FY2017 New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Inada

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FY2017 New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Inada
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FY2017 New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Inada

(This is a provisional translation)

Happy New Year 2017.

At the beginning of 2017, I wish you a Happy New Year to all the SDF (Self-Defense Forces) personnel engaging in their missions at home and abroad. Once again, I would like to express my respect to everyone who is working hard with a strong sense of responsibility day and night at each unit of the SDF.

Since taking office, I have inspected not only all of Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, but also dispatched units in Djibouti or South Sudan with my intention to encourage personnel.

Wherever I visited, personnel had tackled their task with a gaze of earnest intensity. There are personnel who engage in training for amphibious operation while carefully checking each behavior leading up to the establishment of a new unit, crew on Aegis-equipped destroyer who are earnest about exercises in preparation for a threat of ballistic missile, personnel who devote efforts to research and develop equipment with Japan's advanced technologies, female personnel who work hard for counter-piracy operations in the seas off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden keeping three children waiting in Japan, and personnel who execute road development for local people in South Soudan under scorching sun. I cannot name all of them, but I felt very encouraged to personally met enthusiasm and earnest of many personnel. At this moment, I feel so delightful to embark on the New Year with reliable all of you.

Last year, I realized that security environment surrounding Japan has been increasingly severe.

North Korea ignores condemnation by the international society and expands its military acts of provocation in quality and quantity. With the nuclear test in January and launch of a ballistic missile disguised as a "satellite" as a start, the country conducted two nuclear tests and conducted missile launches more than 20 times. It has never occurred in the past that warhead of a missiles landed within Japan's economic exclusive zone on the very day when I took office.

In addition, China expands and intensifies activities in the maritime area and airspace surrounding Japan including cases that Chinese Navy warship entered the Japanese contiguous zone around the Senkaku islands for the first time and Chinese military aircraft flew over waters between Okinawa Main Island and Miyako Island for the first time.

With respect to the attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which occurred in July, Japanese nationals also perished. Terrorism is seen as the largest threat in the international society because it is difficult to detect signs when, where and who carry out such attacks.

I would like to deal with various challenges this year with all personnel in order to further strengthen the path Japan has followed to date as a peace-loving nation in cooperation with the international society and meet the expectations of the people on the MOD (Ministry of Defense) / SDF amid the rapidly changing international situation.

First, we will steadily implement the task based on the Legislation for Peace and Security, which was put into force in March last year. Last year, besides the assignment of new task to the dispatched 11th Engineering Unit in South Soudan, the Japan-U.S. joint exercise Keen Sword '17 was conducted, which included contents of the Legislation for Peace and Security for the first time and we started to put into practice the protection for weapons of U.S. Forces or others.
We will steadily promote embodiment of the Legislation for Peace and Security.

Next, we will work on building a Dynamic Joint Defense Force based on the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium Term Defense Program. In particular, as strengthening of the southwestern region is urgent challenge, we will steadily build up Japan's defense capability to achieve effective deterrence and response in various situations.

In addition, the Japan-U.S. Alliance has further strengthened. Through various opportunities, such as two meetings with Secretary Carter, inspection to Yama Sakura exercise and visit to the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, I directly felt the strong ties between Japan and the United States. The allied ties between Japan and the United States have become solid with the relationship of multilayered trust from policy-level to field level. This month, new President Trump will take the position and new administration will be established. We would like to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance than ever based on the relationship of trust which we have built up until this time.

Regarding the mitigation of the impact of U.S. bases on Okinawa, we saw significant progress.

December 22nd last year, the return of around 20% of the U.S. military facilities in Okinawa Prefecture, more than half of the Northern Training Area, a plot of land with an area size of around 4,000 hectares was finally realized after 20 years since the SACO agreement. I really appreciate all officials who made efforts in the return under severe circumstances.

This year marks 45th anniversary since Okinawa was returned to Japan. Although it was the return of the largest area after Okinawa's reversion to Japan, many U.S. military facilities still continue to be concentrated in Okinawa, having a large impact on people of Okinawa. We will make efforts with all of you and give consideration to the feelings of local people in order to mitigate the impact on Okinawa.

Moreover, we have continued engaging in initiatives for peace and stability of the international community. One of our initiatives is activities of Japanese Engineering Unit dispatched to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. Their activities are essential to long-term nation-building. I myself visited and inspected the Japanese Engineering Unit last October. They have conducted extremely quality activities. Indeed, they have fulfilled their duties that only the SDF can perform and exhibited excellence of Japan.

The SDF has conducted activities in South Sudan, and one of them is "Sakura Project." Through this project, the SDF provided skills training to local people in subjects such as vehicle maintenance and concrete construction as occupational training.
Student representative Mr. Mabio said "Through the Sakura Project, we acquired not only knowledge and skills but also Japanese culture and way of thinking of Japanese people. Thank you." in his remark at the closing ceremony in March, 2016.

The international peace cooperation activities are full of Japanese touch and have rooted in the region. Local people, the South Sudanese Government, and UNMISS have expressed their deep gratitude for the SDF's activities. Also, the activities are highly appreciated in many parts of the world, and we always see a great deal of expectation.

Currently, the 11th Unit is carrying out their activities in South Sudan. We would like to continue engaging in international peace cooperation with Japanese touch in the future.

Turning our eyes to home, various places in Japan suffered natural disasters. In the wake of Kumamoto earthquake occurred in April, 2016, the SDF personnel gathered in Kumamoto from across Japan and devoted themselves to search and rescue activities. Many people do remember the SDF personnel who were engaging in living assistance to affected people without showing their fatigue.

Behind the scenes, we had personnel who were also affected but showed up for accomplishing their missions. We had personnel who showed up for service after sheltering his wife and children in a car because their house was seriously damaged. We had personnel who both spouses were SDF personnel, and they left their two children at their home and rushed into a GSDF camp for their mission.

People are gazing at everyone in the SDF, who are steadily carrying out missions while putting themselves at risk. Warm words of gratitude. Heartfelt letters. Handmade award certificate from children. These are proof that the SDF has responded to people's expectations. I would like the SDF to be fully prepared for various disasters in order to respond to succession of natural disasters and large-scale disasters which are concerned to occur in the future.

This year marks 10th anniversary of transition from the Defense Agency to the MOD. After the transition, the MOD has realized objectives, such as two establishment of the National Defense Program Guidelines, development of the Legislation for Peace and Security, formulation of new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, and reform of the MOD.

The MOD/SDF will further strive for dealing with various challenges to make this year a year of growth as a milestone. While preserving the good tradition of the MOD/SDF which has been responding to expectations of Japanese people and the international community over the years, I will work hard with a creative spirit together with everyone at each camp and base in order to respond to changing security environment. Let's work hard together.

I hope that the year of 2017 will be a wonderful year for all the personnel and their family. I strongly wish that this year will be a year of progress for the MOD/SDF as well as peace and security of our country and the international community. Thank you very much.

January 4th, 2017
Defense Minister Tomomi INADA

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