Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(10:11-10:20 A.M., August 30, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 10:11-10:20 A.M., August 30, 2012
Place: Lobby in front of reception room, third floor of the Yamaguchi 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:
Today, you had your first meeting with Governor Yamamoto. Can you give us your candid thoughts on this? Also, during the meeting you mentioned your actual test ride experience, where you used the term “us” in doing so. What kind of people were you thinking of as being the target of this test ride? Please kindly answer these two questions.

Minister:
First, I was able to meet with the Governor of Yamaguchi prefecture today for the first time since being elected. Although he was taking a short time off for rest, he took the trouble to make his way to the office to provide time for us, and I would like to offer my deep gratitude for this. I would also like to offer my gratitude for allowing the Osprey to be unloaded here at Iwakuni, in spite of the concerns and reservations held by everyone, which has truly been of great help for us. The U.S. side has kept its side of the agreement that was agreed between Japan and the U.S. -- where no flight will take place until the causes of the two accidents have been clarified, safety has been confirmed and a formal agreement between Japan and the U.S. has been made -- and has been checking its systems on the ground for the last two months or so. However, the Governor mentioned today that, “We cannot say to the people in the prefecture that it is safe just by finding the causes of said accidents, but until we have a condition where the flight safety of the Osprey in general has been ensured.” I have seriously taken to heart these words to take back on our return. Regarding the test ride, we have been discussing this with the U.S. side, and are planning to conduct a test ride session on several occasions if we can receive permission from the U.S. side. Regarding the target for this test ride, it will be offered to those who volunteer for the ride, so we have no intention of forcing anyone to ride against their will. However, we would like to think about who would be most appropriate to take the ride to convince the people of not only Yamaguchi and Okinawa prefectures, but the whole of Japan on the safety of the Osprey. No specific names have been decided as yet. Most of the people from the media that accompanied me on my visit to Washington, D.C., also took a ride in it, and we are currently working out an overall plan to relay with the U.S. to conduct a similar flight experience event in several installments to those who request this.

Question:
Do you envision having Prime Minister Noda as a target to endorse this?

Minister:
Firstly, I am not thinking of any particular names. If possible, I am thinking of having people such as politicians and various opinion leaders, experts, people from the media, as well as people with some expert knowledge on flight safety and such. I am thinking of seeking opinions on this from everyone in the future.

Question:
When you mentioned politicians, does that include the chief executives of the local communities?

Minister:
If there are requests from the local chief executives, we have absolutely no intention of excluding them.

Question:
Is this test ride going to be conducted at Iwakuni Air Base?

Minister:
It may be conducted at Okinawa as well. Then again, what we are thinking of at the moment is how to allow for a wide range of people to understand that this system in general can fly in safety when flight begins in earnest here, so I have no intention at this point of going to Okinawa and conducting this in the area around Futenma. I am only talking about things during the period from deploying this first in Iwakuni and then moving on to Okinawa in mind.

Question:
Will that take place after the test flight has been conducted?

Minister:
It is after all test flights have been conducted.

Question:
What would be your target in terms of timing for commencing the test flight at Iwakuni, and how long do you think this test flight period is going to be?

Minister:
I think I mentioned this earlier to the Governor, but what we are going to be doing from now can be divided generally into the following procedures: To analyze the investigation results for the accident in Morocco and give an explanation on this. Then, work on how safety can be confirmed in light of the two accidents. These are going to be the major groupings. Then, we will be running the bilateral security committee to come to some kind of an agreement between Japan and the U.S. It is difficult to foresee the timeframe required for working out these two major processes and coming to a conclusion, since it all depends on the outcome of the negotiations. I don’t think the Minister of Defense is going to be able to confirm on its own the flight safety for Japan after all the procedures have been conducted, so it is going to be obvious that flights at Iwakuni will begin only after the government has made a decision. Therefore, what month and date that is going to be has yet to be decided within the government, as I had mentioned beforehand. We have not yet discussed this with the U.S. side, either.

Question:
Regarding the two agreements, does this also include the recurrence prevention measures that the prefecture is requesting most strongly?

Minister:
That is correct.

Question:
Are the test flights really going to be conducted with only the government’s decision?

Minister:
There are going to be various elements included in the government’s decision. In order to devise a method to confirm flight safety, we would probably need to make another visit or two here after taking into account the results of the accident in Florida, and to ask for the opinion of the prefectural Governor on the following procedures, and we will also be asking in Okinawa as well, and, if possible, to ask the opinions of the Governors’ at the National Governors' Association and of various people on how we are going to make a confirmation on flight safety. I’m sorry about repeating things over again, but until we have completed the two major processes of work -- on the major groupings and for the agreements that both Japan and the U.S. will ultimately agree on -- we will not give the permission to the U.S. and I cannot envision its expected timeframe, either.

Question:
Can we take this to mean that test flights will not be conducted as long as the understanding of the local communities is not obtained?

Minister:
As I mentioned at the beginning, we would like to listen adequately to the opinions of the local communities before moving on with the procedures to confirm flight safety.

Question:
If it requires a test flight to be conducted at Iwakuni before going to Futenma in order to confirm the safety of flight and its airframe, does this mean that by the time it will be going to Futenma, it will have flown over not only the territorial seas within Japan, but also over the national land of Japan, including the residential areas?

Minister:
I’m not quite sure what you mean by “flying over the national land of Japan.” It will be going out from the coasts here, and will be flying over the sea all the way to Okinawa. Thus, although I am a little vague on what you mean by “national land,” a flight route is something that has been determined beforehand, so I think there will be a flight route that will allow it to fly to Okinawa without flying over any land.

Question:
So, it will be flying on a sea route?

Minister:
Yes.

(End)

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