Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(08:33-08:39 A.M., August 3, 2012)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 08:33-08:39 A.M., August 3, 2012
Place:In front of the Cabinet Meeting Room in the House
(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

I will be going to Washington, D.C. from today until Sunday night to conduct various events including the conference with Secretary of Defense Panetta, and I will be returning on Sunday evening.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
What kind of things do you intend to discuss in the Japan-U.S. Defense Minister conference?

Minister:
There will be the presidential elections in the U.S. after this, and there is going to be a possibility that the actors involved in taking up the reins in the government may change after that. Therefore, I would like to have a candid discussion on the overall direction of the Japan-U.S. alliance that both Japan and the U.S. are going to aim for. As you may already know, we have a number of issues that we need to deal with until December, such as those concerning the facilities in Tinian and the return of the lands south of Kadena. Of course, we also have the issues concerning Futenma and the Osprey, so I hope to attend this conference with the intent to set the general direction of the Japan-U.S. alliance in the future. Needless to say, the Osprey is going to be a major issue in this conference, so if the accident investigation report has been prepared, we will be discussing the procedures or the administrative requests to explain this to the Japan side at the earliest possible timing.

Question:
We have heard that you are planning to ride in the Osprey yourself. Can you tell us of the objective of this?

Minister:
When giving an explanation on the Osprey to the people, it is quite difficult to give an explanation of an aircraft that you have never been on board before, so I felt that I would need to take a ride first to get a grasp on how it is operated, and of course on its stability and noise levels. Since I have been with a fighter squadron for a long time, I should be able to understand these things to a certain degree. I hope to get some basic firsthand knowledge that would enable me to understand things better when I have the chance to read the report later on.

Question:
Having viewed the environmental review for Futenma regarding the Osprey, it gives a description of this flight route that conducts the unstable motion of converting to helicopter mode in the urban areas just before entering the premises of Futenma. Will you be making a firm request to conduct this within the premises?

Minister:
It is scheduled to be discussed in the bilateral security committee. This is because it is the actual squadrons in the U.S. Forces in Japan that are going to be operating the Osprey in Japan. Although it is necessary to mention this to the people in the Department of Defense, the most important issue here is how the actual squadrons on the field are going to conduct flight operations. This is why we have set up the bilateral security committee. Therefore, both Japan and the U.S. will be discussing such specific procedures that are going to be necessary for the confirmation of safety during flight operations on the field.

Question:
You were somewhat late in making your appearance. Were you talking with the Prime Minister?

Minister:
No. The Prime Minister is over there.

Question:
The Chief Cabinet Secretary then?

Minister:
Not the Chief Cabinet Secretary. It was with the Minister of Finance. We had some things to discuss on next year’s budget.

Question:
Regarding this visit to the U.S., there is also the issue concerning the investigation on the accident in Morocco, which was initially said to be coming out last month, or at the end of July. Are you scheduled to receive an explanation on this from the U.S. side during this visit?

Minister:
I don’t think I will be receiving an explanation, but I feel that I will get the basic idea of the overall schedule on when it is going to be conducted. The investigations are now coming to their final stages. However, unlike the accident in Florida, this accident involves personnel who died in the event. Under normal circumstances in the U.S., it is important that explanations are given to these families first in such cases. This is because issues such as compensation and indemnities may arise depending on who is responsible for its occurrence, so the families need to be given an explanation and their prior consent on the content is going to be necessary before it is to be provided to a foreign entity. I have heard that this is going to take some time, but I feel that they will come and say, “Now we are ready to give an explanation to the Japan side” in the not-too-distant future. I think we will be able to announce the date and time soon.

Question:
Yesterday, the local chief executives of the municipalities in the central, northern and southern regions (of Okinawa) issued a request to retract the Osprey and the relocation plan to Henoko. Although this may run counter to government policy, do you have any plans to relay these voices of the local communities to Secretary of Defense Panetta in this visit to the U.S.?

Minister:
I have been receiving the voices of the local communities starting from the prefectural Governor, so I would like to have a candid discussion with the Secretary of Defense on the general situation of the local communities.

Question:
In connection with the previous question, how do you feel about the fact that the municipalities in the northern regions that had been taking a position of acceptance to the relocation to Henoko have decided to issue a resolution to retract this?

Minister:
We are currently conducting the supplementary work in an orderly fashion. However, when all the work has been completed and it comes to a point where we are going to apply for the permits for construction work related to land reclamation, the objective circumstances in receiving the permission for this from the prefectural Governor remains highly difficult as ever, and I received the strong impression that the situation has not necessarily turned to our advantage.

(End)

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