Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(09:31-09:50 A.M. August 10, 2012)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 09:31-09:50 A.M. August 10, 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

I would like to start by making two announcements. Firstly, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Jinpu will be going to the U.S. from next Monday, August 13. He will first go from Jacksonville to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) facility to experience the autorotation simulator for the Osprey, and on the next day, August 14 (Tue), the U.S. side has notified that they would like to change the plan so as to receive a briefing on the report for the USMC accident investigation report for Morocco in Washington, D.C. Therefore, unless there is no major change to this, we are planning to dispatch our analysis team with Parliamentary Vice-Minister Jinpu as its leader. This is the first point. Secondly, you may have already seen them on television where it is being shown every day, but there are 13 members from the SDF that are participating as athletes in the London Olympics, of which GSDF Captain Obara won the gold medal in women’s 48kg freestyle wrestling. This is the first time that a female SDF personnel has won a medal, and it is also the first time in 28 years that an SDF member has won a gold medal. The performance she showed prompted me to ask to arrange for an occasion to talk to her directly on the phone yesterday evening, which would be in the morning London time. Her voice was full of vigor, and said that she was overjoyed that her parents, younger sister and brother, and her supporters in her home area had all rushed to support her. But at that time, she was still in the Olympic village and had not been able to meet with her supporters and family, so yesterday night Japan time -- or midday over in London -- she ventured outside the Olympic village for the first time to support the other wrestling team members from Japan, and I think that was when she met them and shared her joy with everyone. From yesterday, she has been going around to support the other team members, and is planning to participate in the tournament until the closing ceremony, after which she will be coming back to Japan. Other than that, as you may know, the men’s bantamweight boxing semi-finals with Satoshi Shimizu are scheduled to be conducted tonight in Japan time, since there is an eight-hour time difference. The color of the medal has not been determined yet, but a medal has already been secured, so we are looking forward to what color it is going to be, and I am wishing my best for Mr. Shimizu. Those are the two things I wanted to say in advance and now I will be taking questions from you all.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
According to press reports, it says that you will be visiting Okinawa next week to obtain understanding on the deployment of the Osprey. So, when is the explanation to both Okinawa and Yamaguchi prefecture actually going to be conducted? That is my first question. Then, what kind of content do you intend to discuss on said occasion?

Minister:
I became aware of the existence of the press reports only yesterday. No set schedule has been decided yet. Especially in the case of Yamaguchi prefecture, as you may know, the new Governor is going to assume office, so I would like to wait for the new Governor to assume office and then fix my schedule. Nothing has been decided with regard to schedules for now.

Question:
What do you intend to discuss when you make the visit?

Minister:
It depends on the timing of the occasion, but since I have had a series of conferences with Secretary of Defense Panetta in Washington, D.C., I will make references on its content. At the same time, we will be taking home the results of the investigation results for the Osprey through the team that we will be dispatching next week, which will then be analyzed. What we are going to be able to say on the result of said analysis pretty much depends on the timing of the actual visit, so I really have no idea on this.

Question:
Regarding the Osprey, you mentioned that an analysis team headed by Parliamentary Vice-Minister Jinpu will be receiving the initial reports and briefings next week. So are arrangements being made in that this information is going to be analyzed before being announced? Or will it become a two-step process where the U.S. gives an announcement separately, and the Japan side will announce what they have analyzed at a later date?

Minister:
I’m not sure about the details of the investigation report by the USMC, but as far as my understanding goes, it is unusual for the full text of the investigation report to be made public. Therefore, it is going to be necessary for the Japan side to confirm the details of what it is going to announce, especially on its conclusion. This is going to be an extremely important process since most people would find it difficult to understand if we were to just give out the original text in English that we will be bringing back. Thus, we will translate this to plain Japanese as well as making the technical terms more understandable, and announce the details of the accident investigation report as accurately as possible. In the meantime, we will be conducting our own analysis of the accident investigation, and will be drawing up an announcement document based on this. This process may take some time. It’s difficult to predict how much time it is going to take on our side from when we bring this back home, and we will try to do this as quickly as possible. However, we have no intention to simply pass on what we have received from the U.S., so I think the process will be that we will first conduct our own analysis, then put this together in Japanese in a format where we will be able to explain to everyone and then give an explanation to everyone.

Minister:
Concerning the issue of Takeshima, this may not concern the MOD directly, but there are reports that (ROK) President Lee Myung-bak will be departing from the presidential office soon. What kind of countermeasures does the MOD have in case he makes a landing on Takeshima? Will this include surveillance alert and ordinary information gathering?

Question:
I am aware that there are such press reports, and we are currently working on gathering information to verify this as a fact. If this turns out to be as was given in the press reports, I would like to coordinate things with the related Ministries to decide on our responses in the future.

Minister:
The U.S. Forces announced the accident rate of the Osprey. Up until now, both Japan and the U.S. have announced the accident rates for “Class A” only. However, when we see those for “Class B” and “Class C,” the data show that there is a higher rate of occurrence than the average accident rate of the USMC. Can you comment on your opinion on this?

Question:
To be honest, our understanding was that this accident rate that was announced was based on the ratio of the occurrence of “Class A” accidents per 100,000 flight hours. We were aware that there were classifications such as “Class B” and “Class C,” but we did not expect the number of cases for this to be notified to the media in such a way through the internet or mail. We have yet to receive this, and therefore the government has yet to receive this as well. Having seen the press reports, I am thinking of issuing an inquiry to the U.S. side on why the USMC decided to divulge such information to the media. Frankly, we have never officially received or been given an explanation on this from the U.S. Department of Defense, so we are pretty much seeing things based on what has been given in the press reports, and there isn’t really anything we can comment on for now.

Minister:
The anniversary of the end of World War II on August 15 (Wed.) is approaching. How do you feel about the Prime Minister paying a visit to the Yasukuni (Shrine)? Do you have any intention of making a visit?

Question:
No, I have no such intentions for now.

Minister:
Going back to the issue on Takeshima, how do you personally feel about the actions of the President of ROK going to Takeshima at this time?

Question:
This is something that is outside the sphere of the defense policy of Japan, so I would like to refrain from giving personal comments on this. The MOD/SDF isn’t going to act on some immediate response for this matter, so I would also like to refrain from making particular comments on such things as well. Judging from the perspective of a normal Japanese person, I personally had the same impression as others have had in that this was probably done for reasons of domestic politics in the ROK. However, that would be something that the ROK had decided under their own domestic political situation.

Minister:
As you mentioned at the beginning, Captain Obara won the gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling. However, she had already been awarded the 1st Defensive meritorious badge during the time of Defense Minister Hamada. Are you planning or considering on presenting some kind of award, or to present her with a Minister’s Award?

Minister:
Not all the matches have finished yet, and some of the thirteen SDF personnel have yet to come up with a final result, so I would like to wait until all the results have come out to look up in earnest what kind of awards have been awarded previously to the SDF personnel who have participated in the Olympics, and then implement appropriate measures. However, as I also mentioned beforehand, an SDF member winning a gold medal is a feat that had not been achieved for 28 years since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and is the first female SDF personnel to win a medal, so we would like to highly evaluate this fact in making an appropriate response.

Question:
With regard to Takeshima, I would be grateful for the opinion of an expert in security. It seems that there is some degree of nationalism at work concerning the territorial rights of the island, the effects of which can also be seen in the Northern Territories, and in the purchase of the Senkaku (Islands) by Japan. Do you have any particular concerns on the current state of affairs?

Minister
You mentioned “the island” in a rather casual manner. However, for our country, the Northern Territories and Takeshima are territorial issues that need to be settled diplomatically and we have continued negotiations on this from the past. With regard to the Senkaku, our government has repeatedly mentioned that there is absolutely no question about the fact that this has legally and historically been part of Japan, and no territorial issue exists between Japan and China. Thus, our country does not consider the Senkaku Islands as a territorial issue. Therefore, you made a comparison of the three islands in your comment, but I don’t think they all share the same status. Generally speaking, as long as our country claims territorial rights, I feel it is obvious that the government should make efforts in taking necessary legal actions to protect and strengthen its effective control over its territories.

Question:
Is it possible to see this from the standpoint that the diplomatic methods employed in the purchase of the Senkaku had unnerved the surrounding nations, and is fuelling the public sentiment within the ROK?

Minister:
I have no jurisdiction over this issue, so there is little I can do apart from giving a straight answer to any question that is being asked. You mentioned just now in your question that the purchase itself a diplomatic issue, which I find difficult to agree with. My understanding is that how we should proceed with the process after purchasing (the Senkaku) is an internal domestic issue for Japan, and this is not a diplomatic issue.

Question:
You mentioned in your previous opinion concerning Takeshima that it was “done for reasons of domestic politics.” This implies that you view the president’s actions as being conducted under said demands. In view of this, how do you feel about this whole issue?

Minister:
All countries have their respective domestic politics, as Japan also has its own domestic politics. I don’t think it is appropriate for outsiders to comment on the domestic politics of other countries.

(End)

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