Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(10:17-10:28 A.M. September 24, 2010)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:17-10:28 A.M. September 24, 2010
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)
(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and 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:
The renovation of runways at Kadena Air Base will start next month and, accordingly, Futenma Air Station will be used for approximately one and a half years. What is your take on local residents' mounting criticism triggered by their suspicions of the increased burden?

Minister:
I hear that the improvements of runways at Kadena Air Base will begin at first with repairs and reinforcements of the southern runway, which will in total take 18 months to complete, with nine months each for the southern and northern runways. I am aware that two F-15 fighter planes from Kadena Air Base conducted a practice divert for possible use of Futenma Air Station in case of an emergency during the renovation period. We promptly provided relevant local authorities with the information on the practice divert, on September 21, when the Okinawa Defense Bureau got notification from the U.S. side. Meanwhile, we asked the U.S. side to mitigate the impacts on local residents as much as possible and to continue to take noise control measures very strictly with the operations of their aircraft. Specifically, the Okinawa Defense Bureau's Planning Division has delivered a written request to the 18th Wing's Public Affairs Division.

Question:
I have a question about the relocation of Futenma Air Station. Governor Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture stated yesterday that as a pledge for the gubernatorial elections in November, he was considering requesting the Government that it relocate Futenma Air Station outside Okinawa. He seems to be considering making this announcement at a prefectural assembly meeting next week. I think this means a call for a review of the Japan-U.S. agreements, which would go against the government's policy. How would the Government respond to that?

Minister:
The incumbent governor of Okinawa Prefecture has been engaged in various negotiations with the Government. At the same time, he is in a position to be judged by the people of his prefecture through elections. I believe that the Government, especially the Ministry of Defense, should refrain from making particular comments on how it views pledges a governor makes for election campaigns.

Question:
China has been significantly escalating its attitude toward the dispute on the Senkaku Islands, as can be seen in issues such as rare earth metals, a detention of Japanese nationals, and the Chinese criticism of Japan through its domestic media. What is your current view on the situation? I have an impression that the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, an integral part of Japan, has been a little bit threatened by other countries. Don't you have any concerns from the perspective of national defense? And does Japan have a system in place to unfailingly respond to various situations? Please tell us your views on these points.

Minister:
As I have stated on numerous occasions, there is no territorial issue between Japan and China. Japan's position on the Senkaku Islands is fully acknowledged internationally. These points are the premise of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks at the foreign ministers' conference. I heard that Secretary Clinton made those remarks not because she was urged to do so by the Japanese side or because Japan had asked what her views were; the statements were made on her initiative. I have a high regard for her remarks, which were timely and extremely appropriate from the perspective of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

We don't have details on the detention of four Japanese nationals. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other sources, everything is dealt with at the private-sector level, with absolutely no involvement of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. I assume some kind of trouble had arisen on a business level. Again, I do not have a full account of the event and, therefore, I will refrain from making further comments now.

Question:
In relation to this, about the incident where a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel, you had expressed your view in the previous press conference that all the facts should be conveyed to the Chinese side accurately. Now that the detention period is about to expire next week, on the 29th, I would like to ask once again what your view is on the coordination that is to be made within the Government.

Minister:
This is not a matter on which the Ministry of Defense should express its views. The Government's view is to handle the matter steadily according to Japanese law. As such, the captain of the fishing boat will naturally be handled according to Japanese law. At the same time, the Chief Cabinet Secretary has expressed his wish to resolve the issue using all channels available, given that this is a very serious diplomatic issue. I have no more specific points to make. I still think, as I said the other day, that it is necessary to indicate our stance of disclosing all the facts in some way.

Question:
General James F. Amos, the next Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, stated during a hearing before the U.S. Congress that the relocation to Guam was under re-examination, including a relocation of operational units. Also, if I remember it accurately, Japan-U.S. agreements, reached at the end of May, include a passage saying that the U.S. side would examine the unit composition pertaining to the relocation to Guam. I understand regarding the unit composition that the headquarters would be relocated. Taking the General's remarks into account, does it mean operational units are also going to be relocated to Guam?

Minister:
I am not aware of this, officially. I know that the United Sates is facing various issues concerning the realignment of forces to Guam. I can say it is true that negotiations on infrastructure development are conducted in working-level consultations, but that does not mean that Japan and the United States are going so far as to discuss changing the course of action to resolve the issue by 2014.

Question:
Is it correct to understand that Japan has never mentioned or discussed further delay in the settlement of the issue due to the extension of the deadline to 2014 in talks with the United States? It seems that the White House has some concerns on this.

Minister:
There exist many issues. The roadmap stipulates that it is necessary to complete the the construction of the replacement facility in order to implement the relocation from Okinawa to Guam. Should there be a delay in this regard, it is just conceivable that both countries would advance the process with this understanding. Nevertheless, we have not reached a decision to change the roadmap or the 2014 goal; that is, to change the agreements between the two nations.

Question:
There is one thing that I would like to confirm if I may, from when you mentioned Secretary Clinton's statements. Were you referring to her remarks on the applicable scope of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty?

Minister:
Yes, exactly. My understanding is that she made those remarks in relation to Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

(END)

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