Press Conference

Press Conference by Defense Minister Ishiba ( 9:52-10:02 A.M. May 16, 2008 )

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:9:52-10:02 A.M. May 16, 2008
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)

(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and the abstract of the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purpose only)
The original full text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements


2. Questions and Answers

Concerning the PKO in Sudan, some media have reported that the Government will send an investigation team as early as next month. Please let us know the actual facts and current status of the review of the dispatch within the Ministry of Defense.

I have read the report myself. There is no such fact suggested in the report. Now, as for the current status, circumstances do not allow us to give any concrete explanation of plans of a dispatch to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). The Prime Minister has meanwhile indicated in his policy speech for the current Diet session that Japan will fulfill its role as a Peace Fostering Nation. I believe that based on this stance, Japan must proactively and on its own initiatives consider its activities overseas. However, we have not decided anything concrete at the moment, such as the dispatch of an investigation team, as suggested by some media reports.

The Ministry’s Defense Legislation Review Committee will hold its first meeting today. Will you tell us the objectives of the committee’s establishment and whether a deadline has been set for the group to compile the details of its discussions?

This is related to what I have constantly been saying since assuming the post of the Minister of Defense?that there is a need for study focusing on all aspects, including the legislation, equipment and operations. I have made the same suggestion at the Diet as well. Although it may not be accurate to say that it is part of what I have been suggesting, the Review Committee will start its meeting today in order to thoroughly examine the legislation. Chaired by Parliamentary Secretary for Defense Minoru Terada, the committee consists of the Vice-Minister, chiefs of staff offices and the director generals of relevant bureaus. The committee will naturally have its subsidiary review teams, which will concretely discuss various issues. One instance in the broad-ranged agenda would relate to what are dubbed the two defense laws, namely the SDF Law and the Ministry of Defense Establishment Law. A question at stake is how the two laws are related to each other. I am not saying that the two are to be unified. However, there have for a long time been discussions suggesting that it is difficult to recognize the relations of the two laws.
Discussion will also be made concerning: how we regard the legal system itself and whether or not the numerous types of action associated with it prove consistent among themselves. As for the legislation regarding the use of weapons, the discussion of which must naturally be made within the realm of the Constitution, there arises an issue of whether the existing relevant legislation is appropriate or not. Reviews must further be made concerning the duty of maintaining public order to be performed by the SDF. Moreover, concerning the use of SDF for policing purposes, there is a question of whether the related legislation should be maintained as it is. The Review Committee will also consider the legislation related to international activities, although the committee is not designed to review general laws. Nor are they organized to represent the Ministry’s opinions about general laws. However, the committee is naturally expected to discuss related matters.
Along with these discussions, they will look into the legislation governing the overseas activities. Meanwhile, the Basic Act on Ocean Policy has been established. A head office at the Cabinet Secretariat has been in place for the discussions concerning the said legislation, to which personnel are sent from our Ministry. At issue would be, for example, how to address acts of piracy and various aspects of the legislation concerning the affairs of the ocean. The Diet from time to time takes up the issue of the defense of sea lines of communication (SLOC). However, when a defense of SLOC is actually conducted, we have to keep the maritime security operations constantly on duty, which would call for a review of the legal backing. Now, I would like to designate this committee as the sole organization (within the Ministry) to study systematically and thoroughly look into all these legal issues that require discussion, instead of sporadically taking up some of them, as has been done in the past, including the time when I served as the Director General of the Defense Agency. That is the very purpose behind the establishment of the study group. It will consider these wide-ranging legal issues as a review committee without taking any sporadic approaches.
Concerning the deadline for compiling a report, no timetable has been set thus far. Frankly speaking, I don’t think setting a deadline is possible. While no such discussion can be completed within our Ministry alone, there is naturally a restriction to keep the agenda within the realm of the Constitution. There are also, naturally, the relations to other legal frameworks. With all these factors combined, I myself at least am unable to say specifically when such reviews will be completed. When the committee has identified some sort of directions for the issues it has been discussing, the Government as a whole must make decisions as to how to address the issues further on and whether or not any legal revisions should be involved. Based upon such prospects, I am unable to present any timetable. However, I would like to reiterate the significance of setting up a review committee which systematically and thoroughly approaches the issues that have been sporadically handled thus far.

(For the remainder of the press conference, please refer to the Japanese version.)