Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(02:10-02:20 P.M., August 30, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 02:10-02:20 P.M., August 30, 2012
Place:Lobby, third floor of the Iwakuni city 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 gone around various municipalities over the last two days, can you give us your thoughts and your feelings on the overall visit? Then, I believe that the consultations with the U.S. on the aspect of actual operations are going to become important after this. In this respect, what kind of specific agreements would you like to make?

Minister:
This time, I have visited Yamaguchi and Okinawa with the objective of explaining to the Governors and the related local chief executives of the two prefectures the content of the analysis that we conducted for the investigation results for the accident in Morocco that occurred in April, and also to carefully explain how to handle and proceed with this issue in the future. In both Okinawa and Yamaguchi, the most important issue of concern was not the cause of the accident, but how flight safety can be ensured, and I have received requests from all of the local communities to obtain a firm guarantee for measures that will ensure total flight safety in view of the causes of the accident in order to ensure flight safety for everyone in the local communities. We will be taking to heart this extremely strong request, and would like to make use of it in our future efforts.

Question:
Do you have something in particular to mention on that?

Minister:
We still don’t know about the accident in Florida, so we would like to in the future consider measures on the causes of the two accidents and on how we can fix these causes. This is something we are thinking about for now.

Question:
The schedule for deployment in Okinawa is said to start from October. Are there no changes to this plan? That is my first question. Second, this was also mentioned to the Mayor several times beforehand, but could you give a more specific and straightforward explanation on the schedules and procedures, including those for the test flights?

Minister:
I explained this to the Mayor as well, but concerning this accident in Florida, we have dispatched a separate investigation team over yesterday and today, where we will be analyzing what we will be bringing back for this over about a week or so. My guess is that this process is going to take at least a week. When the conclusion is given, the next step is going to be to consider in total what kind of measures are going to be needed to confirm flight safety, which includes measures for solving the causes of said two accidents, and to finalize the details so it can be explained to everyone. This is going to be the first step of the process. I am not certain how long this is going to take. I would like to repeat that we still don’t know the cause of the accident in Florida, so I cannot foresee on my own how long this process is going to take. Then, there is the issue of setting up some kind of rules that the U.S. side is going to abide by to ensure flight safety when actually flying the Osprey over Japan, which is going to be consulted with the U.S. side through the bilateral securities committee. Or, I wouldn’t call it a rule, but to come to an agreement of some sort between Japan and the U.S. for the framework for various ways of flying. Since this is going to require the consent of a counterpart, I can’t really foresee the date or the timing in which an agreement can be reached. Furthermore, I would like to add that the joint committee is something that we are asking to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense has no jurisdiction over this. I think that only after said two processes and procedures have been completed and Japan having made its decision for confirming flight safety will the Osprey stationed in Iwakuni be allowed to start flying. The U.S. has its own requirements on how much flight is going to be conducted, so on issues such as what kind of checks are going to be conducted or how much flight time is going to be required for this system or on the airframe that has been grounded for almost two months, this is not something that Japan can decide. Rather, I think it is for the U.S. to decide the flight time and duration based on its own requests and requirements. After that, as I have discussed this with the Mayor briefly beforehand, the Japan side will request to conduct a test ride. With regard to how long this whole process is going to take, I would like to repeat that I have no idea on this since it is not something that I can decide. After all of the procedures have been completed, it will fly from Iwakuni to Okinawa. Having said that, they will not all fly off at once, but will be flying in small numbers at a time. After this move, they will be conducting flights for a certain period to gain familiarity with the new environment and Air Station, as well as checking the system for maintenance before the unit is able to utilize the Osprey to conduct their new missions. That is when I perceive to be the timing of deployment, but on when that is going to be -- as I have been mentioning in quite a lot of detail -- is that it will be done when all the procedures have been executed. Therefore, I don’t think anybody knows for now what date that is going to be. Japan has no specific ideas on this, and neither does the U.S. as far as I understand. Since the U.S. can’t conduct any flights unless Japan gives the conclusive go-ahead, I feel that the U.S. is unable to make estimation on this. That is all on the procedures. We have no forecast for now on when we will be arrive at that step.

Question:
Please excuse me for asking this, but I would like to confirm this again. If the procedures you mentioned are going to be followed, then do you think that it is going to be difficult to effect the deployment to Okinawa in October -- putting aside the issue of final deployment -- which is said to be pretty much fixed and immovable? Also, can you guarantee that test flights at Iwakuni will not be conducted until an agreement has been made between Japan and the U.S., although you mentioned two kinds of test flights in Iwakuni, which we are unable to understand what this exactly means. Can we assume that these are correct?

Minister:
The second point is correct. It has been agreed between Japan and the U.S. from before that the U.S. cannot conduct flight operations until the Japan side confirms the flight safety and gives the decision to allow it to go airborne. If you read the document, you can see that this is explicitly stated there. I feel that the U.S. side will abide by this agreement. Therefore, the procedures that the U.S. side is envisioning will not proceed unless an agreement has been made between Japan and the U.S., so there is no change in the fact that flight will not commence unless the procedures have been completed.

Question:
So the October deadline is not something that is going to be insisted on?

Minister:
As I mentioned beforehand and explained in careful detail up until now, the month and date will be the occasion when all of the procedures have been followed in succession. This isn’t going to be pushed forward forever, but we have no intention of taking up U.S. plans at face value, either. Both sides need to discuss this with good faith, and the Japan side will give the go-ahead for flight to the U.S only after it has been able to give a proper explanation to the Japanese people that flight safety has been confirmed, and that is when the procedures are going to start in earnest.

(End)

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