?

Minister:
At that time, I did not say that an interim report would be submitted. There was a request for submission of an interim report from the Diet. What I am saying is that in response to the request, I will consider, as appropriate, how the report should be made.

Question:
I would like a clarification on who is investigating the daily report issue. Also, am I correct in understanding that the GSDF's investigation is still ongoing?

Minister:
As I mentioned earlier, under the plan, I have ordered that the facts concerning the sequence of events leading to the decision to disclose the daily reports at issue be investigated in light of the findings of the investigation conducted by the GSDF. My understanding is that the investigation is one of the various probes being conducted in the special defense inspection.

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