Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(11:07-11:32 A.M. April 27, 2012)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 11:07-11:32 A.M. April 27, 2012
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

Since February, we have been conducting the Japan-U.S. consultation regarding the reorganization of the U.S. Forces in Japan. We have now come to an agreement, so I would like to make an announcement on this. I would like to explain the point of this joint statement. A decision has been made to delink the relocation to Guam and the return of lands south of Kadena Air Base from the progress related to the relocation of Futenma Air Station. Secondly, the U.S. Marine Corps units are to be deployed over a widespread area such as in Okinawa and Guam, and a total of approximately 9,000 U.S. Marines will be relocated from Okinawa to locations outside of Japan. To realize this relocation, Japan will make a certain amount of financial commitment toward this. Thirdly, with regard to the return of the lands south of Kadena, it has been agreed upon that certain facilities/areas such as part of Makiminato Service Area (Camp Kinser) will be returned prior to the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corp s from Okinawa. Also, we will be drawing up the consolidation plans for the remaining facilities/areas in Okinawa by the end of this fiscal year. Fourthly, regarding Futenma Air Station, we have reaffirmed that the current relocation plan is the only viable solution. Until this has been realized, both Japan and the U.S. have agreed to mutually contribute toward providing the necessary repair works to ensure safety and maintain the environment of Futenma Air Station. The MOD would like to make an announcement on two points in which it had made efforts on. In the joint statement, the MOD had focused on strengthening the deterrence power of the Japan-U.S. alliance in total. Especially, in promoting the dynamic Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, we have included consideration in developing training areas in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for shared use by Japan and the U.S. Additionally, from the viewpoint of reducing the burden of Okinawa in ways that can be perceived, we have tenacio usly coordinated the return of the lands south of Kadena in order to be able to make a specific explanation. In the materials that we have handed out to everyone, we will be progressing with the return in three stages, so I would appreciate if you could refer to this.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
This time, there was some backtracking at the end of the process. Can you give us your thoughts on this backtracking and of the overall process?

Minister:
Regarding the original plan, the announcement was partially delayed for a day or two from the originally planned date due to procedures in the U.S. However, with regard to its content, it is my understanding that there has been no change in the principles, a point I would just like to mention here.

Question:
So, your understanding is that nothing has been changed?

Minister:
I have heard that due to circumstances within the U.S., efforts have been made to gain the consent of the members of the legislature.

Question:
The Kadena integration plan is being promoted by some within the government/ruling party. Do you have no other option other than Henoko, which you mentioned this time as being the only viable solution?

Minister:
We have just reaffirmed that the Henoko plan is the only viable solution, so my perception for now is that the Kadena integration plan is going to be difficult to realize.

Question:
Looking at the document, it states, "remains the only viable solution that has been identified to date." Where it says "that has been identified to date," does this mean that something else may be conceived in the future?

Minister:
We have no such plans for now.

Question:
Not at all?

Minister:
No.

Question:
Regarding the expenditure for the Guam relocation, it says that expenditure for the Guam relocation is as stipulated in Article 1 of the 2009 Guam International Agreement. Can we take this at face value?

Minister:
It is exactly as it is given.

Question:
Including its content?

Minister:
Exactly.

Question:
In the last section, it reads, "noted the importance of continued consultations on the programmatic and technical details of these initiatives with the legislative branches on both sides." What exactly does this mean?

Minister:
This is to point out the fact that we have come to an agreement with the members of the U.S. legislature.

Question:
So this is in consideration for the U.S. legislature?

Minister:
That is my understanding.

Question:
Regarding the direct cash contribution as stipulated in Article 1 of the 2009 Guam International Agreement, the number of personnel that is to be relocated has been reduced to 5,000 for this time. Can we assume that the amount that our nation is to shoulder will not change significantly even though the number of personnel to be relocated has decreased?

Minister:
What you have pointed out is correct. However, in terms of understanding this, the total expenditure related to relocation within Japan -- which includes Guam -- has been increasing since 2006, but Japan will not conduct any additional cooperation in terms of cash contributions that it has been asked to shoulder. Therefore, this includes the amount for cooperation toward developing the joint training areas in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. If we compare this to the roadmap, we can see that the amount related to the Guam relocation has decreased overall. Our perception is that the amount that our country will shoulder in comparison to the overall amount is reasonable.

Question:
As was raised in the earlier question about the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF), you mentioned beforehand that there is no other alternative for now since it "remains the only viable solution that has been identified to date." Can we assume this to mean that there will never be any options other than Henoko in the future? The description seems to fuel suspicion for some people that it leaves some leeway for interpretation in the future.

Minister:
Regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment, the MOD is currently responding to the written opinions given by the Governor, and since the Henoko plan is the only viable plan that we have on hand, we have absolutely no other plan in our minds, and its implementation is going to be difficult.

Question:
So there's absolutely no chance of being considered as an option in the future?

Minister:
I feel that there's absolutely no chance. That is my perception.

Question:
This is for confirmation, but can we assume that this perception is shared with the U.S. government as well?

Minister:
Of course. I have discussed this with Defense Secretary Panetta in the consultations. Obviously, we all share the perception that this plan is the one and only viable plan to pursue.

Question:
This time, a new item has been added, as cooperation in developing joint training areas in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. In the National Defense Program Guidelines, it also mentions Japan-U.S. joint training, and there is an impression that the activities by the SDF in the western Pacific area are being appreciated. However, there is also this impression where sufficient discussion in the Diet and such on this issue has not been made, and in this context, we also have an impression questioning whether specifying the specific scope of activities by the SDF has been properly debated between Japan and the U.S. How do you intend to answer these doubts?

Minister:
In the Japan-U.S. joint statement announcement made last year, it mentioned that the joint training will be strengthened, and that we will be making progress on joint usage as well, so it is an extension of this idea. This time, we have noted that the dynamic defense force and defense cooperation between the two countries, which includes the appropriate and effective joint training joint alert surveillance, reconnaissance activities and the shared usage of facilities will strengthen the deterrence. Therefore, we have substantiated the aspect of shared training, shared surveillance, and shared usage.

Question:
Regarding the return of lands south of Kadena, it says that a consolidation plan will be formed by the end of the year. Which land will be returned by the end of the year, and, as well, when is the first land is going to be returned, and when is the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps going to start? When are all these things going to become apparent?

Minister:
As it was given in the joint statement announcement, this will be done in three stages. The West Futenma Housing area of Camp Zukeran (Camp Foster) is the area that has been confirmed as eligible for return upon the completion of the necessary procedures. This also includes the north access road of Makiminato Service Area (Camp Kinser), an area near Gate 5 on Makiminato Service Area, and a portion of the warehouse area of the Facilities and Engineering Compound in Camp Zukeran. Then, areas that have been confirmed as eligible for return once the replacement facilities in Okinawa are provided are: Camp Kuwae (Camp Lester), the Lower Plaza Housing area and other partial sections of Camp Zukeran, as well as the preponderance of the storage area of Makiminato Service Area. In addition, there is Naha Port and the Army Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant Depot Kuwae Tank Farm No.1, which we have made considerable efforts to include. Finally, areas that are eligible for return as U.S. Marine Corps forces relocate from Okinawa to locations outside of Japan are: Additional elements of Camp Zukeran and the remainder of Makiminato Service Area. We have been able to include these specific details into the joint statement. Using this as our base plan, we hope to define a more specific policy within this year.

Question:
In that case, is it going to be possible through additional discussions and negotiations to define the timing of when the lands are going to be returned and the start of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps within this year?

Minister:
Of course, we will be giving our very best efforts to realize the (return of) areas that are eligible to be returned immediately. With regard to those that require additional processes, we will also be giving our very best efforts in these too, in order to work out in earnest the reduction of the burden of Okinawa in ways that can be perceived.

Question:
Regarding Futenma Air Station, it is expressed in such a way in that it has been agreed (for Japan) to shoulder part of the cost for repairs, which will heighten the concern for it becoming a permanent fixture. In addition, by completely delinking this from the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps and the return of the lands, it gives the impression that this reduces the incentive for the U.S. to relocate from Futenma to Henoko. What are your thoughts on this?

Minister:
This has been a long-standing issue, and both Japan and the U.S. share the common perception in that "Futenma Air Station is the world's most dangerous airfield." We have started out from the standpoint that this is never going to become a permanent fixture, and there have been no changes in moving on with the relocation based on said idea. Therefore, the basic thinking of both Japan and the U.S. remain unchanged in that Futenma Air Station will never become a permanent fixture.

Question:
The reason for the announcement being delayed once may be attributed to the suggestions given by the U.S. legislature. You mentioned that there was no overall change in the content of the announcement from the original, but which section has been modified in consideration after receiving the suggestion from the legislature?

Minister:
There has been a minor delay due to talks within the U.S. However, no change whatsoever has been made on the content. I feel that there may be a separate explanation related to the interaction conducted with the legislative houses in the U.S., but I would like to mention that no changes whatsoever has been made with regard to the basic content.

Question:
Were there some minor changes made to the wording?

Minister:
Considering that there was some interaction with the legislature, the resulting wording may have been included into the text. However, nothing specific has been added.

Question:
It includes yet again words to work toward the relocation of the FRF. However, both Nago City and the Governor in the local areas are protesting against this relocation. How do you intend to receive and take up the document in the future?

Minister:
This has been a long-standing issue. Therefore, considerable efforts have been made by the people of Okinawa prefecture and the Okinawa Prefecture Governor. This time, both Japan and the U.S. have continued to consider the relocation to the Henoko-saki area as being the only viable plan. The MOD intends to make further efforts to give a careful explanation to the Governor and the people of Okinawa prefecture, and hopes to work toward gaining their understanding to make progress on this in the future. This is something that we will be pursuing for now.

Question:
You have repeatedly mentioned that the relocation to Henoko is "the only viable solution." If that is so, then I don't think it is logical to include the phrase "that has been identified to date." Can you explain the reason why this has been included in the sentence?

Minister:
No changes have been made whatsoever. We have considered various measures, but the conclusion is that this plan is the one and only viable solution, so I perceive this as to signify the fact that there is zero possibility for any other plan.

Question:
So this was not included in view of consideration to the U.S. legislature?

Minister:
I feel that there may be a separate explanation related to the interaction conducted within the U.S., but I have heard things about consideration towards the legislature.

Question:
Regarding the content of this agreement, do you think that this will prove useful toward progressing with the relocation of Futenma? What point do you feel was most instrumental in gaining the understanding of Okinawa?

Minister:
The MOD has been progressing with this consultation under Prime Minister Noda, and through close coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The major issue was to "remove the burden of Okinawa in ways that can be perceived" and I feel that to make progress on this was an important factor in this consultation. In view of this, both Japan and the U.S. have come to an agreement to first reduce the burden of Okinawa, and to exert maximum efforts toward continuing with gaining understanding on the relocation of Futenma Air Station, which is our issue of concern.

Question:
Regarding the joint exercise in the area around Tinian, can you tell us why this particular place was chosen, and how the burden on the top will be driven through the use of U.S. Forces facilities by Japan and the U.S.?

Minister:
Concerning the burden that was mentioned in the last half of the question, this will be handled within the so-called "cost-sharing." Therefore, it is included within the overall costs. Specific location names have been given, such as the Tinian and Pagan region. Japan is committed to strengthening its dynamic defense capabilities, while the U.S. will now be responding with Guam as its core in view of the shifting of emphasis to the Asia-Pacific area. I feel that this region will form part of this core area, and a training area will be established, and our country will be using this for joint exercise and training. My perception is that it has been chosen from the standpoint that such things will count toward the strengthening of deterrence.

Question:
It has been said that 9,000 U.S. Marines will be moving out from Okinawa. Has the number of U.S. Marines that will remain in Okinawa after this been confirmed this time?

Minister:
Around 10,000 personnel.

Question:
There are those that say it is inappropriate for a Minister that has been issued a censure motion to make this announcement. Personally I feel that if that is the case, then they should rise up and move instead of sleeping it out. How are you going to tackle things with regard to the fact that such opinions are being said?

Minister:
On that, I am currently responding by taking such criticisms to heart, and to fulfill my duties. In that sense, I would like to have your understanding that I am working on my job in a responsible manner.

(End)

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