Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(02:09-02:22 A.M. December 27, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 02:09-02:22 A.M. December 27, 2012
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:
Having finished the first cabinet meeting, can you comment again on your resolutions as Minister of Defense?

Minister:
I am most grateful for everyone to be here at such a late time. The first cabinet meeting has finished, and I am now most enthusiastic in working earnestly on the four points that were instructed by the new Prime Minister Abe today that I mentioned earlier in the Prime Minister's Office. Especially, with regard to the issue concerning defense, this is something that the people have a high interest and expectations on, so I would like to do what I can to form a firm response on this. I would now like to go over the four points that was instructed beforehand by Prime Minister Abe. The first point is to work on reviewing the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program and in strengthening the structure of the SDF in order to protect the lives/properties of our people and to firmly defend our territorial land, sea and airspace. The second point was to strengthen the role of the SDF through cooperation with the New U.S. Defense Strategy and to consider the review of the Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation Guidelines. The third point was to maintain the deterrence and realize the reduction of the burden on the local communities of Okinawa and others while progressing with the realignment of the U.S. Forces Japan, which includes the relocation of the Futenma Air Station. The fourth point was to cooperate with the Minister in charge of Strengthening National Security in establishing the "National Security Council" that will act as the control tower for foreign/security policy. Those are the instructions I have received, and are the priority agendas that I understand I would need to put all my efforts in my duty, so I would like to get down them with earnest.

Question:
You mentioned beforehand in the Prime Minister's Office that regarding the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines, the details will be considered from now. Are you thinking of any procedures or processes in conducting this review? For example, are you going to set up a council of experts? Also, can you tell us if you have any forecasts on the timing when you will be starting in this review process?

Minister:
The security environment surrounding our country is something the people have a very high interest on, so I am aware of the need to strengthen the SDF in terms of personnel and in its budget. In the LDP's election platform, it mentioned that we will be reviewing the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program, so I think this is going to require consultations with the ruling parties and the Prime Minister's Office, including Prime Minister Abe, especially regarding various policies put forward by the LDP related to security issues.

Question:
So the timing to start on the review process is still undecided?

Minister:
The administration has just started out today, so I didn't receive any specific instructions for now, but since we have mentioned in our party election platform to "Solidly strengthen (the SDF) in terms of personnel and budget" I feel that the consultations will start at an appropriate timing.

Question:
The National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program are going to be issues that the government as a whole will need to work on, so this is probably going to require coordination with the Prime Minister's Office. However, the LDP's election platform, it also mentioned about pushing forwards with reforming the MOD such as through progressing with joint operations." How do you intend to progress with such independent reforms within the MOD?

Minister:
The LDP's election platform touched on the issue concerning the joint operations, as well as the issues concerning the reviewing of the relationship between the Internal Bureaus and each of the Staff Offices and the reorganization to a mixed organization composed of uniformed and civilian staff. These were something that we were continuing our discussions on. I would like to discuss these issues closely with the Prime Minister and the ruling parties and to make progress on them. These issues had been discussed extensively before within the LDP, but it had been put off due to changes in the administration. As these are issues that had been mentioned in the election platform, I would like to consult with the Prime Minister and within the ruling parties.

Question:
I think you also mentioned this in your previous press conference, but Okinawa prefecture is opposing the plan for relocation within the prefecture, and you are looking towards gaining their understanding. You also mentioned something about reducing the burden, but how do you intend to realize this reduction of the burden? Then, you mentioned that the process of giving public notice and providing public inspection is scheduled to start from tomorrow, but the timing for application for land reclamation is yet to be determined. When do you intend to decide in drawing up a specific schedule with regard to this?

Minister:
I have been to Okinawa many times to hear out the feelings of the people of Okinawa, and I was working as the committee chair of the Special Committee on Okinawa and Northern Problems in the House of Representatives up to now. I have had a chance to hold a meeting with Governor Nakaima and I perceive myself as having an understanding on the various feelings for the people of Okinawa. I would like to take these into consideration in thinking what method is going to work best towards reducing Okinawa's burden, while I also feel that it is going to be necessary to conduct discussions tenaciously to hammer out a certain direction from the standpoint of deterrence capabilities. With regard to the application for the land reclamation for the publically-owned water area, nothing specific such as on the timing for application has been decided so far. In this, I would also like to discuss this in earnest with the Prime Minister and the ruling parties in making progress on this.

Question:
Regarding the timing for the application for land reclamation, can you comment on what you think as being the factor in making the decision on this? For example, is it going to be based on the result of the Mayoral elections in Nago City or something of the sort?

Minister:
Normally on issues like this, the administrative staff will be processing things according to the administrative schedule for application. Therefore, we will be taking action once the preparations have been completed, so I don't think such things are necessarily being envisioned in this case.

Question:
By "we will be taking action once the preparations have been completed" does this imply that an application will be made once the administrative preparations are completed, before the understanding for the relocation within Okinawa prefecture has been gained?

Minister:
As this being a topic that the people of Okinawa no doubt have a high degree of interest in, I would like to hold various discussions with the Prime Minister's office when thinking about this.

Question:
Having seen you in the various division meetings in the LDP, it seems that you were not necessarily in line with Mr. Abe in the direction for foreign policy and security. This time, in the new Abe administration, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga also holds the position as the Minister in charge of Strengthening National Security and Mr. Yachi who was the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs has joined as an Advisor in the Prime Minister's Office. How do you feel about the division of roles between the Prime Minister's Office? Could it be said that security policy is going to be led by Prime Minister Abe or the Prime Minister's office?

Minister:
With regard to security policy, this isn't something that is going to be done by the MOD alone, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also going to be involved, and it is something that will be progressed by the government as a whole. Therefore, I feel that this is something that will be led by the Prime Minister's Office or the Cabinet.

Question:
Can you comment on your thoughts on approving the use of the right to collective self-defense?

Minister:
I feel that is something the government as a whole is going to be discussing from now. Also, I know that there are various study results and has been through various discussions within the ruling parties, so we would like to discuss this with the Prime Minister and the ruling parties when considering this.

Question:
Recently, there have been repeated cases of incursion by Chinese ships into our territorial waters, and especially by aircrafts making incursions into our airspace in recent days. Can you comment on your thoughts on how you are going to respond to all this?

Minister:
We are taking note that such activities are becoming increasingly active, and we feel it is important that we must maintain our alert posture at all times, and to respond appropriately to them. Then again, both Japan and China are important partners in the strategic partnership of mutual benefit, so we will be making efforts -- to establish a marine contact mechanism, for example -- between the defense authorities of Japan and China as soon as possible. We feel that while maintaining the posture to defend our territories and territorial waters, we must also search for other solutions such as said marine contact mechanisms.

Question:
The formulation of the plan to return the five facilities south of Kadena for reducing Okinawa's burden are currently going behind schedule. Can you tell us of any scheduled timing that you are aiming for in completing the consolidation plan for the return, if you have any?

Minister:
This is something that is in the midst of the consultations that have been ongoing from before, so I cannot give any specific dates at this stage for now, but I hope to have your understanding that we basically will be conducting consultations vigorously to make progress on this.

Question:
Is it correct to assume that settling this within the year is going to be difficult?

Minister:
Can I assume that that was what had been said by the former Minister of Defense? My understanding is that it is as was already announced by the Minister of Defense, and since I have just assumed office today, I don't think the direction is going to change abruptly from that given by the former Minister of Defense.

Question:
Looking back at the defense policy under the DPJ administration over the last three years, can you comment on how you would sum it? Also, they put forward the concept called the Dynamic Defense Force, but do you have any intention of reviewing this concept?

Minister:
Regarding the DPJ administration, I, or rather the Prime Minister has already mentioned about this at various places, so I would like to leave it at that. With regard to the overall defense structure in the future, including the Dynamic Defense Force, we will be discussing this within the discussions related to the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program.

Question:
Regarding the increase in defense spending for the next fiscal year budget, Prime Minister Abe had repeatedly given his intention to increase the amount and turn it into an actual increase. Is it correct to assume that you will be submitting a request that will be larger in comparison to the previous fiscal year in accordance with this policy?

Minister:
The defense-related budget has been in a decreasing trend continuously over the last 10 years. We are currently considering a budget by building it up some more. However, we would like to take action with the premise that all the necessary costs have been properly secured.

(End)

-PAGE TOP-