Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(15:35-15:58 P.M. June 9, 2010)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister (Doorstepping)
Time & Date: 15:35-15:58 P.M. June 9, 2010
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 purposes only)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

I was reappointed as Defense Minister under the new Kan Cabinet. Following this, I earlier gathered the Ministry's senior officials to newly convey my thoughts to them, and ordered to issue a Minister's instruction as my initial message on the occasion of reappointment. The instruction, which I think has been distributed to you, puts emphasis on four points - as you can see - ,based on the directions by the Prime Minister. First of all, I expressed my strong expectation toward the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and at the same time I conveyed how I have been feeling in my interaction with the SDF members in the last nine months. I then called on the whole members to work together to address urgent issues including the relocation of Futenma Air Station and to complete important assignments, which have a long-term perspective, such as the revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG). I told the senior officials to deliver my instruction to all the personnel of MOD and SDF. That is all I have to say.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
As the Kan Cabinet was inaugurated yesterday, can I hear your comments on your reappointment as Defense Minister? Please also tell us your aim in gathering the senior officials to share the four points instructed by the Prime Minister in the form of the Minister's instruction newly issued.

Minister:
It seems to me that Mr. Kan, with his abundant experience, who has ascended to the premiership from the role of Deputy Prime Minister, strongly wanted to assure the public of continuity in the new Cabinet led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), while ensuring smooth progress with regard to works carried over from the previous Cabinet. In a certain sense, it means to remedy the situation brought about by the unexpected resignation of former Prime Minister Hatoyama. Under the circumstances, he conveyed his instructions to me. I assume that he has ordered the MOD having a lot of challenging tasks to "work hard, coming after me (PM Kan)." I have fully understood the instructions as I am extremely eager to complete the tasks I have been tackling together with the staff of the Ministry and the SDF in the last nine months. With a strong sense that "heart calls to heart", I will be committed to meet Prime Minister Kan's expectations.

In addition, on my newly issued instruction, it also means this. That is to say, since the change of government nine months ago, I have tried to know more of the MOD and SDF staff, who had become used to dealing with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for decades and to convey my conviction to them that the new DPJ government is in no way peculiar as it shares with the previous administration the commitment to the noble mission of protecting the lives and assets of the people and the territory of Japan with absolutely no sense of doubt. Furthermore, I also wanted to call on all the personnel to continue working together with an enhanced sense of solidarity, which has kept on deepening our mutual trust.

Question:
Concerning a lot of challenging issues you have just mentioned, in particular with regard to the relocation of Futenma Air Station, you said at yesterday' press conference, right after the inauguration ceremony, that you would intend to explain the situation to the people of Okinawa with sincerity. On the other hand, you have agreed with the U.S. side to decide on the details such as the construction method and location by the end of August. How do you intend to reach an agreement and understanding with the Okinawa side toward the decision at the end of August?

Minister:
At least the construction method and location should be agreed between Japan and the United States at the end of August. I intend to report on that process of reaching the bilateral agreement to the people of Okinawa in a transparent manner as much as possible. Given that Okinawa has its own political dynamism, where in particular the Governor and Mayors have been in their posts as a result of election, I don't think that we can reach an agreement more easily with them. That said, for the sake of sincerity, I would like to make the process leading to the decision and agreement with the U.S. side as clear to them as possible. Although one may critically say that consulting with the U.S. side ahead of them constitutes a disregard to the local people, I want to dispel such skepticism. Under such a circumstance, I don't think that it is entirely certain if we can reach an agreement with the local side, Okinawa, by the end of August.

Question:
Do you intend to visit Okinawa to help the process toward this August ?c?

Minister:
Exactly, I'm having that under consideration. But I have to consider the possibility in line with the schedule of the Diet meetings which is now unclear, as you are aware.

(omitted)

Question:
Concerning Futenma, in particular the construction method, former Prime Minister Hatoyama held "environment" as one key word. Is there any change under Prime Minister Kan in the approach of deciding the construction method?

Minister:
Various ideas are currently proposed to reduce the environmental footprint. We are considering various options among them, with the basic stance that they should not require too much time nor expense.

Question:
I imagine it would be quite difficult to decide on the construction method and the exact location without getting the feeling of the local residents to some extent, or making consultations of the kind with the local side, such as on the noise-affected areas. As such, will you be dealing only with the U.S. side at the end of August, or will you be seeking a certain level of understanding from the local side - although they may not show understanding at all - through dialogues? Please tell us your thoughts on the procedure.

Minister:
The written agreement with the U.S. side states, "Henoko-saki area." I will explain one by one to the local people every single detail about it, including the exact location within that area or the impact of the relocation on the people's living environment, as well as the differences between the original plan and the current one.

(omitted)

Question:
Do you think the decision on the construction method by the end of August must obtain approval from the revived Policy Research Council of the DPJ?

Minister:
There is no change to the policy that the Cabinet takes sole charge on that matter. The process has already been launched, with an agreement reached between Japan and the United States. Although we will take their opinions into consideration, I think basically the Ministry of Defense and the Cabinet should take the primary responsibilities.

Question:
In relation to Futenma, the Prime Minister's instructions say that you should work in concert with the related ministers on the relocation of the base and alleviation of the burdens on Okinawa based on the Japan-U.S. agreement and the Cabinet decision. Please tell us how you are specifically going to work with the related ministers.

Minister:
I understand one approach that Prime Minister Kan has directed to me is based on a priority basis, which is namely to first address the elimination of danger and the return of Futenma Air Station as an urgent task, and then from the medium- to long-term perspective to study the way that the U.S. bases in Japan should be, including working toward reduction of the number of bases in Okinawa, respecting former Prime Minister Hatoyama's policy of "at least outside Okinawa."

Question:
What about cooperation with the related ministers ?c?

Minister:
So far, the issue has been primarily handled by the Chief Cabinet Secretary. That said, once the construction method and the location are decided within the framework of the Japan-U.S. agreement, I think the Ministry of Defense has to be chiefly responsible for the negotiation with the local communities - though I haven't confirmed that point yet. In that sense, I told the Chief Cabinet Secretary yesterday that we should discuss in detail about the framework of the process.

Question:
Former Prime Minister Hatoyama resigned since he failed to keep to his words, "at least outside Okinawa," which was regarded as breaking the promise. You might have a sense of regret as you were also in charge of the issue under him. Is there anything you would like to promise concerning the issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa under the Kan Cabinet?

Minister:
One point I regret about the Hatoyama Cabinet in dealing with the issue of Futenma Air Station was that we should have made a sharp distinction from the start between the issue of eliminating the danger at the earliest possible date and the longer-term issue of reducing the number of U.S. bases in Okinawa. Like sealing the idea of "security without permanent stationing (of the U.S. forces)," which former Prime Minister Hatoyama had been harboring as an ultimate ideal, the idea of the relocation "outside the country or at least outside Okinawa" should have been saved as a medium- to long-term issue. If we had done this kind of sorting at the outset, we might have been able to obtain a little more understanding from the people involved.

Question:
Based on that recognition, how are you going to tackle the Futenma issue and what do you intend to achieve?

Minister:
In order to gain the understanding of the people of Okinawa from where we have made a confusion by mixing issues which should had been separated in the past nine months, I would like to discuss with the U.S. side additional measures, such as the relocation of training, that would give the people of Okinawa a real sense of being relieved of dangers and noise, besides the ones listed in the agreement made under the previous administration.

Question:
Although the construction methods and the location must be decided by the end of August, around when do you want to obtain a consensus on relocating the training?

Minister:
Although I am not sure if I should go so far as to say this, I want to have a list of options for relocation of the training created by both the U.S. side and our side at least by the end of August, which will become a kind of schedule for concrete discussions. However, concerning the location, although the agreement document states "Tokunoshima," it is not certain that Tokunoshima will accept the relocation of the training to the island. Before anything else, there needs to be a list of options for relocating the training which should be created by both Japan and the U.S. by the end of August. If we could assure the people of Okinawa that its burden will eventually be reduced, we may be able to gain and deepen their understanding.

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

-PAGE TOP-