Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister (10:30-10:57 A.M. December 5, 2008)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:10:30|10:57 A.M. December 5, 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

None.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
Concerning measures against piracy, three options were proposed the other day by the nonpartisan group of lawmakers of which you are also a member. The three options consist of maritime security operations under the current law, introduction of a special measures law which would apply exclusively to Somalia, and introduction of a permanent law for piracy countermeasures in general. The group also presented both the merits and demerits of each option. Please tell us about your own views on these options, which of them you think would most likely be taken up by the Government, and how these options will be discussed from now on.

Minister:
I understand that the issue in question was discussed on December 2. However, I would like to refrain from commenting on discussions at the legislative body. The Government is currently pushing forward a review of the legal framework to control piracy at the Headquarters for Ocean Policy, considering the importance of the safety of maritime traffic. Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense is actively taking part in this review as one of the relevant ministries and agencies. At this moment, no fixed conclusion has been reached as to the issue of what actions the SDF should take as part of measures to control acts of piracy. The MOD intends to actively proceed with a specific review, collaborating with relevant ministries and agencies, in light of various dimensions, such as the modality of piracy countermeasures of the Government as a whole, legal aspects such as the juridical basis of the SDF dispatch, issues associated with the operation of troops, and modalities of cooperation with other countries and related international organizations.

Question:
Regarding the planned transfer of the National Defense Medical College to an independent administrative institution, it was agreed to reconsider the plan at a joint meeting held by national defense-related divisions of the LDP this morning. We have learned that you have also given an instruction regarding this reconsideration. These moves seem to have appeared right out of the blue. Could you tell us the background that brought them about?

Minister:
At the meeting of the LDP held today by its three national defense-related divisions, it was agreed to postpone the transfer of the National Defense Medical College to an independent administrative institution. These moves came at a time when the MOD has had April 2010 in its sights for the transfer of the College to an independent administrative institution, and has been pushing forward working-level procedures. It was, however, agreed to shelve the April 2010 plan, as a short-term measure in response to the opinions raised in the ruling parties that underpin the need to further discuss issues associated with the transfer of the College. The MOD now considers it necessary to once again review and reorganize the relation between the purpose of the establishment of the National Defense Medical College, which aims at the education of defense medical officers; and the nature of the independent administrative institution that emphasizes rationality and efficiency. To speak more specifically, I think we need to further review what effectiveness should be ensured for the education of SDF personnel, which is fundamentally a task of the national government.

Question:
As you have just suggested, there is now a substantial trend towards transforming public organizations into independent administrative institutions. Against this background, could you tell us a little more about what ideas need to be reorganized in the case of the National Defense Medical College?

Minister:
The National Defense Medical College has its own hospital. From such a perspective, it seems to be comparatively easy to run it as an independent administrative institution. At the same time, our main focus is to educate medical officers for the SDF. I think we need more time to review various aspects, such as whether or not this objective could be really secured by an independent administrative institution, the compatibility of educating SDF medical officers and seeking advanced medical technologies, and whether or not these two goals could come into conflict when the College becomes an independent body, given the existence of the SDF.

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

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