Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(09:38-09:45 A.M. June 11, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 09:38-09:45 A.M. June 11, 2013
Place: Entrance to the Prime Minister's Office
(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
Tomorrow, I will visit Nyuzen-machi in Toyama Prefecture to host a "hometown roundtable talk," an initiative being carried out by the Abe Administration. Toyama is the prefecture with the least number of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel in the nation. We chose Nyuzen-machi because it is probably the community most unconnected to the SDF since I heard it is the farthest community from the JGSDF Camp Toyama.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
At the U.S.-China Summit Conference, U.S. President Obama expressed his stance regarding the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands that he requests the two nations to hold talks. What are your thoughts on that?

Minister:
First, regarding this region and the sea areas surrounding the Senkaku Islands, the stance of the U.S. side is that Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is applicable to this region and that Japan effectively holds control over the region, as was expressed in the conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel in April and at the Shangri-La Dialogue the other day. And I believe Japan and the U.S. have a common understanding that a shift of power over the region must be exercised not by means of forces but through rule of law. Assuming that the U.S. side held talks with China this time with aforementioned stance in mind, our understanding is that the talk was about the encouragement of developing the maritime communication mechanism as soon as possible, as has been requested to the Chinese side from us.

Question:
This is the same question I asked you last week. The Japan-U.S. joint field exercise has begun on the 10th, American time. Do you think this exercise will lead to the improvement of Japan's defense capabilities?

Minister:
For the SDF, this will be the first exercise jointly conducted by the Ground, Maritime, and Air SDF. On top of that, since this exercise will be carried out jointly with the U.S. side, in that sense, I expect that it will greatly contribute to the improvement of Japan's defense capabilities. During the course of the exercise, trainings planned to be carried out include, for example, such training in which the Ospreys of the U.S. side will make a landing on an SDF helicopter-carrying destroyer. I anticipate that cooperation between Japan and the U.S. as well as the SDF's technical capabilities will increasingly receive positive opinions.

Question:
Toward evening today, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is supposed to submit a proposal on the new version of the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) to the Prime Minister's Office. In the proposal, the Party is requesting the early settlement of the argument concerning the possession of capabilities to attack enemies' strategic bases and military bases. What are your thoughts on that?

Minister:
Regarding the capabilities to attack enemies' strategic bases, my understanding is that there is no more legal concern to be cleared for Japan to possess such capabilities. At the same time, we are well aware that various debates must be held on this issue. In any case, in consideration of such suggestions that are expected to be brought up by the ruling party side, we would like to thoroughly prepare for upcoming debates concerning the NDPG.

Question:
You explained earlier that during the Dawn Blitz exercise, landing training will be conducted for the first time in which the Osprey will make a landing on the Maritime SDF's destroyer. What do you think is the significance of this training?

Minister:
This training is applicable to various operations, and it may be useful in the future activities, especially in rescue and humanitarian assistance operations, for example. I think such different perspectives are also important.

Question:
Establishment of an amphibious task unit which has a function equivalent to that of the U.S. Marines is included in the LDP's proposal. I suppose that training carried out by such a unit is one of the major objectives of the Dawn Blitz. What are your thoughts regarding the necessity of such a unit?

Minister:
We already have a unit possessing a function equivalent to that of the U.S. Marines, called GSDF Western Army Infantry Regiment. However, since it is vital to cooperatively work especially with the U.S. side to improve its capabilities, this exercise is part of such effort.

Question:
I would like to ask about the NDPG. I suppose that the interim report will be submitted to you from the "Committee to Consider the Modality of National Defense" set up in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) as early as the end of this month. Is it reasonable to assume that the interim report will be externally released when it is turned in to you?

Minister:
Regarding whether to externally release or not, deliberation is still underway in the relevant department of the MOD.

Question:
So is there a chance that the interim report may not be released at all, or that it may not be released immediately?

Minister:
In any case, the function of the Committee to Consider the Modality of National Defense is to deliberate on all conceivable situations and solutions which will later facilitate the formulation of the NDPG and the Mid-Term Defense Program. Ultimately, we are aiming to release the NDPG by the end of this year.

Question:
Then, should I not assume that the interim report is something to be prepared on condition that it must be publicized upon completion?

Minister:
So far, we have not yet decided our policy on that.

Question:
Regarding the Dawn Blitz, you mentioned that the Ospreys will be used in the exercise. Is there a particular reason to use the Ospreys? For example, since safety concerns still appear to be an issue in Okinawa, is there an intention to demonstrate the safety of the aircraft? Despite the persisting safety issue, why will the Ospreys, rather than other transport aircraft available, be used? Also, will the use of the Ospreys this time lead to deliberation on the introduction of the aircraft for the use by the SDF in the future?

Minister:
We had no such specific intentions in mind as were just asked. It is just that while we were considering how different SDF units can operate together in cooperation, the U.S. side offered to us to carry out a joint exercise like this one, or so I was informed.

Question:
With regard to the case related to Yao Airport and the Ospreys, the Yao Mayor met with Governor Matsui on the 7th and formally expressed his stance to oppose the idea that was raised earlier. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Minister:
Whatever the outcome of this case might be, we must continue deliberations on the flight training and the relocation of a training site in relation to the Ospreys to alleviate the burden of Okinawa. As part of such effort, we intend to welcome any positive suggestions that may arise from any part of the country. However, we are not currently holding deliberations with any particular locations in mind.

Question:
Do you think there are any merits of using Yao Airport for the U.S. Forces?

Minister:
I have not yet been notified that we have sufficiently furthered deliberation to consider such particulars.

Question:
According to the announcement of the U.S. Department of Defense, an executive officer of the U.S. Army, Japan, was transferred to a new post for inappropriately handling a case of sexual violence against a woman. Have the details of this case, for instance, if any Japanese persons were victimized, been conveyed to the Japanese Government?

Minister:
I heard earlier that the Japanese side would be briefed about the case. However, I have not received any specific information regarding how much detail has been conveyed from the U.S. side.

(End)

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