Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(10:23-10:34 A.M. June 7, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 10:23-10:34 A.M. June 7, 2013
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)
(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:
The Japan-U.S. joint exercise Dawn Blitz will be carried out starting on the 10th. Since the MOD has laid out its policy to place high priority on the defense of the southwestern region, I expect that this exercise will be a full-scale joint exercise for the defense of offshore islands. What do you think is the significance of this exercise? And what sort of accomplishments do you hope to attain from this?

Minister:
Currently, about 1,000 Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel are preparing for the Dawn Blitz exercise which starts on the 10th. One significant merit of this joint exercise starting on the 10th is that this is the first such field exercise to be carried out overseas as a Japan-U.S. joint exercise in which units from the Ground, Maritime, and Air SDF join together. The objectives of this exercise are to improve the SDF's joint operations capabilities under an environment which is close to actual warfare and to improve the response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. joint forces.

Question:
During the Summit Conference with France which will be held today, there is supposed to be a joint statement which includes a deliberation on the joint development of defense equipment. What do you think is the significance of holding such a deliberation with France, after holding similar deliberations with the U.S. and the U.K.?

Minister:
Since the Summit has not yet been held, I will refrain from answering which agenda would be selected as a bill in the end. In any case, I think it is very important for Japan to further develop the respective country-to-country defense cooperation: the Japan-U.K. cooperation and the subsequent Japan-France cooperation.

Question:
Concerning the application for land reclamation which the Government has submitted to Okinawa Prefecture, after the reception of the partial revision by the prefecture, the following step involving public notice and public inspection is expected to start as early as toward the end of this month. How do you feel about the current status of progress in this regard?

Minister:
Regarding the application for land reclamation, after a range of administrative work, including public notice and public inspection, is completed, I presume that the final decision will be made by Okinawa Prefecture. In any case, we are hoping that these steps will be handled smoothly.

Question:
Going back to the Dawn Blitz exercise which was brought up earlier, China is showing great concern about this exercise because it will take place on off-shore islands and all of the Ground, Maritime and Air SDF will participate in the exercise. Since this is an exercise designed to be carried out on offshore islands, does this have any association with the Diaoyu Islands, or what Japanese people call the Senkaku Islands?

Minister:
This is an exercise without assuming any specific country or location as a target. In any case, since this is the first joint operation to be conducted overseas, it is just that all the Ground, Maritime and Air SDF are required to operate in a coordinated manner. In addition, since Japan and the U.S. are allied countries, it is vital to carry out bilateral joint exercises. I hope I made it clear that this exercise has been planned to meet these requirements that are unrelated to said concerns.

Question:
Could you make confirmation about whether there was opposition or a request to cancel the exercise from China?

Minister:
We will refrain from answering that question about whether or not such events took place.

Question:
North Korea and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have agreed to hold a dialogue. In view of this development, do you intend to make any changes in warning and surveillance activities and the deployment of the PAC-3 which are currently being carried out by the Japanese side?

Minister:
I consider the dialogue expected to be held between North Korea and the ROK to be a significant development. Related to this, during the Shangri-La Dialogue held the other day, the Japan-U.S.-ROK trilateral defense ministerial conference was held for the first time and we issued a trilateral joint statement. Also, China has been frequently approaching North Korea when opportunities arise. Our understanding is that these various pressures applied by the international community have played a role to a certain extent in encouraging North Korea to accept dialogues. Concerning North Korea, issues of top priority are causing it to abandon its plan for developing nuclear weapons and missiles from the perspective of the international community, and the abduction issue for Japan. It is extremely important to aim at resolving these issues. Regarding the question of Japan's response measures against missiles, we will continue to take all necessary measures.

Question:
I believe that a bill to establish the NSC was adopted upon a cabinet decision today. What is your evaluation on this bill associated with national security?

Minister:
In view of national security, I think it is indispensable to engage in continuous warning and surveillance activities particularly through gathering and analysis of various kinds of information related to the security environment, on a regular basis, led by four ministers including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Defense. In addition, since there is also a framework in which relevant Cabinet members assemble in response to a specific situation on each occurrence, my expectation is that this function will play a vital role in a variety of situations including national security and disaster prevention.

Question:
My question is related to the issue concerning the Ospreys at Yao Airport which was reported yesterday. Did you receive any instructions from the Prime Minister's Office to conduct deliberation on the use of Yao Airport as a training site? Is that your understanding?

Minister:
Yesterday, I happened to go to the Prime Minister's Office to report some particulars to the Prime Minister. After reporting them, the Prime Minister gave me various instructions. Toward the end of the meeting, as I recall, the Prime Minister told me that Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and Governor of Osaka Prefecture Matsui visited him earlier yesterday. After my meeting with the Prime Minister, the Chief Cabinet Secretary stated in the press conference to the effect that he intended to conduct deliberation on the relocation of a training site and the flight training which was brought up this time. When we tried to confirm if we understood the statement by the Secretary, we were instructed to confirm the facts about the relocation of a training site and the flight training at the administrative level, or so I was reported. In any case, this is a rather unexpected development, and I speculate that the Chief Cabinet Secretary himself probably has not yet gained sufficient information to assess

Question:
In reality, I presume that there is a range of opinions over this issue in the local community that includes the disapproval expressed by the Yao Mayor. What are your current thoughts on a deadline for drawing conclusions about the practicability, advisability, and usability with respect to Yao Airport to host the Ospreys?

Minister:
Please keep in mind that this issue was raised just yesterday. Yao Airport is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and we as the SDF use part of the facility. Regarding where the flight training will be carried out in the future, I presume that basically the U.S. side will conduct deliberations while continuing to operate the Ospreys. My view is that a comprehensive approach based on assessments and deliberations is necessary to make that decision. Anyway, since we are aware of various opinions being expressed by the local community through press reports, we think it is necessary to spend some time to acquire better understanding of the real response and the situation of the local community.

Question:
Regarding the relocation of a training site, which I asked you on this past Tuesday, too, the people of Okinawa, nearly nine years after the agreement was reached, are still waiting to find out when the relocation of a training site will be put into practice. Due to the continuing uncertainty, their level of anxiety has been on the rise. Based on your knowledge, do you think the current schedule may be speeded up because of the event that took place yesterday? And approximately when do you think the relocation of a training site may be carried out?

Minister:
Because this is an issue linked to the operations of the U.S. side, we have requested the U.S. side to notify us about their decision on the relocation of a training site as soon as it is made, since we also must do our part, in order to realize the relocation.

(End)

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