Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Eto(11:16-11:34 P.M. September 3, 2014)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:16-11:34 P.M. September 3, 2014
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
Good evening, everyone. Thank you for coming here in the late evening. My name is Eto Akinori, and I was appointed today to the posts of minister of defense and minister in charge of security legislation. I am pleased to meet you all. I am very honored to be able to take charge of noble duties pertaining to Japan's security. At the same time, I am keenly feeling the gravity of my mission and responsibility.
As I stated earlier at the press conference held at the prime minister's office, the prime minister gave me seven instructions. I would like to once again announce those instructions. First, in cooperation with associated ministers in the National Security Council, we will formulate a more strategic and systematic national security policy. Second, in line with the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium Term Defense Program, we will strengthen the SDF organization. Third, we will revise the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. Fourth, we will strengthen the allied ties between Japan and the United States, and promote defense exchange and cooperation with other countries including the ASEAN nations, India and Australia. Fifth, while advancing the realignment of the U.S. Forces Japan, including the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, we will maintain deterrence capability and mitigate the impact of military bases on Okinawa. Sixth, in cooperation with associated ministers, we will prepare new security legislation based on the basic policy recently approved by the Cabinet. And seventh, in the process of security legislation, we will provide mindful and clear explanations on the necessity and content of legislation to the people of Japan.
It is of utmost importance for me as the defense minister, together with about 250,000 SDF members, to fulfill the expected duties domestically and internationally. I would also like to steadily meet the requests of the Japanese people. As for the preparation of new security legislation, it is vital for us to work tirelessly in coordination with associated ministers, and to give careful explanations to the Japanese citizens through Diet deliberations to gain their understanding. Thank you.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I have two questions. First, I will ask you as the defense minister. Drilling surveys are currently being conducted in the water off Henoko, Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture, for land reclamation where a base will be built to replace MCAS Futenma. When are you planning to start the land reclamation?

Minister:
As all of you probably know well, this relocation project is currently in the stage of drilling surveys in the sea area after receiving approval from the governor of Okinawa to reclaim public water last December. We entrusted a contractor this March to formulate a work plan for the construction of replacement facilities including land reclamation and building the bank protection. At present, we are diligently advancing the plan, and are planning to begin actual construction work while considering the progress made in the plan. We as the MOD are aiming to start the construction of the replacement facilities as soon as possible in an effort to shorten the time it takes to complete this project. Doing so will expedite the reversion of MCAS Futenma and the relocation of the base to Camp Schwab.

Question:
Second, I will ask you as the minister in charge of security legislation. Based on the Cabinet decision made on July 1 to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, I expect that preparation of new security legislation will intensify from now on. Given that security bills are planned to be submitted during the ordinary Diet session, how long do you estimate it will take for these bills to be passed? Also, which security bills are you planning to prioritize? For example, will you give priority to the bills concerning the United Nations peacekeeping operations or the bills concerning gray zone issues? Could you tell us your priority in terms of the types of security issues?

Minister:
The matter of top priority for us is to securely protect the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people in line with the basic policy approved by the Cabinet on July 1. The Government is currently carrying out thorough discussion and making preparations to formulate bills that will enable us to take seamless responses to any situation. The Government is also planning to decide when to submit these bills to the Diet upon consulting with the ruling coalition. You also asked about prioritization of security bills. Our policy is to take a comprehensive approach to consider all bills at once including gray zone issues and the right to collective self-defense.

Question:
Concerning the seven instructions given by the prime minister, I felt a little troubled because there was no mention of China and the Republic of Korea (ROK). While such countries as Australia, India and the ASEAN nations were mentioned as partners for defense exchange, there was no reference to China and the ROK. This fact gives me the impression that these instructions could be interpreted as a policy to develop a network against China. What is your view on that?

Minister:
China and the ROK are very important countries for Japan. In particular, I think that the ROK and Japan are dealing with similar security issues. Although these two countries are currently facing some challenging situations, as the prime minister always states, Japan is keeping the door open for dialogue. Accordingly, we as the MOD also intend to facilitate dialogue with the ROK side. Although some issues exist between the two countries, as I said earlier, we will continue our effort in approaching the ROK.
Since China is intensely strengthening its military power without sufficiently disclosing adequate information, we are concerned about it. In addition, China appears to be attempting to change the status quo, taking advantage of its military background. However, after all, China is a very important country for Japan. So, Japan must continue its effort in maintaining constructive and cooperative relations with China in a variety of fields. In particular, we would like to conclude an agreement to set up a bilateral maritime communication mechanism as soon as possible since it is an urgent issue. To move forward with this plan and to carry out defense exchange between the two countries, we need to proactively approach the Chinese side. It is also critical to build positive bilateral relations through regular dialogue at various levels. Unlike what was suggested in the last question, we have no negative intention toward the ROK and China.

Question:
I have a question related to security legislation. You stated to the effect that you will take a comprehensive approach to consider all bills at once including gray zone issues and the right to collective self-defense. However, some have pointed out that the preparation of legislation might be difficult unless the Government first establishes an outline of the entire legislation plan because many ministries and agencies are involved in this endeavor and their authoritative powers are overlapping. Will you consider creating such outline?

Minister:
Various aspects of security legislation are currently discussed in the Government. Depending on how these discussions will progress, such outline may be prepared. However, there is no plan to prepare an outline at this time.

Question:
I would like to go back to the subject brought up earlier regarding the construction work for the relocation of the air station to Henoko. You stated that the MOD is planning to advance the construction of replacement facilities as quickly as possible. And drilling surveys are due to be completed by the end of November. Given the current progress, are you considering placing an order to start land reclamation before yearend?

Minister:
We will make necessary decisions on the future work schedule including the land reclamation after receiving updates on the current progress from the administrative staff.

Question:
I believe that you were a member of the security committee in the ruling coalition. Earlier, you stated the plan to proceed with security legislation based on the Cabinet decision on July 1 to approve exercising the right to collective self-defense. Could you tell us once again why it is necessary for Japan to exercise the right?

Minister:
I believe that the right is necessary in some cases, taking into account the current security environment that Japan faces. Although I have no intention to blame any country, the security environment is in fact becoming considerably severe. Amid such circumstances, no one country, including Japan, can single-handedly maintain peace.
Thus, as stated in the recent Cabinet decision, I believe that the most important duty of the Government under any circumstances is to protect the lives, property and peaceful livelihood of the citizens. In consideration of the current challenging security environment, it is necessary to prepare new security legislation that will allow us to take seamless measures against any incidents under any circumstances. I think that is why the Cabinet approved exercising the right on July 1.
Considering all the security issues, the Government will carry out thorough discussions. And when ready, it will submit legislative bills to the Diet. During the process of careful Diet deliberation, we will make an effort to gain the understanding of the Japanese people, as is critical.

Question:
I would like to ask you a question related to security legislation. You stated that the Government will submit legislative bills when ready, and that it will take a comprehensive approach to consider all of the bills at once. However, I believe that it is difficult to discuss the bills at an extraordinary Diet session since it takes time to prepare bills. So, am I correct to assume that you are planning to submit all the bills at once during the ordinary Diet session scheduled next year, and are expecting that the bills will pass during that session?

Minister:
As I said earlier, we as the Government will decide on when to submit the bills after carrying out thorough discussions, making careful preparations and considering input from the ruling coalition.

Question:
I would like to confirm one thing. By comprehensive approach, do you mean that all bills are prepared at once, or do you mean that all bills are submitted at once?

Minister:
We as the Government will make that decision after carrying out thorough discussions and holding meetings with the ruling coalition.

Question:
What is your current view in regard to the necessity of the post of Special Adviser to the Minister of Defense?

Minister:
I personally think that post is necessary. However, we would like to make a decision on this matter after having a thorough discussion with the administrative staff.

Question:
I have two questions. First, you stated earlier that all security bills will be submitted at once. It seems to me that the legislation concerning the scenario in which a multinational force provides logistics support to a PKO is most likely to be practiced in the real world situation based on the current situation in places like Syria and Iraq. Besides, I imagine that the Government must resolutely take necessary actions if Japan is involved in such situation. From this perspective, how will you approach this issue when it is discussed in a Diet session?

Minister:
Various debates were carried out on the Government's stance on the security issues, especially on the interpretation of the Constitution. However, I believe that the Cabinet decision made on July 1 did not change the basic principles embedded into the Constitution. As such, while the Government is diligently discussing the content of bills right now, I expect at this stage that final decisions will be made based on the new three conditions that allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. In any case, we would like to prepare sound bills through thorough discussions in the Government.

Question:
Second, I believe that you belong to the "Diet members' group for visiting Yasukuni Shrine." Some media including in China have already presented this information as you became the defense minister. Is there a chance of your visiting Yasukuni Shrine during your term as the defense minister?

Minister:
I will be careful about my own actions so as not to cause trouble to the Government and this Cabinet.

(End)

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