Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya (10:36-11:19 January 29, 2019)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:36-11:19 January 29, 2019
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:
There are concerns about a deterioration in Japan-ROK relations due to the radar irradiation issue, etc. so how are you considering the question of whether or not the Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessel Izumo will call in at the Port of Busan as planned in April?

Minister:
There are several Experts’ Working Groups under ADMM-Plus, the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting-Plus, one of them is an Experts’ Working Group on maritime security, and currently Singapore and the ROK are serving as the chairs of it. The plan for implementing exercises has been decided in that Experts’ Working Group, but this year drills at the working level with the participation of vessels are being considered. We are currently considering the participation of our vessels from the MSDF, and it is not the case that the sort of matters reported in the media have already been decided. I have said this many times before but I believe that exchanges between the defense authorities of Japan and the ROK are extremely important, so I intend to make appropriate judgments as needed regarding individual cases. That means that I intend to discover a way to move Japan-ROK relations forward constructively, and so I am considering the matter based on this approach.

Question:
I would like to ask a question about Henoko. Regarding the soil and sand used at the time the injection of soil and sand was commenced on December 14 last year, Okinawa Prefecture has asked for the injection of soil and sand to be stopped on the grounds that the “harmful substances test at the time of purchase” presented at the time of the land reclamation application was not implemented, and has sent a guidance document to the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB). Please tell us whether or not the test was implemented on the soil and sand of December 14 indicated by the prefecture and your response to the guidance document.

Minister:
I am aware that as you pointed out a document was sent from the Okinawa Prefecture side to the Director General of the ODB on January 25 asking for the work to be stopped on the grounds that soil and sand while being unable to confirm whether or not it contains any harmful substances, etc. is unacceptable. However, as I answered earlier, we have confirmed in the ODB that the land reclamation materials used in the work are appropriate. Actually, we have confirmed that the materials used in the land reclamation satisfy the standards related to harmful substances based on test results on specimens extracted from three places ? the mountains from which the materials are taken, the ships, and the loading sites ? and we have communicated this to the Okinawa Prefecture, so I believe that there is no reason to stop the land reclamation work. In any case, I have received a report saying a response to the document from the prefecture is being considered in the ODB.

Question:
Regarding the date of the test results, January 7, it has been pointed out based on this date that perhaps the harmful substances test of the rock shear was not done at the time of the pouring; that is, we are forced to make the judgment that because the injection of soil and sand began from December 14 the soil and sand was injected without implementing the harmful substances test of the rock shear at the time of the original pouring. Are you not able to release information about this point?

Minister:
Do you mean that the soil and sand used in the first injection has not been thoroughly examined?

Question:
I have said many times that the soil and sand from the time of the injection should be taken out, but as I also asked last week, the point is that the soil and sand that has already been taken out is the soil and sand from 2016 and 2017, that is at least two or three years ago, so doesn’t this mean that the properties test and harmful substances test of the soil and sand that show clayishness, etc. on or after March 2 last year when the period of the work started have not been done. Last week, you said you intended to make an appropriate response after confirming with the defense authorities, so are you doing the tests of red soil, etc., including the matter of these harmful substances, on and after March 2, including siltiness?

Minister:
Earlier I said that we investigated the soil and sand at three places and they cleared the standards, and this was on December 14, 2018, December last year, so I believe there was no problem from the beginning.

Question:
That is the matter of the harmful substances, isn’t it? You did it on December 14, did you?

Minister:
That’s right.

Question:
Have you got anything to say to rebut the criticism that the results of the properties test, including clayishness and the silt component, have not been released since the beginning of the work period from March 2 last year onwards?

Minister:
I don’t understand the meaning of the question very well.

Question:
The results from two and three years ago have been released and they showed that very little red soil, etc. could be detected even where there is extreme siltiness and clayishness. The results were produced after testing soil and sand extracted from Awa Mine, but actually since the start of the work period on and after March 2 the Defense Bureau has not released the results from the same kind of properties test.

Minister:
I am not aware of what you are saying.

Question:
I asked a question with the same point last week too. Isn’t there an extremely strong possibility that it hasn’t been done? According to what the Defense Bureau said, it was more than one and a half years ago, and I thought there was no problem, but the answer was to the effect that it was acceptable to use the soil and sand produced by the contractor unchanged. Actually, what were the results presented at that time?

Minister:
I am well aware of the facts that you are talking about now, but in any case, a thorough survey was carried out at the stage of progress on December 14 and the judgment that the standards have been cleared was made and then the work was commenced.

Question:
If it is said confidently like that, I think you are talking about the results of tests of harmful substances, but these are not results regarding clayishness and the silt component, are they? I would like you to confirm that point again. Of course, if you can’t do that, I think you should perhaps do an on-site inspection or submit a sample survey.

Minister:
You refer to harmful substances, but I do not know what scope of substances you are indicating. In any case, I have not been able to confirm whether or not they include what you are talking about now.

Question:
It can be confirmed in the submitted on-site inspection confirmation form that soil and sand with a grain diameter of 37.5mm or more is included and it has also been indicated that the results of the properties test at the Awa Mine are clearly different from the properties of the land reclamation materials being used now.

Minister:
Who indicated that?

Question:
That was issued by the prefecture.

Minister:
I am not aware of the details.

Question:
We know from an internal document of the security company to which maritime security for the work was commissioned that said company made a list of the people involved in the movement opposing the work, which contained photographs of the faces of the people, at the request of an employee at the ODB. In its answer to a written question and warning on August 2016 the government issued a written answer denying this, saying that there was no instruction from the government to create the list, but this is contrary to the content of the internal document of the security company. Please tell us the view of the MOD regarding this matter.

Minister:
I am aware of the media reports. I reconfirmed but the ODB does not possess the list that you indicated, and the fact is there was no instruction to take photographs of citizens, prepare a list with their names or photographs of their faces, collect personal information, report to the government, etc. In any case, I think the government answered this several years ago. I sought confirmation but I was told that these kinds of instructions were not given and the government does not possess the list.

Question:
After a local newspaper reported the existence of this list in May 2016, a man involved in the opposition movement made a freedom-of-information request, but the following year the non-disclosure and non-existence of the list was announced. However, there was a statement in the internal document of the security company that an adjustment was made to remove the record of the request content from the report submitted to the Defense Bureau. I think that if an adjustment was made after the disclosure request so as to ensure that the disclosure content did not appear, this is a matter that bears on the foundation of the freedom-of-information request system. Is it possible that you will investigate this matter again?

Minister:
I think you are referring to the Maritime Security Report. Regarding the maritime security work, the flow was as follows. To ensure the smooth conduct of the marine bore studies by the ODB, Rising Sun Security employees embarked on the security mother ship, patrol vessel and patrol ship to liaise and coordinate in collaboration with supervising officers of the ODB in providing security along the Camp Schwab coastline.
I understand that Rising Sun’s maritime security guards had a routine. They would board the boats at scheduled times, reporting on the situation around the coastline to supervising officers. In the evening, they also attended meetings in the supervisors’ office where they reported back on the day, shared information about the next day’s construction work plans, and undertook the preparations this required. Regarding the handling of personal information, it was gathered and managed in a proper way based on the relevant legislation.
We do not have the list you referred to in your first question, but regarding the incident you mention, I would like to get confirmation. Your question inferred that personal information was deleted before publication, and though I doubt this is true, you have raised it and therefore I will follow up.

Question:
You say that you confirmed that the ODB did not order the list be drawn up, but the news report basically identified the deputy chief of the O DB's Procurement Department by name. Are you saying that having checked with that official, it is not true? Can you confirm this?

Minister:
I have confirmed it.

Question:
Has the official in question denied it?

Minister:
Yes.

Question:
In the Mainichi Newspapers’ report, the senior official was not ordered to draw up a list, but rather asked to figure out the behaviour of demonstrators. In other words, he may not have been told to create a list, but he was ordered to figure out the behaviour of demonstrators, wasn’t he?

Minister:
I do not know exactly what kind of conversation took place there, but at any rate there was absolutely no order given to make a list.

Question:
In that case even if there was no such order issued, the company was asked to look at the protestors’ behavior, in response to which it decided that it would be a good idea to draw up a list. The result is that the company is admitting that it drew up a list. What is your response to this?

Minister:
I looked into what happened at the time. When I checked with the ODB based on the report of May 2016 about Rising Sun, I found out that the company had made a list. It was the first time the Defense Bureau had asked or heard about it. I understand that it was confirmed at the time that the company had decided to discard the list.

Question:
Would you not find this extremely problematic, for the ODB to draw up this kind of list?

Minister:
Naturally, the work of the ODB must be carried out in accordance with the relevant laws and in this respect, we found that this was not.

Question:
It is vividly requested in the document “to make something like a list of protesters and monitor them in order to understand trends of people and vessels engaged in demonstrations continuously and ensure the safety of work”. The list was made, but are you saying the contractor has submitted a report that they invented the list themselves, without being told to by the deputy chief?

Minister:
Yes.

Question:
In response to an earlier question, you said, “Exchanges between the defense authorities of Japan and ROK are extremely important. I hope to find a constructive and positive way forward”. In terms of constructive and positive options, what do you have in mind now? What sort of pathways might be possible, do you think?

Minister:
There are a number of plans in place, and that will be made, for exchange and interaction opportunities between the defense authorities of Japan and ROK. For our part, I hope to be as positive as possible in making decisions appropriate to the overall context, and to do what we can do. This should increase opportunities for interaction and dialogue and in the process, restore confidence as we seek also to foster confidence. Once the overall conditions improve, I hope that more chances for high-level interaction and dialogue will come.

Question:
Meanwhile, public opinion in both countries is running quite hot. In this context, would you say it is more important to have those interactions, or would you rather make a judgment based on the trend of public opinion? And when you mention high-level contacts, what sort of level do you have in mind?

Minister:
On the last question, I have no specific suggestions, but I hope that we can gradually raise the level of exchange and dialogue. Next, it is natural that both governments must make decisions based on the trend of public opinion but as I have said over and over again, Japan-ROK bilateral and Japan-US-ROK trilateral military cooperation is vital for the overall security environment in northeast Asia. That is the position from which this government will make its decisions. I hope to make thorough explanations to our citizens and to gain their understanding and support.

Question:
You say, “I hope to find a constructive and positive way forward”. That will depend on the major issue of the radar irradiation issue. The finding of the facts is crucial to the prevention of such incidents in future. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Minister:
I absolutely agree. In the final statement that we released earlier, our conclusive public statement, it is pronounced clearly: we believe that there is only one truth. Therefore, rather than simply focusing on that day, we will continue to seek to prevent ROK from instigating such an incident again, so that there is no such event in future. Yet, I intend to promote cooperation between the defense authorities of Japan and ROK as much as possible.

Question:
I believe it was 26 January that the ROK Defense Minister visited the naval base in Busan and unfortunately this is only from media reports, but he ordered the military to make a strong and lawful response to the patrol activities of the SDF. The phrase “make a strong response” sounds somewhat disturbing. How would you view this?

Minister:
As I have said many times before, we make every effort to carry out patrols in a routine manner. No special operations or flights are conducted against Korean naval ships. In particular, we are in the midst of a campaign against ship-to-ship transfers and we were carrying out proper and routine patrols compliant with international law, aviation law and Japanese decisions. I hope that ROK will understand this and respond in a calm and proper manner.

Question:
So you are not considering any changes to the way SDF patrols are conducted at all?

Minister:
No. These patrol activities are conducted appropriately, so I am not considering any changes.

Question:
It is reported that the ROK Minister of National Defense meet with the U.S. Ambassador to ROK yesterday and that they also talked about the pressing concerns between Japan and ROK. As the Japan-ROK relationship is experiencing a chill, are you thinking of moving to resolve the matter with the participation of the United States, participation of a third party?

Minister:
I am aware of the news report that U.S. Ambassador in Seoul Harry Harris and Minister Jeong met. However, it was a bilateral, a U.S.-ROK talk, so I would like to refrain from commenting on it. I do think that the United States are obviously on the same page regarding the importance of Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and collaboration, so I hope that useful talk took place on that occasion. As for whether to officially hold trilateral talks, we are not thinking about that currently.

Question:
Do you think that measures to prevent recurrence will be taken by ROK while the ROK side is denying that it directed the radar?

Minister:
We feel that it is regrettable that matters have regrettably taken this course and I imagine that the ROK authorities also feel the same way. I believe that they will certainly share, should be able to share, the notion that we should be mindful so that such a thing will not occur on the basis of such thinking.

Question:
The Japan-U.S.-ROK relationship, this goes somewhat away from the radar direction issue, but yesterday, there was an announcement that Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, the U.S.-ROK joint exercises, would be implemented but reduced in scale. There are voices expressing concern about this from a security perspective. What is your own view of this?

Minister:
We believe that the deterrent force of U.S. Forces Korea and the deterrent force generated by U.S.-ROK exercises will be important going forward as well. However, with the second U.S.-North Korea summit meeting coming up, I believe that the United States is in a situation where it must make diplomatic considerations. In any case, we want this to take a form where the readiness and the deterrent force are not affected, that even if the scale of the exercises is reduced that readiness and deterrent force are not affected, and I assume that the United States and ROK also think that way.

Question:
Going back to the list, it says that it was installed on the patrol vessel and the pictures of the faces were numbered in sequence together with their full names. I think that the ODB people have confirmed many things as they have been present as witnesses on various occasions, so I think that it is possible that they actually confirmed that such a list was installed on the patrol vessel at the time. I wanted to ask you whether you have confirmed this with the people responsible at the ODB at the time, the people who saw this when they were present as witnesses.

Minister:
We have not been able to confirm that it had been posted up on the boat. In any case?was it three years ago?when we confirmed it with the company the last time this was reported, we were able to confirm that such a list was indeed created, so I believe that it is not the case that we had been aware of that before then. To add, when we confirmed this with the people in charge on the frontlines, they said that they were not aware of the existence of the list.

Question:
According to the coverage by Mainichi, a senior executive is saying that when they wrote that the opposition’s ship moved in such and such a manner, they erased the name of the captain because it was in there and they were told by the ODB to resubmit it. Your statement just now regarding the Oita Defense Bureau and the understanding of the senior executive are different. How have you been explaining this to the person to whom you asked for resubmission, including the reason you gave for resubmission?

Minister:
We cannot confirm the conversation, so I suppose you mean the content of the conversation that was reported, but it is my view that it is difficult to give an answer based on it.

Question:
Concerning the purchase of Mage Island regarding FCLP, there is talk that an onsite survey may be held as early as tomorrow. Could you tell about how things will be handled going forward if anything has been decided as of now?

Minister:
State Minister Harada visited the site, met the people concerned it the prefecture and municipalities, and explained the thinking of the national government. He explained that we would first conduct an onsite survey. The details of the commencement date of the survey is currently under adjustment, but I believe that we will conduct a solid survey on several points, obviously including conducting measurements and studying the weather and environmental matters, and will follow this with onsite explanations. The substance of the survey will include, for example, a survey of properties?this is a survey of the buildings and structures on Mage Island?an environmental survey, a survey of the state of animal and plant life on Mage Island, and the state of animal and plant life in the sea area. And we will also conduct solid measurements. Although the commencement date is still undecided, we intend to do a solid survey by the end of this fiscal year.

Question:
The list that we just talked about, in short, is my understanding correct that the people responsible at the time did not say anything whatsoever to the effect of requesting resubmission or erasure or individual names, or has the Defense Bureau been unable to hear precisely on this point? Which is it?

Minister:
We answered after making the necessary inquiries with the people concerned, so it is my understanding that there was no conversation like the one you referred to, that there was no such instruction. We do intend to continue to confirm the facts.

Question:
Let me go back to the soil and sand. Concerning why an order was placed with 40% specification without giving any notice, what the grounds for this were. Last week, you said that the example of Naha Airport was used for reference. I researched the Naha project, but in the case of Naha Airport, there was no inscription in its environmental conservation document like a fraction content of “approximately 10% more or less” in the latest case, so there was no discrepancy with the environmental conservation document as far as the project office was concerned, so they are saying that that is why they okayed an order at 40%. In our latest case, they are questioning the fact that the specifications for the order placed with the operator said 40 even though the environmental conservation document in this case said 10% more or less. In this case, I believe that the grounds for 40 cannot be compared to the Naha case. So why did you make it 40?

Minister:
I believe that I answered this the last time as well, but the reason why the environmental conservation document, which is an attached document of the landfill approval petition, says “approximately10% more or less” is that a situation where the landfill would be conducted without complete enclosure by the seawalls was assumed. Meanwhile, the landfill works that we have been conducting since last December is an operation that is being conducted that is sealed off properly so that the turbidity will not leak out to the open sea, as we have explained. Thus, the assumptions are different in the first place, so we believe that the point that there is discrepancy with the entry in the environmental conservation document misses the point. That said, even if it doesn’t have to be 10% more or less, that it is okay when the landfill is conducted in a sealed off space, we still do have to make a firm foundation, and this is not limited to Naha, and Haneda may be the same. I have to confirm this, but in a project where land is created by landfill, you cannot put in soil and sand that surpass 40%, that are loose, so we are using 40% or lower as the standard.

Question:
Your statement, does it mean that there was an understanding that it would have been a problem if it had been 40 more or less?

Minister:
It is difficult to answer that without a firm understanding of civil engineering, but it is my understanding that as the result of consideration by such experts that this ratio was considered to be safe and that is why it was so inscribed. I ask you to inquire with the experts responsible regarding matters from a civil engineering perspective.

Question:
According to the report issued by the Defense Bureau, it is concluded in the 2010 document that 2 to 13% is desirable and this is the grounds that are the basis for the 10% that is written into the conservation document. Is my understanding correct that you are saying that you are now confirming by an onsite inspection that the fraction content is 10% more or less because 40 is a problem onsite even though the order had been placed at 40? The number 40 is infinitely different from 10. On this point, do you mean that 10% more or less is desirable after all?

Minister:
My answer will be the same as just now, but the reason why we explained the fine fraction content of the rock shear as 2% to 13% was?this will also be an answer that I have often repeated?that “approximately 10% more or less” was entered assuming a situation where the landfill would be conducted before the seawall would be completely closed. Because Okinawa Prefecture sought the grounds for this, we responded to Okinawa Prefecture to the effect that we used as reference the fact that the fine fraction content had been 2% to 13% when we looked at the fine fraction content of rock shear for multiple mines in past survey operations. Regarding the landfill works that are being conducted now, to repeal, a completely closed-off space has been created in the waters and the soil and sand are been put in there, so I believe that there is no problem with the fraction content being 40% or lower for this.

Question:
You keep repeating that it is completely closed off, but you will know if you see the site that because it is being filled with rock shear, there will inevitably be gaps through which the content leaks, you know. In that sense, there is a significant difference between the understanding of the ODB and the understanding of Okinawa Prefecture, and the prefecture’s position is that since what leaks, leaks, so the assumption that that part is okay for an order at 40 is something that it has not received an explanation at all, and that that is a problem. It feels that it was suddenly issued as the view of the ODB that any percentage would be okay for a closed-off space, in a hurry because this question was raised. On this point, why is it not in the conservation document including the provisos that 40% or lower is okay if the space is closed off? It seems like the reason was added after the fact.

Minister:
Words like “suddenly” and “after the fact” are your points, and they are certainly not the case. In addition, we are aware that sufficient measures are being taken to prevent the turbidity of the water from spreading, but it is my intention to issue even more thorough instructions to proceed firmly with the works so that there will be no leaks.

Question:
You have been giving the answer that the approval of the prefecture is not required for the fraction content. What are the grounds for that? In that case, it sounds as if it is unnecessary to take the entries in the environmental conservation document that seriously. But that not being the case, what are the grounds for the MOD answering that the approval of the prefecture is not required for the fraction content?

Minister:
This will also be repetition, but the reason why the environmental conservation document, which is an attached document of the landfill approval petition, says “approximately 10% more or less” is that a situation where the landfill would be conducted without complete enclosure by the seawalls was assumed. So, the claim that there is a discrepancy between this entry and the project, the operation that in now being conducted with the space completely closed off, misses the point.

Question:
Regarding the landing slots at Haneda Airport for international flights, they will fly over Yokota airspace. Has there been any explanation from the U.S. to the effect that they will soon cede some air traffic control rights to the Japanese side?

Minister:
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are approaching, and we want as many people as possible to visit Japan, so we are having the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) taking the lead in making airspace adjustments, and it is my understanding that final adjustments are now being made towards an agreement. Since MLIT is taking the lead?it is a matter of the airspace?I would like to refrain from answering on behalf of the MOD with regard to the details. I do hope that the airspace adjustments will be successful and flights will be increased, and many people will visit Japan while there will be no problems with regard to exercises by U.S. forces and the SDF.

Question:
The counterarguments from Okinawa Prefecture were issued on May 25. Does the ODB currently have no intention of responding positively with regard to an onsite inspection of the soil and sand or the provision of samples for an examination of the properties even on the basis of this? Is my understanding correct that it is of the same view as this?

Minister:
For the reasons that I have explained many times even today, we believe that we are proceeding with the operation appropriately. In any case, we intend to continue firmly with the various communications, dialogue with Okinawa Prefecture.

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