Press Conference

Press Conference by Defense Minister Ishiba (10:02-10:13 A.M. June 17, 2008)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:10:02-10:13 A.M. June 17, 2008
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)

(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and the abstract of the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purpose only)
The original full text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

As for a Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) vessel visiting China, DD Sazanami, an MSDF destroyer will leave Japan on June 19. The ship, which will be the first MSDF vessel to visit the People’s Republic of China, is scheduled to stay in the country from June 24 to 28. Sazanami will make a port call at Zhanjiang in the Guandong Province, where the Headquarters of the Southern Fleet of the Chinese Navy is located. The leaders of the two countries agreed to materialize this visit in June this year at their Summit Meeting on May 7, 2008, following the agreement between then Defense Minister Masahiko Koumura and then National Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan at the Japan-China defense ministerial meeting in August last year and the agreement reached when Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited China last December. I believe that deepening mutual understanding and enhancing mutual trust in the field of defense with our important neighbor China is beneficial not only to the two countries, but also to the entire region, in terms of ensuring peace and stability. In light of this, I intend to further promote defense exchanges of two countries actively at various levels and fields, including exchanges between the units of our forces.

2. Questions and Answers

Concerning the Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel, could you once again elaborate what you have just mentioned, this time focusing on the significance of the very first visit to China by such a vessel? As for the bilateral defense exchanges, the two countries have agreed on the visit to China by Japan’s Defense Minister. How have arrangements for the visit been made?

Concerning the first point, such a visit, as I have already said, was indeed agreed on by the leaders of the two countries. I find tremendous significance in the visit to China by a vessel of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. At the end of last year, China’s naval vessel, named Shenzhen, visited Japan. While a Chinese naval vessel visiting Japan was of huge significance, the visit by an SDF vessel to China could imply equal or even greater importance. A vessel of SDF as an armed organization of our state goes to China and China accepts this. I understand that a variety of events are presumably scheduled at the place of the visit. There are considerable reasons for the fact that no such visit has materialized so far. China has not been necessarily proactive about accepting such a visit. Although we have materialized mutual visits by the ministers, vice-ministers and chiefs of the staff offices, a visit by an SDF unit is indeed unprecedented. These activities are mutually agreed. Our ship is dispatched to China. Various events are held by both sides at the place of the visit. As I often say, while verbal accounts by politicians and officials are important, people can learn about the defense of other countries to a good extent through actually seeing the ships, aircraft, tanks and other equipment which the country owns. In this regard, I find huge significance in the upcoming visit by our destroyer which is a system of defense. Concerning a visit to China by the Defense Minister, such a visit within this year was confirmed at the latest Japan-China Summit Meeting. Therefore, I think that the timing of the visit by the Defense Minister will be decided while considering various factors such as the schedule of the Diet, the Olympic Games in China and responses to the earthquake. However, this does not mean that we are currently making specific coordination for an approximate timing of the visit.

With regard to Afghanistan, how will the investigation team report on the local security situations and other conditions? Please also let us know the timing of their return home.

As I have repeatedly said in the past, I have learned of media reports referring to these points. However, we are unable to make any concrete answers in consideration of the relationship with the host country and of the safety of the personnel to be dispatched, as this is not a picnic. Generally speaking, however, the surveys in questions should be conducted in various directions on a constant basis in order to clarify what Japan should do as a Peace Fostering Nation through various measures.

(For the remainder of the press conference, please refer to the Japanese version.)