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New Year's Greeting from the Defense Minister

Yasukazu Hamada

A Happy New Year to all of you.
    I am very happy to be given this opportunity to offer my New Year's greeting to you and, at the same time, renew the gravity of my responsibilities as the Minister of Defense.
    The MOD and the Self-Defense Forces caused a number of incidents last year, for which we received many reproaches and criticisms. This is the reason why we are currently working on MOD reform.
    At the same time, the MOD and SDF have been given a lot of high evaluations both domestically and internationally for fulfilling their responsibilities to the international community through the diligent execution of harsh duties outside Japan by SDF personnel. I believe this is a significant achievement.
    The activities in Iraq over four and a half years have led to many achievements under severe circumstances. These operations were safely concluded last year without the loss of a single life. I am very pleased that the SDF were able to terminate its operations at a time when the Iraqi people are moving forward with reconstruction on their own initiative under a democratic government.
    As for the replenishment support activities in the Indian Ocean by Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels, the law to extend these activities was recently enacted. We will continue the activities to contribute to the fight against terrorism.
    In our contributions to UN peacekeeping operations, we are continuing our activities in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). We also launched new activities, including the dispatches of officers to the headquarters of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and instructors to the PKO training center in Egypt.
    This year, I hope that the MOD and SDF will make further advances based on these achievements and evaluations.
    Last year, we also made significant progress in defense exchanges with various countries, including the goodwill visit to China by an MSDF vessel and the updating of the Memorandum on Defence Cooperation during the Japan-Australia Defence Ministerial Meeting. While placing the Japan-US alliance on the center of our defense policy, this year we will continue to advance bilateral defense exchanges, such as with neighboring countries, as well as through multilateral security dialogue to promote confidence building.
    Further, this is the fifth year since the current National Defense Program Guidelines were formulated. To contribute to the government's review of revisions to the guidelines, the MOD will carefully assess the current Japan's security environment and advance debate on the country's future defense capabilities.
    Finally, I would like to close my New Year's greeting with a heartfelt prayer that this year be a fruitful year for all of you.

January 2009
Yasukazu Hamada