I’d like to take this occasion to wish you a Happy New Year, and thank you for your generous support to the JMSDF in 2012.
The JMSDF marked its 60th anniversary on April 26 last year and held a big commemoration ceremony at the JMSDF 2nd Service School in Yokosuka, the birthplace of the JMSDF.
Considering the record of the past 60 years, the last two decades, in particular, have provided major tipping points for the JMSDF. The first was that the JMSDF dispatched minesweepers to the Persian Gulf in 1991 and Japanese people and people around the world had their opportunity to view the activities for international contribution of the SDF. The next was the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, leading the JMSDF to normalize overseas operations to help vessels engaged in anti-terrorist operations in the Indian Ocean by refueling activity, and we have been conducting anti-piracy activities off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden since 2009. Most recently the SDF established the Joint Task Force to make an all-out effort to cope with the Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred on March 11, 2011. Thus the SDF have afforded the general public an opportunity to see its activities for the past 20 years and have achieved good results in our efforts, and this has raised their expectations and evaluations. I believe we should be immensely proud of ourselves. And yet, we should never be complacent or conceited.
With regard to Japan’s security environment, the situation in the East China Sea is highly explosive, and North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile under the guise of launching what it claimed to be an observation satellite twice a year. In addition to that, terrorist attacks continue unremittingly, acts of piracy off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden are unlikely to come to an end, and threat to the global peace and security is becoming more complicated and diversified.
I have marked a period of “further robustness and improvement in combat readiness” in the next decade, and will promote all the measures in terms of actual warfare. I believe we need to acknowledge our traditions in the actual enforcement of the policies. The present JMSDF carries on the traditions handed down from our seniors, and we are obliged to take them over to our juniors. It is true that we ought to advance reform and change what needs to be changed in response to changing times, but, on the other hand, there are things you should not change or have to protect. We are always going back to square one to make plans based on a hard look at what things will be like, and should draw a sharp line between what needs to be changed and what we must protect in order to build “robustness and combat readiness”.
Your understanding and support to the JMSDF is greatly appreciated.