Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (09:50-10:02 A.M. April 28, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:50-10:02 A.M. April 28, 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 carrier strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Commander Harris of the U.S. Pacific Command testified at a U.S. Congressional public hearing on April 26 that the Carl Vinson was within striking distance of North Korea. The strike group is also engaging in a joint exercise with the SDF. Could you share your thoughts on that?

Minister:
It is my understanding that, as you pointed out just now, at a meeting of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on April 26, Commander Harris of the U.S. Pacific Command testified on security challenges in the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions and the U.S. Pacific Forces' posture. I would like to refrain from commenting on either the specific remarks made in his testimony or on the U.S. Forces' operations, but on April 8, Commander Harris ordered the Carrier Strike Group 1, which is led by the Carl Vinson, to sail north and engage in operations in the West Pacific. To coincide with the passage of the Carl Vinson, the MSDF has been engaging in a Japan-U.S. joint cruising exercise using the destroyers Samidare and Ashigara in the West Pacific since April 23. The ASDF will conduct various tactical exercises with F/A-18 fighters based on the Carl Vinson today in the airspace over a sea area east of Okinawa. The fact that the MSDF vessels and ASDF aircraft engage in simultaneous joint exercises with the U.S. strike group demonstrates Japan's resolve to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance as a whole and to maintain regional stability and its high level of capability. Amid the increasingly severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. deterrence capability is essential to the peace and stability of the region, thus Japan will deal with the North Korea issue while maintaining its cooperation with the United States and other members of the international community.

Question:
In relation to that, are the current joint exercises assuming the possibility of Japan providing protection for U.S. vessels under the Legislation for Peace and Security? As tensions over the North Korea issue still remain high, is actually protecting U.S. vessels being considered?

Minister:
Concerning the protection of weapons and other equipment of the units of the armed forces of the United States and other foreign countries based on Article 95 of the SDF Act, in December last year, the National Security Council determined the policy concerning the enforcement of Article 95-2 of the SDF Act, and this has entered into force with respect to protection for the U.S. Forces. However, because of the nature of this matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on the presence or absence of specific requests for protection and the enforcement status.

Question:
I have a related question. Earlier, Commander Harris revealed the view that North Korea will acquire the capability of launching nuclear missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland in the not distant future and expressed strong concern that the situation in the Korean Peninsula has deteriorated to the worst point ever. What is the MOD's perception of the situation and what would you say to that view?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from commenting on specific remarks in the testimony. However, as stated in our white paper, it is possible that North Korea has already acquired technology to miniaturize nuclear weapons and install them on ballistic missiles. Given that North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and launched more than 20 ballistic missiles last year and has the capability of launching missiles from a submarine and simultaneously landing three missiles in the same area within Japan's exclusive economic zone, I recognize that the threat has entered a new stage.

Question:
Changing the subject, today is the Restoration of Sovereignty Day. In usual years, you visit Yasukuni Shrine together with Diet members belonging to the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP's) Group of Tradition and Creation on this day. Today, you apparently did not visit the shrine with them. Why didn't you join them? Are you planning to make the visit later today?

Minister:
It is true that as you pointed out, members of the Group of Tradition and Creation have visited Yasukuni Shrine every year on the Restoration of Sovereignty Day. Also, I did not visit the shrine today as you mentioned. However, concerning a visit to Yasukuni Shrine, I would like to refrain from saying whether or not I will make the visit because I view this as a matter of heart, as I have already said. In any case, as I am now a member of the Abe cabinet, I will make appropriate judgement and take appropriate action as such.

Question:
Today, it is exactly one year since the murder and assault of a woman by a member of the U.S. civilian component occurred in Okinawa last year. During the one year period since this case occurred, measures such as the conclusion of a supplementary pact to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement have so far been taken. What is your assessment of these measures?

Minister:
It is exactly one year since the atrocious case of a young woman in Uruma City being cruelly murdered. I really feel outraged when I think of both the murder of this woman who had a promising future and her family who lost their loved one. At the same time, I would like to pray for the soul of the victim. In July last year, when I was serving as chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council, I laid flowers at the crime site. I feel outrage and deep sorrow at the death of this young woman with a promising future in this case of a cruel and abject crime. As for the Status of Forces Agreement that you mentioned, following this case, the Governments of Japan and the United States held active consultations in order to develop effective recurrence prevention measures and signed a supplementary pact related to the civilian component on January 16 this year, and the pact took effect the same day. We will strive to ensure that Japan-U.S. cooperation will be promoted and the management and discipline of the U.S. civilian component will be further enhanced through the implementation of the pact, leading to effective prevention of the recurrence of crimes by the civilian component. Japan and the United States will cooperate with each other in order to never allow the recurrence of an outrageous case like this-a crime committed by a person related to the U.S. Forces which undermines the Japanese people's trust in the U.S. Forces.

Question:
I have a related question. As a result of the conclusion of this supplementary pact, the number of civilian component members was expected to decrease. Has the MOD been informed of the number of civilian component members, as was prescribed when the pact was concluded last year?

Minister:
First, following the enactment of the supplementary pact related to the civilian component, the U.S. side is due to start the procedure for terminating the civilian component status in cases where employees of contractors whose existing contracts are renewed do not satisfy the eligibility criteria for the civilian component. The progress in that respect is due to be shared with the Government of Japan semiannually. At the moment, Japan and the United States are finalizing the specifics of the procedure in preparation for the first consultation meeting of the working group.

Question:
Japan is entering the Golden Week holidays just as the North Korea situation remains precarious. What is your plan for the Golden Week?

Minister:
In light of the current situation, we intend to be fully prepared to deal with any contingency that may arise, so I will keep standing by in Tokyo.

-PAGE TOP-