Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya (11:23-11:46 A.M. October 26, 2018)

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya
Time & Date: 11:23-11:46 A.M. October 26, 2018
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:
An ordinance for a referendum on Henoko relocation was approved a moment ago at the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. I would like to ask how you take this news, and about your thoughts on how you yourself will explain this issue to Okinawa?

Minister:
I would like to refrain on commenting on behalf of the Ministry of Defense (MOD) about these kind of individual initiatives within municipal governments. In any case, we hope to move forward, little by little, toward the goals of eliminating the danger posed by Futenma and achieving the return of land. Moving forward, we hope to continue to use all available opportunities to carefully explain this issue to the Okinawan side. If there is a need, I would like for Ministry leadership, including myself, to go to Okinawa. However, at this stage, nothing in particular has been decided.

Question:
I think that retraction work has been done at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Tourism (MLIT). However, I want to ask, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) is moving forward with this more than one month after the Prefecture released its opinion paper. I don't think that requirements are being fulfilled in terms of the urgency of this issue. What do you think about that?

Minister:
The opinion paper was sent for review to the MLIT, and they are now reviewing it. I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of that opinion paper. Beyond that however, if I were to answer your question just now, I would say that the grounds for any retraction of disposal of this issue related to a wide-range of issues. Accordingly, one thing to be pointed out here is that we needed a fair amount of time to carefully review all of those issues. Still, procedures were completed within the three months of the review request period. Due to the treatment of the retraction this time, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) cannot move forward with land reclamation work. The current state of affairs is such that we do not know when this situation will be resolved. We do think that we need to move urgently to avoid any harm that could arise from this situation.

Question:
There are expectations that the referendum that was just mentioned will happen within six months. Do you think you will wait for that?

Minister:
First, we will wait on the results of the review by the MLIT. We would like to make a decision based on the results of that review.

Question:
I believe that a moment ago, you talked with the Ambassador of Russia to Japan. What sort of exchanges did you have in your discussion?

Minister:
The Ambassador of Russia to Japan visited to pay a courtesy call. I received congratulations upon my new appointment as Defense Minister. I spoke with the Russian Defence Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu recently in Singapore, and I talked to the Ambassador about that. I explained that the Russian Minister of Defence and I spoke about our firm commitment to Russia-Japan defense exchanges. I talked with the Ambassador about my desire to further advance mutual understanding between our two countries, and to continue to strengthen our relationship of trust.

Question:
During the "2+2" meeting the other day, Russia expressed concerns about the deployment of the Aegis Ashore system. Did you speak about Aegis Ashore today?

Minister:
We did not.

Question:
The other day, a member of the Fiscal System Council of the Ministry of Finance requested a 1 trillion yen decrease in defense expenses during the period of the Mid-Term Defense Program. How will the MOD react to that? Do you think that it is possible to achieve that figure?

Minister:
It is true that such a statement was made at the Fiscal System Council. I acknowledge that comments were made in particular on the level of defense-related expenses in the next Mid-Term Defense Program, points that should be improved upon when formulating that Program, the further enhancement of procurement reforms, and so on. We will take those comments seriously. We will respond to each comment as needed. I hope to thoroughly firm up the concrete content of the next Mid-Term Defense Program by the end of the year.

Question:
Frankly, how do you take the request to reduce expenses by 1 trillion yen over five years?

Minister:
Actually, even with the current Mid-Term Defense Program, we started this program from the beginning with plans to reduce substantial costs by 700 billion yen over five years. In light of that, the MOD has conducted procurement with long-term contracts, reconsidered maintenance methods and so on for the period between 2014 and 2018. We have made use of consumer products, rethought requirements, bought equipment in bulk, and promoted the careful examination of costs. As such, we have been able to work toward an approximately 771 billion yen reduction in expenses. Of course, 1 trillion yen is a quite large number, but we have been working toward streamlining and efficiency improvements up to this point. I hope to continue such efforts. I would like to consider this issue thoroughly within our discussions toward the next Mid-Term Defense Program.

Question:
On the opinion paper submitted to the MLIT by Okinawa Prefecture, some have pointed out that this issue is not eligible for the application of the Administrative Complaint Review Act. I would like to ask again about how you take this issue.

Minister:
I believe that with the Administrative Complaint Review Act, not just individuals, but also the national government and local municipalities can request a review if they receive adverse treatment.

Question:
When Okinawa Prefecture withdrew approval for land reclamation in 2015 as well, they used the same kind of legal measures as they are making use of this time. If this issue proceeds at the same pace that it did back then, I would expect MLIT to make a decision on the suspension of the enforcement of the retraction next week. If the MOD recognizes that the retraction has been suspended, do you think that you will immediately resume earth filling work and other construction work?

Minister:
I cannot make any predictions about when MLIT will issue the results of its review. I hope to make a decision once the results have been released.

Question:
I'd like to return to the issue of the referendum. I think that up until this point, whenever the results of gubernatorial or regional elections have been released, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and others have stated that the people of Okinawa Prefecture were expressing their decision on the various points of conflict via the results of each election. The referendum this time will be held only on the one issue of whether or not the Henoko relocation should be completed. Do you think that the results will, to a certain extent, show the will of the people?

Minister:
I think that is still a hypothetical issue, so I would like to refrain from commenting on that. As I said at the beginning of this conference, looking at the current security situation, we want to maintain our deterrence capabilities while reducing the burden being placed on Okinawa. In particular, we hope to eliminate the danger posed by Futenma and achieve the return of land, and we hope to move forward with that one step at a time.

Question:
In that case, does that mean that there will be no change to plans to transfer facilities from Futenma to Henoko regardless of the outcome of the referendum?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from commenting on that, as it involves a hypothetical situation.

Question:
I would like to ask about the dispatch of Self Defense Force (SDF) personnel to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma in the wake of incidents of U.S. military helicopters. I think that you touched upon the start of discussions toward a dispatch in your conversation with General Martinez, commander of the U.S. Forces in Japan on October 10. I would like to ask you about the current state of progress on that, and your thought about the schedule moving forward.

Minister:
I did talk about that with General Martinez. In light of that, working-level discussions have been underway. I will let you know when it has been decided. I spoke about this issue as well when I met with U.S. Ambassador Hagerty. I believe that we will receive support on this from the Ambassador as well, so I hope to speed up discussions on deciding on the concrete schedule as soon as possible.

Question:
I have a question about the deployment of Aegis Ashore system. During a meeting to explain this issue to the public that was held in Akita City on October 22, many local residents expressed dissatisfaction with the impact of electromagnetic waves. Some even called for research to be conducted by actually emitting such waves. Please tell us about what actions the MOD will take to alleviate these concerns.

Minister:
I have given an explanation to the municipal governments and people of Akita Prefecture and Yamaguchi Prefecture on the research process related to the dispatch of Aegis Ashore. It is true that we have received a number of comments at those explanatory meetings. I hope to offer concrete, easy-to-understand explanations about each of the matters that have been pointed out to us, one by one, moving forward. The idea of actually installing a radar system is physically difficult to achieve, but we are receiving detailed radar data from the U.S.-side, and running simulations based on that. Firm values have been produced by those simulations. I hope to continue to offer careful explanations based on those results.

Question:
Today, there will be a Japan-China Summit Meeting, and I believe that Prime Minister Abe will meet with President Xi Jinping in the afternoon as well. You have recently met with Mr. Wei Fenghe, Minister of National Defense of the People's Republic of China. I would like to ask, given the Japan-China relationship, with China currently being perceived as a threat, do you have the recognition that the reconciliation of the Japan-China relationship might have an impact on the security environment in the future? In addition, following the series of visits by Prime Minister Abe this time, I think that early start of the hotline within the communication mechanism will be a point of discussion, what issues does the MOD want to raise on that point moving forward?

Minister:
I did meet the Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe in Singapore a while back, and I did say during our meeting that since the maritime and air communication has started, I hope that we can absolutely set up the hotline. I also said that we hope to firmly move forward on mutual visits among chiefs of staff or ministers. I can't predict whether this issue will be discussed at the Summit Meeting, but I do hope that we will see results from the Summit meeting to that end. If so, of course, there is always tension in the East China Sea, but I hope that we can positively advance security cooperation and defense exchanges to alleviate that tension, if even only by a little.

Question:
I apologize for returning to the subject of defense expenditure. Going forward, discussions will move ahead toward the National Defense Program Guidelines based on the reduction of expenditure by 1 trillion yen over five years. However, I believe the finance and defense authorities made quite a number of revisions and worked very hard even to reduce the expenditure by 700 billion yen previously. For a reduction of 1 trillion yen, could you tell us if you have a certain outlook or expectations as to the future source of funds for the defense expenditure? Could you also tell us if a reduction of 1 trillion yen over five years is, in itself, appropriate to begin with in consideration of the current security environment?

Minister:
It does not necessarily mean that we will make the decision from now to reduce the expenditure by 1 trillion yen, only that this opinion was put forth at the Fiscal System Council. In any case, however, I believe that we must constantly put effort into streamlining and efficient procurement. In preparing the National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program moving forward, rather than proceeding on the extension of previous practices, we aim to firmly determine the approach for next-generation defense capability and proceed with the work based on a broad policy of significantly strengthening our defense capability. Hence, I believe the result will be a Mid-Term Defense Program of considerable volume. Within that, we aim to continue to steadily rationalize, streamline, and eliminate waste, and I think that such initiatives will be possible following as an extension to the efforts we have put in to date.

Question:
In relation to Mageshima Island, creditors have withdrawn their filing for bankruptcy claim against Taston Airport company. Yesterday, State Minister of Defense Harada conveyed to Governor Kuroiwa of Kanagawa Prefecture that negotiations will be accelerated. Could you tell us once again the Government's policy and the outlook on the timing for events?

Minister:
I am aware of the reports concerning Mageshima Island. At present, I have not yet received information about the completion of withdrawal procedures for the bankruptcy claims filed against the company that manages Mageshima Island. Moreover, since 2011, we have been considering Mageshima Island as a candidate site for the development of SDF facilities aimed at building up our defense posture in the southwest region, and for the implementation of field carrier landing practices (FCLP) for aircraft carriers. Therefore, I think that securing this FCLP facility is an extremely important security issue, and we will continue to put effort into this initiative, and to accelerate consultations to that end.

Question:
If, hypothetically, an auction is not held and negotiations are carried out instead, do you think that the plans may be pushed back even further?

Minister:
As this is a hypothetical question, it is difficult to answer. In any case, we will continue to do our best in order to secure the FCLP facility as soon as possible.

Question:
With regard to the referendum to be held for citizens of Okinawa Prefecture, when the results of the vote by the citizens are released, will you ignore the results, or will you make light of them or place importance on them?

Minister:
As I have explained earlier, as this is a hypothetical question, I will make the judgement when we reach that stage. However, our stance that the relocation to Henoko is the only realistic solution to this issue remains unchanged.

Question:
I do not think this is a hypothetical question. It is a fact that the ordinance has been enacted for the citizens' referendum, and it is certain that the referendum will be held within the next six months. Hence, this is not a hypothetical discussion. What is hypothetical is whether the number of votes in favor of the relocation or the number of votes against it will be higher. However, that is not my question. My question is that regardless of the outcome, when the results of the referendum are released, will these results be ignored, taken lightly, or regarded as important? This is not a hypothetical question.

Minister:
Before considering the question of how we will react to the results of the referendum, as I have explained several times, our basic stance remains unchanged.

Question:
Does this mean the results of the referendum will be ignored? Since the basic stance has already been decided on, will the results of the citizens' referendum be ignored regardless of what the outcome of the vote is?

Minister:
I will not answer to that question. Our basic stance remains unchanged.

Question:
As you have expressed, although you are unable to answer, the basic stance remains unchanged. This means that regardless of the people's will as indicated by the results of the referendum, it will be ignored, doesn't it?

Minister:
I will not answer to such a question.

Question:
Why is that so?

Minister:
I have explained that our basic stance remains unchanged.

Question:
That means that regardless of how the people's will is represented for the single issue through the citizens' referendum, it will be ignored.

Minister:
Until now, the Government has proceeded with the consistent approach of fulfilling its responsibility of maintaining our deterrence force while reducing the burden on Okinawa as far as possible. This stance has remained unchanged.

Question:
The fact that the Government's stance is consistent and remains unchanged means that it will ignore the people's will even if this has been demonstrated through a citizens' referendum.

Minister:
I will not answer in that way.

Question:
It is simply a matter of saying it in a different way, isn't it?

Minister:
I have said that I will not answer in that way.

Question:
Why is that so?

Minister:
Those are the words that you have used. It is not my choice of words.

Question:
I am listening, so please respond to my words.

Minister:
My answer, as I have explained earlier, is that I will not respond to a hypothetical question. However, I have said that our basic stance remains unchanged.

Question:
Haven't I explained that this is not a hypothetical question?

Minister:
I believe the subject of what the outcome of the referendum will be is hypothetical.

Question:
That is, the hypothetical question is which the result of the referendum will be. The fact that the citizens' referendum will be held and an outcome will be produced is not hypothetical, because there is no doubt that it will definitely take place. My question is that regardless of what the result is, will the people's will, as demonstrated through the referendum, be ignored, taken lightly, or treated as important? This is a very logical question.

Minister:
The referendum has not yet taken place and no results have been produced yet, so I think that this is a hypothetical question.

Question:
Although we do not know what the outcome will be, there is no doubt that the citizens' referendum will be held and that it will produce a result, so I do not think this is a hypothetical question.

Minister:
The referendum has not yet been held and no answers have been produced. I have explained that our stance on the relocation of Futenma remains unchanged.

Question:
That is to say, the stance remains unchanged regardless of what the citizens' will dictates?

Minister:
I understand that the bill has not yet been passed by the plenary session of the Okinawa assembly, so I believe it is a hypothetical discussion at this point in time.

Question:
Please tell us your views when the ordinance bill on this referendum has been confirmed.

Minister:
I do not think my answer will change.

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