Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(11:32-11:45 A.M. June 2, 2013)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 11:32-11:45 A.M. June 2, 2013
Place: Shangri-La Hotel (Press Conference Room)
(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
First, I will report about the conference held with French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian. In view that French President Francois Hollande will visit Japan this week to participate in the Summit Conference, we discussed a range of current issues concerning Japan and France. In particular, the Japanese side brought up and conveyed two issues of concern to the French side: an issue involving export of weapons and export of Mistral-class ships to Russia from France, and an issue of exporting deck-landing technologies and devices for helicopters to China. After that, we carried out discussion on the security environment, and in particular, concerning the issue of North Korea, both sides reached an agreement that the sanctions exerted by the international community ought to be tightened.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
Regarding the concerns associated with export of weapons to Russia and China by France, how exactly did you address them?

Minister:
For example, with regard to the export of Mistral-class ships, which are amphibious assault ships, to Russia, I expressed Japan's concern that such action may upset military balance in the Far East, as we had been informed that these ships are expected to be deployed in this region. And with reference to the deck-landing arresting gears for helicopters, these are extremely effective devices facilitating helicopters to land on a ship even in rough or inclement weather. If they are exported to the Chinese side and are installed on Chinese marine surveillance ships and vessels, the sense of tension presently existing in the East China Sea may even worsen. We conveyed such concerns to the French side.

Question:
In response to these concerns Japan expressed, what were the answers given from the French side?

Minister:
At first, despite conveying our concerns regarding these two issues, the French side explained to the effect that these products exported are not considered to be weapons in a direct sense, but are transport vessels and supplementary devices for helicopters so to speak based on their classification. So I repeated Japan's concerns that these landing ships are assumed to be deployed in the Far East where these ships may pose a threat to various countries in the region. In addition, regarding the export of the helicopter deck-landing devices in particular, I conveyed once more Japan's concern in the case that these devices are installed on Chinese marine based on the fact that Chinese aircraft have been carrying out incursions into Japan's airspace recently, and that Japan and China are currently in tense relations due to the situation in the East China Sea.

Question:
Do you assess that Japan succeeded in gaining the understanding of the French side?

Minister:
Since we just conveyed Japan's concerns this time, I expect to see responses from the French Government to those concerns at a later time. I would just like to add that other than these concerns which we brought up, the conference was overall carried out in a friendly fashion. With regard to President Hollande's visit to Japan this time, not only the Japanese side but also the French side is viewing this upcoming conference with very high expectations as it may facilitate the development of renewed bilateral relations.

Question:
There is an indication that France is interested in joint development of defense equipment with Japan. Was this topic brought up in today's meeting?

Minister:
The French side raised the subject of joint development having acute interests in Japan's technological strength. We told the French side, "Since we presume that this topic is included in the agenda of the discussion during the Summit, we are currently carrying out working-level preparations in order to set a stage for the Summit talks."

Question:
It sounds like the positive proposition was raised again by the other party today, correct?

Minister:
If anything, it was the French side who proactively made a proposition on defense cooperation including joint development of defense equipment. Today's conference itself was put into practice due to a request from the French side.

Question:
Then, do you expect that terms of agreement concerning defense equipment will be decided during the Summit Conference between President Hollande and Prime Minister Abe?

Minister:
It is still too early for us to know whether terms of agreement will be decided in a specific form this time, but, in any case, I expect that opinions on such matter will be exchanged by both leaders, and that there is no discrepancy in the basic ideas between them.

Question:
You made a speech on collective security and the right of collective self-defense this time again, but have you communicated with the French side regarding the current circumstances Japan is associated with? How about at the conference with the French Defense Minister at this time?

Minister:
During the lunch meeting yesterday, which was held behind closed doors, a range of subjects were discussed with other participants including the French Defense Minister. Amid the discussion, since I was asked questions about the issues associated with the right of collective self-defense and the Japanese Constitution, I answered, "Debate on constitutional amendment is in fact currently underway. Regarding this matter, as Prime Minister Abe has also been claiming, a nationwide discussion is vital. Since going through such a step takes time, constitutional amendment is not expected to occur in the immediate future based on my impression." And another point we discussed was that when asked about Article 9 of the Constitution, I answered, "We consider that the pacifist constitution of Article 9 is of utmost importance. It is just that Item 2 in the Article states that Japan will never maintain military forces." Then I, as the Minister of Defense, explained, "I don't think anyone would likely understand why Japan's Self-Defense Forces cannot be in fact called military forces. Thus, regarding such contents that give people a sense of incongruity, some citizens argue that we need our own defense capabilities in order to protect ourselves." Anyway, these are discussions that took place during the lunch meeting.

Question:
In relation to Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, the Nago Fisheries Cooperative Association expressed its stance that if the Liberal Democratic Party does not make a public commitment to relocate the military facility to Henoko during the House of Councillors election, it will consider withdrawal of the document of approval which the Ministry of Defense has submitted. What are your thoughts on that?

Minister:
I have not received a report that the Nago Fisheries Cooperative Association officially made such a claim.

Question:
Looking back on your visit to Singapore this time, I thought that your comments on the perceptions of history during your speech yesterday were well received by and made good impressions on many countries. In view of that, could you tell us what sorts of remarks and reactions toward you you perceived while talking with the representatives of other countries during such occasions as lunch and dinner meetings?

Minister:
During the dinner meeting hosted by the President yesterday, I was seated next to the President at the main table, and over a dozen of people, who are representatives of various countries, came up to me to congratulate me on my speech the previous day and shook my hand before leaving. I took this as a sign of favorable acceptance of the stance set forth by Japan and the Abe Administration, which aims at creating a strong Japan, not through military means, but through economic means that will have a positive impact on Asian countries. On every occasion, not only the dinner meeting hosted by the President and the preceding lunch meeting but other various occasions, many people offered me kind and welcoming remarks about the speech. I have been pleasantly surprised by the totally unexpected positive reactions I received.

Question:
Related to that, did the Republic of Korea (ROK) make any comments on your speech?

Minister:
There were no direct remarks on the perceptions of history in particular. It is just that when the representatives from each country gave closing remarks at the Japan-U.S.-ROK trilateral conference, ROK National Defense Minister Kim stated, "Regarding Japan-ROK relations, we had more frequent talks with each other and we gained better understanding of each other at this time than when holding bilateral conferences. While there are various issues to be overcome between the two nations, we believe that the main matter of importance is to take an approach to develop a relation based on trust little by little through occasions such as this. I suppose that such approach eventually led to the Japan-U.S.-ROK agreement which was announced yesterday.

(End)

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