Press Conference by Defense Minister Ishiba (10:23-10:43 A.M. January 8, 2008)
Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:23-10:43 A.M. January 8, 2008
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)(This is a provisional translation for reference purpose only.
The original text is in Japanese.)
There were no matters particularly related to the Ministry of Defense at today’s Cabinet Meeting.
2. Questions and Answers
Last year on January 9, since the establishment of the Defense Agency 53 years ago, the organization was elevated to and reorganized as the Ministry of Defense. What is your impression of the first year of the Ministry of Defense?
As I said in my New Year’s instructions, although one may expect that the first year after the transition from the Defense Agency to Ministry of Defense would have been a brilliant and gala year, this certainly was not so. I think that it is more correct to say that “this certainly was not so Erather than to say “this was not necessarily so. EThe past year will be rendered meaningless if we do not make maximum use of the events that occurred and of the criticism that we received during that year. Therefore, it may be a bit odd to refer to last year as valuable material, but I think that it has provided us with much material for discussion that can enable us to truly create a new Ministry of Defense. We must not allow the ministry to atrophy. I think that we should use last year as a springboard for creating a new Ministry of Defense. I thought that “reform Emight not be a very appropriate word, so I chose the words “revival Eand “rebirth. EI want to tackle the current year in the spirit of relaunching or remaking in a sense.
With regard to creating a new Ministry of Defense, what do you think about launching a specialized team for the reorganization of the ministry?
Currently, the experts of the panel to reform the MOD are energetically engaging in a deep and intensive discussion with the Prime Minister’s Office. The question is what actions the MOD will take following the recommendations to be compiled by the panel in the near future. I don’t think that the rebirth of the Ministry of Defense can be accomplished with a superficial effort. There is a great deal of complexity about the relationship between the Ministry of Defense Establishment Law and the SDF Law. It is necessary to have discussion that looks all the way back to the foundation of these two laws. It is possible that legal revisions will be entailed. If that is the case, then I now think that a team to hold thorough discussions within the ministry will naturally become necessary.
I don’t think it is enough simply to spend a long time working on the rebirth of the Ministry of Defense. Of course in the case of this ministry, since there exists a variety of ministry-related plans and programs, consistency among them must be considered, but this is not something that we can spend five or ten years on. We must have some sort of time limit for progressing in our planned direction; we must clarify that direction through thorough discussion and then establish a schedule to actualize it. That is the way in which it must be done.
Naturally, what our specific goals will be depends on the recommendations from the expert panel, but I intend to propel activity forward with great energy so that the goals are accomplished. The criticism of the public is harsh, as it should be, and I think that at times like this, one should strike while the iron is hot. Consequently, the actual work will begin once we receive the recommendations of the expert panel. The team for reforming the ministry needs to be launched after hearing the results of the experts?Ediscussion, with the understanding that this team will determine the future outcome of the Ministry of Defense’s rebirth.
When recommendations are issued in February, will the team be launched immediately? Also, will the members of the team be recruited from the Internal Bureau and each service of the SDF?
I do not think that there should be a time lag. Once the recommendations are presented, we will not sit around wondering what to do. I intend to make arrangements so that we can start immediately once we have the recommendations. I would like for the Ministry of Defense to coordinate closely with and to receive instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office on this matter.
Concerning the constituent members, I do not yet have a concrete plan, but of course the discussion will include both civilians and uniforms at the MOD and SDF. When selecting team members, it is important not to select people who are only representing their own small group?Einterests. In short, things will not proceed smoothly unless we create a group that can argue the issues on what discussions should be held and what the MOD and SDF should be for the sake of the MOD and SDF, with no ulterior motives of the members EEparent organizations, regardless of the Internal Bureau or respective service of the SDF.
The Cabinet Secretariat has been studying the possibility of a permanent law, and it has been reported that the Government and ruling parties will begin full-scale study of a permanent law within the month. What do you think about this early start of such study and about the presentation of bills by each party to the extraordinary session of the Diet in the autumn?
In this regard, the Prime Minister stated in his first press conference of the year on January 4 that "it may be beneficial to develop a permanent law. This view has existed for some time, and I also hold this view."
What shape this issue takes from here forward will be guided by the Prime Minister’s decisions and instructions. However, ever since I was the head of the LDP’s Defense Policy Study Subcommittee, I myself have appealed constantly concerning the necessity of a permanent law. I said so in the plenary session and in the committee meetings. In the debate concerning the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law, particularly in the Lower House, the necessity of such a law has been raised by the ruling parties and the opposition parties, and I believe that they are approaching a consensus that a permanent law must be established, whatever the content.
The bill which the Government has submitted this time is again a special measures law, and the counter bill submitted by the DPJ is also a special measures law. While there are portions where the basic ideas in the bills are the same, there are portions where they are not the same; however, I think that we can agree that there is a changing trend of development from a special measures law to a permanent law, and there are issues in the law upon which we can agree. Most of the points at issue are becoming clear, and if a permanent law is submitted, I feel that an environment is being created that will facilitate a very deep discussion.
However, the permanent law I spoke of when I was head of the subcommittee within the LDP was just a proposal under my name, or to state it in a more official way, it was a proposal of the Defense Policy Study Subcommittee. What we must pay attention to now is the process that will take place within the ruling parties, including what coordination on this proposal will be made with the New Komeito, which is part of the ruling coalition.
My question concerns the Exchange of Notes (with other countries) accompanying the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law. There has been discussion in the Diet on diversion (of the fuel supplied) up to now, but in the event that replenishment activities are resumed, what do you think about specifying that refueling is “limited to maritime interdiction operations Ein the Exchange of Notes?
The law has not yet been enacted, and it is unthinkable to officially discuss, or for a minister to comment on, what should be included in the Exchange of Notes when the law itself is not yet enacted. However, as I have stated in successive explanations to the Diet, I think that there are various possible ways of setting up a system so that diversion does not happen. Specifying it in the Exchange of Notes is not the only way. How it is done depends on the system for deciding how matters will be coordinated, how such matters will be confirmed, and how decisions will be made on whether to refuel or not, but I think that various ways are possible. I would like to consider systems from multiple perspectives for conducting the activities in accordance with the spirit of the law, and I do not think that the Exchange of Notes is the only way.
(For the remainder of the press conference, please refer to the Japanese version.)
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