Press Conferences

Extra Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya (06:39-06:49 P.M. October 20, 2018 JST)

Extra Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya
Time & Date: 06:39-06:49 P.M. October 20, 2018 JST
Place: Shangri-La Hotel, Garden Wing 983

(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 report on the recent Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Defense Ministerial Meeting. I recently held a Japan-ROK Defense Ministerial Meeting with ROK Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeongdoo. During this meeting, I welcomed that the meeting was taking place almost immediately after we both assumed our positions, and we confirmed that we would further develop Japan-ROK defense cooperation and exchange. Regarding the North Korea situation, first I received an explanation from Minister Jeong regarding recent ROK-North Korea relations and initiatives between the two countries. He stated that he would like close Japan-ROK cooperation for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace. I stated that I would like cooperation with the international community including Japan-ROK-U.S. cooperation in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions to elicit further specific actions from North Korea. In addition, we held an exchange of views on Japan-ROK-U.S. defense cooperation and exchange. Regarding the recent International Fleet Review in the ROK, as I stated in my opening remarks, I conveyed that the ROK's series of actions concerning the raising of the flag was very regrettable, including that I was unavoidably unable to send off the Maritime Self Defense Forces (MSDF) to participate in the International Fleet Review in the ROK. We confirmed that although difficult issues sometimes arise between our two countries, our defense authorities will reach mutual understanding more closely and overcome this. Further, we agreed to continue to develop defense cooperation and exchange in a future-oriented manner. Although there was only limited time, I held a frank exchange of views with Minister Jeong and was able to confirm further development of Japan-ROK defense cooperation, so I believe it was a very significant meeting. These are my opening remarks.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
How do you believe that today’s meeting will be utilized for future Japanese defense policy?

Minister:
There are issues, including those regarding North Korea, that should be handled together by Japan, the ROK, and the United States. Amidst this, I believe that close cooperation between Japanese and ROK defense authorities to resolve various issues is essential for the free and open Indo-Pacific that we are aiming for. This was the first defense ministerial meeting between Minister Jeong and I after we assumed our positions, and Minister Jeong is also someone who has a connection with Japan, so I believe that we were able to hold a frank exchange of views. Going forward, I would like to confirm even closer mutual understanding between Japanese and ROK defense authorities, so I would truly like to achieve progress in development and relations in a future-oriented manner.

Question:
Regarding North Korea, in your opening remarks you called for the full enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions. How did Minister Jeong respond, and can you explain if there were any points that you agreed on concerning the approach to responding to North Korea?

Minister:
We shared recognition that full enforcement of the UN Security Council resolutions is necessary. In addition, Minister Jeong stated that he would like to receive support if there is anything that Japan can do regarding future North Korea-ROK relations.

Question:
Japan will provide support.

Minister:
No, he stated that he would like to receive support. I believe there are things we can do and things we cannot do, so for us firstly the full enforcement of the UN Security Council resolutions is necessary, and Japan, the United States, and the ROK must firmly cooperate for this. Our discussion was that based on that assumption, Japan will provide support if it can do anything according to future developments.

Question:
You confirmed that although difficulties arise between our countries, we will overcome them. Did you have a discussion regarding the aftermath of the International Fleet Review besides at the recent photo op?

Minister:
Although I would like to refrain from commenting on the details, in any event, I stated that I would like to request Minister Jeong’s efforts so this incident does not have any lasting effects, and he stated that the ROK would like to develop future-oriented Japan-ROK defense exchange, so I received that impression.

Question:
Although you said “future-oriented,” I believe that the situation regarding recent defense exchange is that there will be unavoidable stagnation based on the International Fleet Review incident. Did you and Minister Jeong agree on any proposals or if anything is necessary to overcome this and have more future-oriented defense exchange?

Minister:
We saw agreement on holding Japan-ROK defense exchange at various levels, so I would like to hold proper discussions going forward on specific items. If there are various events related to defense relations going forward, as there are programs, I would like to deepen exchange with the ROK side. We have had PKO cooperation and various forms of defense cooperation until now, and I would like to further develop that.

Question:
In regard to one more point on defense cooperation from your discussion earlier, joint exercises have been conducted between Japan, the U.S., and the ROK until now, but bilateral joint exercises between Japan and the ROK have not been conducted due to the ROK’s sentiment toward Japan. Did you discuss this issue today, and do you have any thoughts on joint exercises between Japan and the ROK?

Minister:
Today was our first meeting and our discussion did not extend to specific details. We agreed to develop relations in a future-oriented manner. I would like to have consideration of issues including how to hold joint exercises going forward. I believe it would be good to be able to hold something like Japan-ROK exercises in the future, but that will be dependent on discussions going forward.

Question:
The Government of the United States and the Government of the ROK decided yesterday to suspend the U.S.-ROK joint military exercises in the winter. Was there another explanation regarding this at today’s meeting? Also, according to the U.S. announcement, U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis already explained the plan to suspend the exercises to you, so what was your reaction and how did you respond?

Minister:
I already heard from Secretary of State Mattis that the U.S.-ROK military exercise Vigilant Ace would be suspended. In any event, the presence of the U.S. Forces in the ROK is important to regional stability. I believe that U.S.-ROK exercises as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK exercises are extremely important to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia. This was a decision based on comprehensive consideration of various circumstances, but I believe that to reach a true resolution of the North Korea issue, it is important to maintain firm deterrence capability.

Question:
Did you confirm that you could understand this suspension?

Minister:
Secretary Mattis stated that there would be firm consideration so that there would be no decrease in deterrence capability, and I am not concerned about that.

Question:
Regarding illegal ship-to-ship transfers, did you call for the ROK to participate or cooperate in monitoring activities that are being conducted by Japan with the United States, Canada, and Australia?

Minister:
There was not enough time today so we did not touch on that, but it was a topic of discussion at the Japan-U.S.-ROK meeting. I stated that although the ROK is conducting its own independent efforts, I would certainly like to have Japan-ROK cooperation regarding illegal ship-to-ship transfers. However, nothing specific was decided.

-PAGE TOP-