New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Onodera
January 4 (Thursday)
New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Onodera
(This is a provisional translation)
A Happy New Year to you.
At the beginning of 2018, I would like to offer my greetings to all of you who are dedicating yourselves day and night to your duties as personnel of the Self-Defense Forces in and outside Japan.
Last year, we devoted our full-fledged efforts to dealing with the tense North Korea situation amid the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan.
Upon entering the new year, I would like to talk about measures that I must work with you for their implementation.
North Korea launched a total of three ICBM-class ballistic missiles in July and November last year. In addition, it flew ballistic missiles over Japan one after another, in August and September, and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September. North Korea' nuclear and missile development is posing a new level of threat-a more serious and imminent threat than ever-to Japan's security.
In order to make North Korea change its policy, it is important for the government to increase the pressure on the country to the maximum level by using all available means and create a situation that leads it to seek a meaningful dialogue, not a dialogue for the sake of dialogue, based on the premise of making a commitment to denuclearization and taking concrete actions.
With that in mind, what all of us at the MOD/SDF must do is to ensure the defense of Japan in preparation for an emergency. In the Sea of Japan, the Aegis-equipped destroyers are keeping guard against North Korean missiles, as are the PAC-3 units deployed at various location across the country. Moreover, through a series of joint exercises with the United States, we have strengthened the defense preparedness to deter the threat from North Korea and have enhanced our defense capabilities. In order to fundamentally enhance our ballistic missile defense capability, we also decided at the end of last year to introduce the Aegis Ashore system.
By continuing to maintain a high level of surveillance under the robust Japan-U.S. alliance, I would like to work with you to ensure the peace and security of Japan with a sense of alertness.
Japan is facing a pile of security challenges.
In addition to the threat from North Korea, which I mentioned earlier, we are confronted with China's reinforcement of its military capabilities without transparency and its attempts at changing the status quo in sea area and airspace in the East and South China Seas by coercion based on its own assertions incompatible with the existing international order. In addition, global security challenges are becoming more and more diverse and broad-ranging, as shown by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the deepening problem of international terrorism, and the emergence of challenges in new fields, such as cyberspace and outer space.
If we take these factors into consideration, it is not too much to say that the current security environment surrounding Japan is the severest in the postwar period.
I believe that you are directly feeling the brunt of this severe security environment.
Under these circumstances, we need to strengthen Japan's own defense capabilities and expand the role that it may perform.
Based on the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program, the MOD/SDF has been striving to develop a Dynamic Joint Defense Force with emphasis on ensuring security in the surrounding seas and airspace and responding to attacks on remote islands and ballistic missile attacks. However, as the current Mid-Term Defense Program is ending in FY 2018, we need to conduct a study on the next Mid-Term Defense Program in a timely manner.
When doing that, it is also essential to constantly study possible revisions of the National Defense Program Guidelines, which serve as a premise for the Mid-Term Defense Program, from the viewpoint of the vision of what defense capabilities Japan should possess in response to changes in the security environment.
Prime Minister Abe has instructed me to review the National Defense Program Guidelines and conduct a study on the next Mid-Term Defense Program. Under the prime minister's instruction, we will accurately identify the current security challenges for Japan and conduct a constant study in consideration of the circumstances in the frontlines of defense while holding sufficient discussions within the government.
We must also further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Since taking office last year, I have maintained close cooperation between Japan and the United States amid the continued provocation by North Korea by holding a series of meetings, including the Japan-U.S. 2+2 meeting and meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis.
As a result of the development of the Legislation for Peace and Security, cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. Forces has become closer and the deterrence capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance has significantly increased.
We will continue to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance by ensuring the effectiveness of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.
At the same time, it is important to make efforts to mitigate the impact of bases on the local communities in Okinawa and other regions. We will conscientiously listen to the voices of the local people and do our utmost to realize the relocation and return of MCAS Futenma at the earliest possible date, and also to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa to other locations, including Guam.
To ensure stable stationing of the U.S. Forces, it is essential to obtain the local people's understanding. In light of the local people's concerns over incidents and accidents involving the U.S. Forces, we must continue to request the U.S. side to ensure the flight safety of U.S. military aircraft and discipline among the personnel of the U.S. Forces.
In addition to strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, we will continue to promote security cooperation with other countries. I have been promoting strategic international defense cooperation on various occasions, including meetings with my counterparts in Australia, India and ASEAN countries, the defense ministerial meetings between Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Japan-U.K. 2+2 meeting. This year, I will continue to strenuously promote defense cooperation and exchange in a broad range of fields, including joint exercises, capacity building assistance, and defense equipment and technology cooperation.
Furthermore, we will deal with global security challenges.
Concerning counter-piracy activities off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, as we have continued to deploy a surface force, an air force and a support group, SDF personnel are working hard to perform their tasks there. In addition, from March to June, we will dispatch the third SDF officer to serve as the commander of the Combined Task Force 151.
Concerning the peacekeeping activities in South Sudan, the engineering unit's activity was terminated at the end of May last year. However, we have continued to dispatch SDF personnel to the UNMISS headquarters, so we will continue to contribute to activities such as the UN Peacekeeping Operations.
We will continue to make efforts to ensure the peace and stability of the international community under the banner of proactive contribution to peace.
Finally, last year, a series of accidents involving SDF aircraft, including an LR-2 of the GSDF, an SH-60J of the MSDF and a UH-60J of the ASDF, occurred. I would like to pay respect to the souls of the personnel who lost their lives in the accidents and offer my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. We would like you to ensure safety to prevent a recurrence of such accidents. Having said that, I hope that all of you will work together and make increased efforts to perform your tasks while maintaining strict discipline in order to respond to expectations and trust by Japanese people based on the awareness of our mission of ensuring the peace and independence of Japan.
I have renewed my determination to work with you to firmly defend Japan's territorial land, seas and airspace and dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my duties.
I would like to conclude my speech by praying for the health and happiness of you and your families, for further growth of the MOD/SDF this year, and for the continued peace of Japan.
January 4th, 2018
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera