Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(06:55-07:03 P.M., August 29, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 06:55-07:03 P.M., August 29, 2012
Place: Sixth floor elevator hall of the Okinawa prefectural government building
(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:
Having just finished your meeting with Governor Nakaima, although the wording was not very strong, he requested an actual guarantee of safety, which is quite a tough request to clear. Please tell us of your thoughts on this.

Minister:
The Governor had mentioned that he was concerned about the flight safety of the Osprey, and especially for the safety of the people in the prefecture. This message was stated slowly and clearly, and I have taken this as a very important message that we will take to heart when pressing on to find a solution to how to ensure flight safety in the consultations between Japan and the U.S. That is how I feel for now.

Question:
Having finished your explanation for today, do you feel at this point that there are no problems with the deployment of the Osprey? Also, I think there were some questions given out from the prefecture, but is there a possibility that an insufficient answer will be given to them, or that deployment will be carried out forcefully against the backdrop of major opposition to this?

Minister:
I’ve already explained this to the Governor, but I came here today to give an explanation of our analysis results for the cause of the accident in Morocco, and we are now going to be receiving an explanation for the cause of the accident in Florida. I have also explained to the Governor the procedures after that, but I don’t think we are at the stage yet to give a definite answer on how things will unfold after following said procedures.

Question:
This is for confirmation, but this accident was caused by pitching the nacelle at a deeper angle than was given in the instructions when at slow speed where computer controls did not function. Can’t we say that this is a structural issue that could easily incite human error?

Minister:
No, that is not so. I think you will understand if you actually read the report, but I think one of the complex causes of this accident was that the pilot had conducted an action or maneuver that was supposed to have been avoided in the basic manual -- where transitioning the angle of the nacelle more than 75 degrees from rotational wing to fixed wing mode is prohibited until the Osprey had reached a certain speed in flight.

Question:
The Okinawa Area Coordinator, which is the senior officer of the U.S. Forces in Japan, has announced the schedule where the Osprey will be brought into Okinawa by mid-September, and will be going into full operation by October. The chief executives of the municipalities have expressed their criticisms today that this is all just a show for an alibi. What is your perceived schedule for this?

Minister:
Concerning what you mentioned just now about the Okinawa Area Coordinator, I understand it is something related to the comment that was given in the interview by NHK on August 22. I can’t recall exactly how it was expressed in English then, and I couldn’t get it from NHK either, so I’m not too sure about this, but I think he mentioned that it will be deployed at around the middle of next month if the approval from the Government of Japan can be obtained -- and it was broadcasted on NHK as such. It was August when he mentioned that it was for the middle of next month, so this would mean in mid-September. I mentioned in the Diet that “there is a difference in perception” on this. What I mean by this difference in perception is on the definition of “deployment.” My personal perception of “deployment” does not mean the situation where only one or two aircraft are flying, but where the unit is fully equipped to operate to its full potential, and is able to use the Osprey to fulfill its missions as a unit. If that is what they mean by “deployment” then that will not happen by the middle of next month. It may not be of much use arguing about definitions here, but since I am not certain about what the Okinawa Area Coordinator has actually said then, and as far as what I understand from the Japanese version of said interview given by NHK, I have a different perception on this, and I don’t remember promising such a time limit to the U.S. side. I would like to say that it is going to be difficult to fix any specific schedules at this point when we will be going through the procedures from now.

Question:
Regarding the deployment that you mentioned earlier, does this mean that the discussions between the governments of Japan and the U.S. will focus on what kind of safety measures will be adopted based on the premise that it is going to be deployed?

Minister:
Both Japan and the U.S. are currently conducting consultations on what will be required to ensure flight safety when the U.S. is going to operate this aircraft, and it will certainly be implemented when flying begins -- for example -- in Iwakuni. What I had mentioned was on what kind of agreements can be forged with the U.S. through said bilateral consultations to confirm flight safety.

Question:
The Governor made a statement in effect that a guarantee from the Government of Japan is necessary. How did you receive this?

Minister:
I have received it word for word. This is something that cannot be decided by the Minister of Defense alone, so I will need to discuss this with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and consult with the Prime Minister on this. In any case, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) will not be tackling this issue alone.

(End)

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