Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(10:32-10:46 A.M. September 3, 2010)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:32-10:46 A.M. September 3, 2010
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 purposes only)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

None.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I have a question about the relocation of Futenma Air Station. In your press conference the other day, you said, "Regarding the opening of the next 'two-plus-two' meeting, the Japanese Government will be making a decision in close consultation with the U.S. Government, taking into account a comprehensive set of factors, such as the visit to Japan by President Barack Obama, the gubernatorial election in Okinawa, and the progress made in the consultation process for deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance." On the other hand, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley made statements to the effect of having the aim of holding the "two-plus-two" meeting within two or three months. It seems that the U.S.-side hopes for an early opening of the meeting. Could you tell us your ideas on what kind of discussion you should have and when the meeting should be held?

Minister:
First of all, in light of what was agreed at the end of August, the main thing about the "two-plus-two" meeting right now is how to work out the details of the decisions made so far. I think it is more important that we think about what is possible for us to achieve in what time period, rather than when we will hold the meeting. I do not know who U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Crowley is and I wonder how deeply he thought when he said that. So I haven't heard anything like that being discussed as an official statement of the U.S. Government. Therefore, the situation has not changed from the way I explained it the other day.

Question:
The deadline for the budget request for the next fiscal year passed a few days ago. The Ministry of Defense has requested to include some defense expenditures in the "special expenditure allocation scheme" [of the New Growth Strategy]. You have reiterated that the budget of the Ministry of Defense is extremely inflexible and it is partly difficult to deal with. Do you mean that the defense budget, allocated in such scheme, does not sit well with the idea of having to enter into a policy contest with other ministries for funding? On the other hand, many opinions about this have been voiced, with some worrying that, "should this scheme lead to the reduction of the budget for host-nation support, the Japan-U.S. relationship will be soured." Under this tough situation, I want to ask once again how you feel about the "special expenditure allocation scheme."

Minister:
Originally, there should be no waste in the budget for the Ministry of Defense, which has been based on the Japan's basic policy of being exclusively defense-oriented, And if there were some drastic movement in which such a defense policy should be reformulated from scratch, or in other words, if the change went so far as to include issues such as Article 9 of the Constitution, we could give more scope to the budget. But, actually, if there is no change to the policy, then we cannot afford to do so and there is also no reason to think we can employ an uncanny plan and introduce a new method of defense. In that sense, in a similar way to our annual budget, which I can say is inflexible, our mindset itself on national defense is so old-fashioned, although not so much as to call it "extremely inflexible," that we have few options with which to handle the situation. Accordingly, the "special expenditure allocation scheme" this time does not sit well directly with the system of national budget requests. This is what I have been saying for some time.

Question:
In relation to the presidential election of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), at press conferences, former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa has said of the Futenma issue, "If we put our heads together, we should be able to come up with a plan that satisfies both the United States and Okinawa." Then again, on other occasions he has said, "There is no concrete plan." Please tell us your opinion of these statements by Mr. Ozawa.

Minister:
This is an issue which I have been engaged in for a year. Throughout this year, I have always thought about two things: one is the short-term issue of how to eliminate the danger faced by the residents of Futenma, and the other is a solution to the problem that the scale of the U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa is too large. What I have been trying to say is, if you let these two problems, one short-term and one mid- to long-term, become mixed up, you will definitely come to a similar conclusion to Mr. Ozawa, that there is yet no concrete plan. I think, in retrospect, that then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was extremely straightforward in saying that, "the more I've learned of the issue, the moreā€¦." As we have sorted the two issues out and addressed them one by one, I believe it always comes down to something he said to that effect. I don't think at all that Mr. Ozawa said what he did without an understanding of this. Politicians often end up saying things from a different position than the one they know to be true. From my position, if I were to judge what Mr. Ozawa said, I think that he was speaking politically and that he was jumbling together the short-term and mid- to long-term issues.

Question:
As far as the mid-term issue, concerning the existence of the marines, on a television program last night, Mr. Ozawa said that the U.S. Marines are not necessary any more in Okinawa. He has mentioned the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet before in the same way and now again he has been expressing his doubt about the necessity of the presence of the U.S. Marines in Okinawa. In the debate yesterday there was a discussion about reducing the size of U.S. Forces in Japan and having Japan defend itself, even if not within a long span of 10 or 20 years. Basically, what was suggested is that the appropriate stationing of SDF units in appropriate places could reduce the need for the U.S. forces' presence. I feel that this could be one of the solutions to the mid- to long-term issue and should be addressed. What do you think about that?

Minister:
In relation to that, first of all, the transfer of 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam is a very significant event in the history of Okinawa, and it's often said that, "As many of them have been dispatched to Iraq and Afghanistan, only 2,000-3,000 marines are remaining in Okinawa, aren't they?" Nevertheless, in our current discussions with the U.S.-side we are not talking about how many personnel there are, but rather what capacity is necessary in case of emergency. Security is something for which we must always consider the situation during times of emergency. I must point out the pivotal perspective which might be overlooked in such discussions as you said. In addition, your question refers to a discussion about giving up our policy of being exclusively defense-oriented, and having Japan defend itself independently on the front lines instead of the U.S. forces in Japan (USFJ) which have been obliged to defend Japan based on the Security Treaty. This issue steps into a discussion as to whether Japan should totally take over the role of the USFJ. Up until now - the previous and current administration - have never ventured into detailed discussions on this matter, I think.

Question:
During yesterday's debate Prime Minister Kan stated in relation to the transfer of marines to Guam that "in order to reduce the burden on Okinawa we should proceed forward by prioritizing the transfer of marines to Guam and other locations." Depending on how one interprets it, Prime Minister Kan's statement could be taken to mean that regardless of whether there is any progress on the relocation of Futenma, the transfer should be prioritized. Among Prime Minister Kan and the related ministers, or even with the United States, do you have any intention to move forward with or negotiate on the transfer to Guam even if there is no progress made on the relocation of Futenma?

Minister:
As far as Mr. Kan's feelings go, I can understand him, although I am not sure about what he said. Even if he had said that he wanted to move forward with the Guam issue first, as we have actually agreed to transfer the U.S. Marines to Guam on the assumption that the replacement facility for Futenma would be completed by 2014, we cannot do what he has wanted under the current framework of Japan-U.S. agreements. That said, given our current relationship with Okinawa, or with the United States as well, as a method to achieve a breakthrough on our current deadlock, I might say, after we have settled on the replacement facility between the two countries, - it will be plausible to discuss putting the transfer to Guam first, as Mr. Kan has said.

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

-PAGE TOP-