Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(09:20-09:36 A.M., August 7, 2012)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 09:20-09:36 A.M., August 7, 2012
Place: 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

The whole of Japan has been brimming with excitement on a daily basis by the medal rush at the London Olympics. In this Olympic tournament, 13 members from the SDF are participating as athletes. Of them, as you may already know, GSDF Second Lieutenant Satoshi Shimizu has succeeded in securing a medal in bantamweight boxing. The color of the medal is going to be decided in the outcome of the finals on August 10, so it is being highly anticipated. It is said to be the first time in 44 years that we have won a medal in boxing, so we are looking forward to the results of the finals on August 10. Other than that, the performance by MSDF Lieutenant Junior Grade Ken Takakuwa in the 200m individual medley for swimming has also been highly regarded. He came in 6th place this time, but considering that this was his second successive participation in the tournament following the Beijing Olympics and that he became a finalist two times in a row, I feel that this is the result of his continuous efforts over a prolonged period of time. From today, we are watching in anticipation events such as wrestling and racewalking in which the SDF members will be participating, and we would all like to cheer them on. Also, the MOD will be hosting a symposium on the 29th of this month. The theme of this is going to be “The Japan-U.S. alliance and the deployment of the Osprey in Okinawa” where experts on security and aircraft from both Japan and the U.S. will be coming together to conduct a symposium on the current situation of the Japan-U.S. alliance and on the issue concerning the Osprey. This is going to be held from 18:30 on August 29 at Jiji Press Hall. Please see this on our website.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
The extension on the dispatch period for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was approved in today’s cabinet meeting. Please tell us of your perception on this in view of the deteriorating situation in Syria, and your thoughts on ensuring the safety of the personnel.

Minister:
As you may know, the security situation in Syria has been deteriorating continuously for the past 16 months, and my understanding is that the situation is becoming extremely serious. There is continued persecution and violence, and we are concerned about the situation in the field. However, the UNDOF headquarters does not seem to have the perception of a direct threat to the UNDOF units itself. The extension of the dispatch period this time is related to the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 2052 has renewed the mandate of the UNDOF for a period of six months, and in connection with this, a six-month extension of the dispatch period of the so-called SDF UNDOF Japan unit or Japan’s PKO unit has been decided in today’s cabinet meeting. It was also decided to add an additional member to the transport unit that is being dispatched to UNDOF. This is in response to the increasing workload of the main unit, and the extra member has been added to the main unit to cover for this. Due to this measure, an additional member has been added to the 46-member unit comprised of 43 members and 3 members in the UNDOF headquarters, which now consists of 44-plus-3 members. We place the safety of our personnel as our highest priority, and we are maintaining close coordination with the unit on the field. Last week, the Ministry’s top three politicians -- including myself -- conducted a television conference with the unit commander on the field, where we asked detailed questions on the situation on the field. They are continuously maintaining close coordination with Tokyo, and are continuing with their activities while upholding the maintenance of the security of its members as its highest priority.

Question:
NHK had conducted a poll concerning the Osprey to the prefectural Governors. Thirty-three municipalities replied that the explanation that had been given by the Government of Japan on its deployment was “insufficient” which constitutes over two-thirds of the total. Also, twenty-two municipalities replied that they “have concerns” on its safety. What are your thoughts on these two results?

Minister:
I am aware that there have been such poll results. Regarding the deployment of the Osprey, we have received with utmost sincerity the fact that there are widespread concerns not only among the local communities, but also among the general populace. We are doing everything that we can to explain as carefully as possible. In doing so, not only myself, but the Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister and the Parliamentary Vice-Ministers have also been making efforts to actively provide information through the media, and the MOD has been preparing various materials and data to explain this to everyone. However, there have been some aspects where our efforts have been inadequate. As you may know, I made a request in the conference with Secretary of Defense Panetta last week to for the U.S. side to provide the results of the investigation reports on the two accidents that occurred in Morocco and Florida. With regard to the accident in Florida, I feel that the U.S. side will come to say “We are now prepared to give an explanation” in the not-too-distant future. With regard to progress for the investigation on the accident in Florida, we are not too sure about the details on this, but the MOD has organized an analysis team, and we have already conveyed to the U.S. side the specific points of interest that we have when we will be given the explanation on the accident investigation results. We will also be asking questions meticulously when the explanation is given, and will giving an explanation on as many things as possible that can be announced. I am also willing to go to the local communities to give an explanation in person whenever it is possible, although the exact schedule is yet to be decided. Having said that, we are fully aware that there is insufficient explanation or growing concerns among the Governors, and we are thinking of giving out as much data as possible to explain this. However, since this concerns the data of one particular aircraft type, there isn’t exactly a huge store of information on this, so we need to make considerations on the most effective way to explain this with the limited information that we have, such as in conveying this to the media, as well as making efforts to explain this to everyone.

Question:
Concerning the bill for raising the consumption tax, the stance taken by the DPJ and the LDP and such is becoming increasingly confrontational, and the LDP is indicating that it may issue a (motion for) censure or no-confidence today, and the Your Party as well as the group led by Mr. Ozawa has said that they may issue a no-confidence motion starting from today. The political situation revolving around consumption tax is becoming increasingly tense. How do you see this current situation?

Minister:
As a member of the current cabinet, I have been closely following the current political situation and I intend to respond flexibly as a cabinet member to any changes in the situation. However, as this is something that concerns domestic politics, I would like to refrain from commenting on this issue.

Question:
On the other hand, regarding the bill for increasing the consumption tax, this has been ongoing for the last eight months since the start of the normal Diet sessions this January, and now the LDP is saying that if a definite commitment for the dissolution (of the House of Representatives) cannot be given, then a breakup of the so-called three party agreement cannot be ruled out. With this, the political situation is heading to the point where it is calling for a snap general election. Can I ask how you are viewing this posture and situation as a civilian Minister?

Minister:
I’m afraid that this oversteps my area of duty and jurisdiction, so I would like to refrain from commenting on domestic politics.

Question:
You went to the U.S. and had a ride in the Osprey. With regard to this, there have been some harsh criticisms coming from Okinawa and Iwakuni. How are you receiving the voices coming from the local communities in taking a ride at this point in time?

Minister:
I am aware that there have been criticisms from the local communities through media reports. The purpose of this ride was that I felt that when explaining the safety of the Osprey domestically, it was rather difficult to explain an aircraft that you have never flown in, so when I rode in this, I sat behind both the pilot and the co-pilot, and flew for about an hour while receiving an explanation on how the aircraft is being operated, so although I won’t go into the details of this aircraft, I managed to gain some understanding on how it is different from the systems used by other aircraft and how it is being operated. Therefore, if the second report on the accident investigation contains some technical references, I thought that this would help to make explanations in plain language so that it can be more easily understood. That is why I made the demonstration ride this time. I’m not too sure about whether the result was good or bad, but I thought that this would prove useful in fulfilling my duty in the future. So this time, we requested the U.S. side for this demonstration ride.

Question:
Regarding the “Japan-U.S. symposium” that you announced earlier today, can you tell us of the objective in holding a symposium with the Osprey as its theme and how the panelists have been selected?

Minister:
The objective of this symposium -- and there was a question from a person from NHK on this beforehand -- is that it is insufficient for the government to simply give an explanation to the people. This has been planned to allow for a debate from a broader viewpoint through the objective eyes of experts on their thinking for the deployment of the aircraft known as the Osprey, and how it should be considered, not only on the issue of the aircraft itself, but within the context of the Japan-U.S. alliance as a whole, and for everyone to hear this. Therefore -- through discussions with everyone -- we have selected people from both Japan and the U.S. that can discuss this issue as objectively as possible and fit the purpose and objective of this symposium; people who can discuss the Japan-U.S. alliance as broadly and objectively as possible, as well as people who can discuss the technical issues on the Osprey.

(End)

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