Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(04:34-04:46 P.M. June 12, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 04:34-04:46 P.M. June 12, 2013
Place: Nyuzen, URUOI-Kan
(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 inspected JGSDF Camp Toyama, and then exchanged opinions with local residents. What did you think about each of the activities?

Minister:
First, I presume that Camp Toyama is very small relative to other Self-Defense Forces (SDF) camps. Yet, I affirmed today that the morale and skill level of the troops here were excellent. Moreover, I was informed that this unit played a major role in Kamaishi and Otsuchi of Iwate Prefecture when it was dispatched there in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11. I instructed the unit to maintain its thorough preparedness for responding to disasters. Then, I hosted a “hometown roundtable talk” in Nyuzen today where many valuable opinions worth hearing were expressed from people of various backgrounds: those who knew about the SDF well and those who did not, and local residents. I am pleased that we were able to exchange opinions on a wide range of subjects including problems associated with disasters and the repeated provocations by North Korea, which were matters of particular interests for the group of participants today. Today’s outcome made me think that it is necessary to continue such activities aiming to let citizens know more broadly about the role of the SDF.

Question:
I presume that there was a request from the Governor of Toyama Prefecture this morning about the expansion of Camp Toyama. After looking at the actual camp, what do you think about the chance of expanding it?

Minister:
Governor Ishii suggested that this camp should be viewed as one of the bases for disaster prevention, and that some additional space would be useful as a landing area for a large helicopter that can transport various materials. He also added that the local residents in the vicinity of the camp understand the SDF’s operations. In response, I intend to conduct assessment to determine what kind of improvements can be made in view of the compilation of the FY 2014 budget.

Question:
Based on your answer, you are inclining toward accepting the governor’s requests, correct?

Minister:
First, we would like to carry out assessment in a positive manner. Although it is uncertain if we can soon decide when the improvements may be made, based on the assessment, the initial goal is to complete assessment in time for the compilation of the FY 2014 budget.

Question:
Regarding the issue concerning guarding the security of nuclear power plants, which was brought up at the hometown roundtable talk, what do you think about the necessity of the SDF taking charge of that duty? Also, how will you incorporate this issue into the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG)?

Minister:
First, regarding the security guarding of nuclear power plants, the police are primarily taking full charge of that role at present. However, we constantly need to anticipate what levels of threats are conceivable. In view of such concerns, we intend to carry out deliberations with the National Police Agency and the Japan Coast Guard. If such deliberations favor the SDF taking charge of some of the tasks, then we will discuss it in the Ministry of Defense (MOD). But first of all, we intend to hold constructive consultations with the Japan Coast Guard and the National Police Agency. In addition, the Governor of Fukui Prefecture visited us two days ago and expressed the prefecture’s view that it also has a great interest in this issue concerning guarding the security of nuclear power plants. Through these discussions, I gained an impression that in particular, those people who are associated with nuclear facilities on the side of the Sea of Japan and facing toward North Korea have great interests in this issue.

Question:
You mentioned this as one of the reasons for choosing Nyuzen-machi as a site to hold a hometown roundtable talk this time: eight ships from Toyama Prefecture were struck by the earthquake disaster in Kesennuma, which subsequently caused serious damage to the fisheries industry in Toyama. Since then, the industry has recovered to the current state and the construction of the last ship will be completed next month using Government funding. With regard to the reconstruction process from the earthquake disaster and the support provided to the fisheries industry, what are your thoughts on the progress of these aspects, compared to what was initially anticipated?

Minister:
Bonito and tuna fishing boats from Toyama were most severely damaged by the earthquake disaster. Since those ships landed and were left on the ground, the initial plan was to scrap them. However, with strong desire, I made every effort to support an alternative plan to repair those damaged ships, so that they can enter service again. The reason for that is that once ships are scrapped, it takes two to three years to build new ones. Then, in the meantime, the fishermen concerned cannot fish, and I suppose that may lead to a crisis of destroying fish markets in disaster-stricken areas in a real sense. The crew of Nyuzen, in particular, responded well to such concerns, and worked on returning the landed ships to the sea by transporting them using a crane and a tow truck that were so large that I thought they were made overseas. The repairs were carried out immediately and many of the damaged ships came back on active duty. At the same time, non-repairable ships after making every effort, were transformed into new ships with the support of the Government and are now being launched one by one. Since the revival of fishing this time is in fact giving the people in the disaster-stricken areas a great deal of encouragement, I imagine that many of the fellow fishermen located at the fishing ports along the Sanriku Coast including Kesennuma are sincerely appreciating the people of Toyama.

Question:
Related to the issue that North Korea is posing a threat, which was also brought up at the hometown roundtable talk, the meeting between the authorities of the North and the South scheduled to take place today has been called off after a dispute over who should be their chief delegates to the meeting. What is your reaction on this?

Minister:
I think dialogues between the North and the South are extremely important. It is my sincere wish that through such dialogues, they will find a way to methodically resolve problems such as those concerning nuclear weapons and missiles that are of great concerns for the Japanese people, as well as the issue of abduction for which South Korea and Japan are in the same boat. And even if this meeting cannot be held today, which seems to be the case unfortunately, I believe that dialogue will be resumed although it might take some time. So I hope that contact points for holding talks will remain open, and Japan will closely watch their actions.

Question:
At the same time, do you expect that this incident will have any effect on the warning and surveillance activities which have been continued up to date?

Minister:
Our stance is to maintain the necessary warning and surveillance posture while grasping the state of various environments and taking proper response measures.

Question:
I would like to make confirmation on the aforementioned issue related to guarding the security of nuclear power plants by the SDF. Do you intend at first to incorporate this issue into the revision of the NDPG, or in other words, the upcoming NDPG, then hold deliberation about it?

Minister:
In view that the police have carried out joint training with the Japan Coast Guard before, for example, Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission Furuya has requested the MOD to also consider participating in the joint training with these agencies and discuss what role the SDF can play. Since the content of the NDPG has not yet been finalized sufficiently, deliberation on this issue will be held after such discussion takes place. In any case, since the police and the Japan Coast Guard will temporarily take charge of said duty, we will focus on the deliberation on this issue while letting these agencies assume the current responsibility.

Question:
My question is about the revision of the NDPG which was also brought up during the hometown roundtable talk earlier. I think you mentioned that there is a difference between the proposal submitted by the ruling parties and the stance of the Government. The ruling parties’ proposal includes such arguments as on the possession of capabilities to attack enemies’ military bases and strategic bases as well as the establishment of a unit with a function equivalent to that of the U.S. Marines. Considering the stance of this Government, what is the priority and the difference compared to what was proposed by the Liberal Democratic Party? Could you give an explanation on this again?

Minister:
Regarding the NDPG, it will be finalized by the decision of the whole Government. However, concerning the capabilities to attack enemies’ military bases and strategic bases, which you just mentioned for example, I recall the Prime Minister’s comment yesterday that he would discuss it. I presume that remark indicates the stance of the Government.

Question:
The Chief Cabinet Secretary announced that he is considering sending out the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to Okinawa’s memorial service on the 23rd. Would you explain the significance or meaning of attending the memorial service as the Defense Minister?

Minister:
I think that June 23 is a date with a profound meaning for the people of Okinawa Prefecture as well as the rest of Japanese people. Especially for us who are in charge of the MOD and the SDF, our duty is to determinedly protect our country or in other words maintain its current peaceful state into the future. I personally plan to participate in this memorial service with a renewed sense of resolution on protecting the peaceful state of Japan. However, we have not officially been invited by the Okinawa side to participate in this event, and I presume that we are currently inquiring with the prefecture if we are allowed to do so.

Question:
Regarding the issue concerning nuclear power plants which was raised earlier, a press report indicated to the effect that the three agencies, the Japan Coast Guard, the National Police Agency and the SDF, would carry out joint training as early as early July. Could you confirm the facts on that?

Minister:
I am sure that these three agencies have agreed to hold consultations on various issues in their past discussions. As for specifically when this joint training will be held, I was told that the details are yet to be determined.

Question:
The current major issue in the U.S. as is seen in the news press is the case that a U.S. government agency was found to have secretly collected personal information through the Internet. Related to this, Japan has just set forth a new policy to strengthen information gathering by establishing the NSC. What are your thoughts on these developments?

Minister:
I assume that Japan and the U.S. are in very different environments. If I understand correctly, the U.S. dealt with the issue based on certain legal grounds. For Japan, the question of whether it is necessary to take the same kind of approach as that of the U.S. should be discussed in the Government.

Question:
Regarding that issue, the Chief Cabinet Secretary stated in the press conference held this morning that such case must not be allowed to happen. Is your thinking different from that of the Secretary?

Minister:
No, they are the same. Our understanding is that while the U.S. took action based on certain legal grounds, Japan does not have such grounds or experience in debating on said issue in Diet sessions. Under such different conditions, it is inappropriate for Japan to take the same kind of action as the U.S. As such, I believe that the Chief Cabinet Secretary answered the question with the same understanding as mine.

(End)

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