Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(02:09-02:22 P.M. August 16, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 02:09-02:22 P.M. August 16, 2012
Place: Multi-purpose area of helicopter destroyer "Hyuga" (Maritime SDF (MSDF) Yokosuka District)
(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:
Please give us your impression on having inspected the Yokosuka District.

Minister:
Since taking office, I had been unable to actualize going around the units in detail, but now I have been able to inspect the Air SDF, Ground SDF and now the MSDF today. I would like to continue to go around the units in seeing the faces of our members in person and to watch closely as the members conduct their duties in extremely severe situations, and to offer my encouragement to them. For today, I have seen the units under the command of the MSDF Self Defense Fleet Headquarters and the Headquarters Yokosuka District, and as you may know, the MSDF has its front-line unit that protects the safety of the seas of Japan here in Yokosuka. Having made contact with the members of the unit, they were highly motivated and the gleam in their eyes was totally different, and I have spent my half-day here with a feeling of immense spirit. As you may know, the scope of activities that are being undertaken by the MSDF has expanded, which includes not only their efforts in the Great (East Japan) Earthquake and "Operation Tomodachi" but in areas such as (counter-)piracy and minesweeping training in overseas. Therefore, having been able to see directly today the units that are conducting such difficult duties with limited vessels and personnel that are maintaining such high morale has been a very informative experience for me.

Question:
Moving onto a different topic, I think the analysis team for the Osprey headed by Parliamentary Vice-Minister Jinpu received briefing on (the accident in) Morocco from the U.S. side yesterday. Did you receive any reports on this from Washington, D.C.?

Minister:
As a matter of timing, I think I will be receiving a telegram around tonight when I will have returned. When I left the office, it was the afternoon of August 15 in Washington and they would have been receiving said briefing, so the telegram report for the whole process had not arrived in Tokyo yet. Having left my office in said situation, I have not yet seen or heard about the content of its report. However, I received a telephone call yesterday morning Japan time from Parliamentary Vice-Minister Jinpu when he was waiting in transit on his way to Washington, saying, "We will be going to Washington from now." That was probably around midday August 14, and the briefing was conducted from 13:00 on August 15 at the local time there, so it was just on the preceding day. I received a report by phone that "we had selected a member from our group to experience the actual training of the autorotation simulator at (Marine Corps Air Station) New River." I think he will be returning possibly tonight, and we are scheduled to meet tomorrow morning, so I have not yet received any reports directly or through a telegram. In any case, after they have received the briefing from the U.S. side, the team will be coming back to Tokyo on Friday, so we will be analyzing the content, and we hope to be able to give an explanation on this to everybody in the not-too-distant future.

Question:
It is assumed that the process will now move on to conducting an independent analysis by the Japanese government, after which it is going to be announced. How long do you think this will take?

Minister:
When I was watching the news on NHK today, I saw Mr. Jinpu mentioning that, "We can probably report this after about a week or around ten days" in the news that was shown at around 7 o'clock in the morning, local time. Since we have not seen the whole details of the report, we are not sure exactly how long it is going to take to analyze this, but I think this time span is within the range of what would be considered as sensible. I also think that there is a need to explain this within the aforementioned time frame, and I also feel that an analysis can be conducted within said time span.

Question:
Regarding the explanation of the safety of the Osprey given by the U.S. side, I think the local communities in Okinawa and such are going to be immensely interested in this. Are you going to do this personally?

Minister:
I think we will need to receive a briefing on the other accident in Florida and to put the two together, since it is going to be unreasonable to decide everything just on the findings for the accident in Morocco. As I have mentioned many times up to now, after we have received all the reports on the two accidents and have analyzed this, both Japan and the U.S. will make a confirmation on its flight safety, and on top of that, both Japan and the U.S. will be seeking to forge some kind of agreement to confirm and enforce flight safety through the bilateral security committee that will serve to explain its flight safety to everyone. I think that is going to be the process flow that we will be aiming for. Therefore, I feel that it would be premature to give the conclusion on this before the whole process has run its course.

Question:
In that case, you will be making the visit to Okinawa after the reports on the accident in Florida?

Minister:
If possible. Since we have now received the briefing for the accident in Morocco, as soon as the analysis results for this have been determined, I would like to go and explain this. I may end up doing the same thing twice, but I have no intention at this point to explain both at the same time. Of course, it's going to be a different matter if the next one is going to be done next Monday, but if it is going to take some time to come out and its analysis is going to require some additional time, then I would like to follow through the process with civility where I will go and explain this to Okinawa and Yamaguchi after receiving the first report, and then conduct the same process once again after that.

Question:
Parliamentary Vice-Minister Jinpu had mentioned to the press corps in Washington with regard to the content of the report document something to the effect that the pilot had conducted flight operation under limits, which seemed to imply the view that it was caused by "human error." Have you received this report yet?

Minister:
I may be repeating what I had said earlier, but I have not yet received the telegram. What I had heard about on the phone was on the kind of experience that they had in the autorotation simulator, which was given during the brief period during transit in the airport en route to Washington, so I have not talked with the Parliamentary Vice-Minister since receiving the briefing at Washington, nor have I read any telegrams on this.

Question:
The investigation results for the accident in Florida were supposed to be coming out in August. There is an impression that the overall plan is being pushed back a little.

Minister:
I have no idea. What I mean by that is we have until the end of August, so we still have two more weeks remaining. My impression is that the accident investigations by the (U.S.) Air Force are progressing, but as you may know, the U.S. does not announce its results right after the end of the accident investigations and it requires going through the proper procedures through the Department of Defense and various clearance procedures, so I feel that this is going to take some time. We are anticipating that this is going to be conducted by the end of August, so we still have two weeks to go by then. Therefore, we are hoping that the results of the second accident investigations will be notified to the Japan side by the end of August.

Question:
The analysis evaluation will be starting from tomorrow. Where do you think the main focus is going to be for this?

Minister:
In the end, it would all come down to where and what was the true cause of the accident, as well as whether the true cause of the accident lies with the failure in the system or mechanics of the aircraft, or it was human-induced -- such as the operations conducted by the pilot -- which I feel is going to be the core interest to us. This is going to act as an important lead in determining what needs to be done in order to prevent the occurrence of similar accidents and in confirming its flying safety, so that is where I think our main emphasis in our analysis is going to be.

Question:
It was mentioned in Washington that you will be going to Okinawa within this month. Can we assume that there is no change in your thinking on this?

Minister:
This is going to be a repeat of what I have already mentioned. Assuming that I will receive the first accident report directly by tomorrow, we will then expedite the analysis process, and if that is completed within this month, then I will make haste to go to both prefectures -- not only to Okinawa prefecture, but also Yamaguchi prefecture as well, which is just as important. Yamaguchi prefecture will also be completing its transition to a new Governor, so there will be a need to explain the situation to the incoming new Governor. I hope that both Governors will make some time available by the end of this month. Okinawa has its own specific events, so I would like to try and find time between these events. I will also need to keep an eye on the Diet schedule, since I will not be able to go if I cannot obtain permission from the Diet to do so. Therefore, how I will obtain permission and find the time to go will depend on how things are going to be coordinated in the near future.

Question:
I heard that you are planning to inspect the Kamiseya Communications Station (Naval Support Facility Kamiseya) and Fukaya Communication Site (Naval Transmitter Station Totsuka). What is the objective of visiting these two sites out of the many U.S. bases located in Kanagawa prefecture, and what would you like to see in particular?

Minister:
The two facilities in question have been the focus of discussions for the timeframe for its return between Japan and the U.S., so there is a need to see this first. I would like to see these two facilities with my own eyes and to reflect these in the future bilateral discussions. Actually, I have yet to see it since becoming a Minister. I used to live in its vicinity, so I have seen it from the outside, but I have never seen the most important facilities inside. Since this is a good chance, I'm going to go and see this on my way back, and then make my return.

(End)

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