Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister (10:06-10:16 A.M. January 5, 2009)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:06-10:16 A.M. January 5, 2009
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 onl)
The original full text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

A happy new year to you all! I am looking forward to working with you this year as before.

2. Questions and Answers

You took up the words “trust” and “patience” as key words in your New Year address. What messages are behind these words?

I chose the word “trust,” reflecting my wish to continue trusting each of the SDF members and to work under mutual trust. I wanted to express my hopes for continuing to work while creating mutual trust, between SDF members trusting me, and me trusting them as well. Furthermore, I also hoped that the SDF members will duly fulfill their duties in order to gain the trust of the people. These are the ideas behind the word “trust.” The word “patience” reflects my wish that SDF members will do their best, enduring the various hardships under which they are fulfilling their duties. Also, I hope that they will work with a great deal of patience to gain the trust of the people in response to the various criticisms which have been given to us. In this sense I took up the words “trust” and “patience” at the start of this year.

Last year, you had to address the incidents of misconduct immediately after taking office. But you were able to end the year by paving the way for the Ministry’s reform. In this light, I would like to hear afresh your aspirations at the start of the year. Meanwhile, the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) seems to be slightly behind the schedule. Please let us know your views on the schedule of the review going forward, and the points to be emphasized in the review.

I recognize the issue of the NDPG as the biggest challenge for this year. Therefore, the schedule of its review, which has just been mentioned, is also considered important. In that connection, the Cabinet Secretariat decided at the end of the last year to set up a meeting joined by experts. We, too, have set up the Defense Posture Review Board. I would like to convene a meeting of the Board as promptly as possible to make further progress. Review is also underway at the working group led by the Director General of the Defense Policy Bureau. By hearing the explanation by the working group, I would like to advance the review as early as possible. Meanwhile, the meeting set up by the Prime Minister's Office (the Cabinet Secretariat) will focus on drafting a new NDPG. I would like to coordinate our review with the progress of this meeting. Given that we must work on the budget reviews for the next fiscal year and other issues, I think we must advance our work, setting the goal for around the summer of this year.

Soon you will be in the third year since the transition to the Defense Ministry from the former Defense Agency. At the end of the last year, we saw the extension of the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law. Meanwhile, measures against piracy off the coast of Somalia were identified as a pressing issue by Prime Minister Taro Aso at his New Year press conference. There are increasing calls within the Government and ruling parties for starting mobile responses by maritime security operations. How do you intend to coordinate this call with the establishment of a general law? Please tell us the current status of progress of the review regarding this point.

It is true that maritime security operations are being discussed within the context of the existing law. As I mentioned in the past, we must also review the limits of maritime security operations and discussions in the framework of international cooperation. I understand that the ruling parties will start discussing the possibility of creating a new law. Taking this into consideration, the Government as a whole is reviewing this issue, including what option is to be taken. At the Defense Ministry, too, reviews are underway concerning what problems could arise in various situations. Thus, at the moment, I can make no specific comments on this matter. I ask you for your understanding in this regard.

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