Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(10:47-10:58 A.M. June 14, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 10:47-10:58 A.M. June 14, 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:
I heard that in the Japan-U.S. Summit Conference held by telephone yesterday, the two leaders agreed that it is important to hold dialogues between Japan and China toward improvement of the Japan-China bilateral relations. What, if known, are the prospects to resume the currently suspended Director General level meetings between the defense authorities?

Minister:
Regarding a Director General level meeting, as Japan-China defense exchanges have been suspended since the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands last September, we repeatedly requested the Chinese side to hold a consultation to discuss such topics as the maritime communication mechanism. Consequently, a Director General level consultation was held in Beijing on April 26, followed by a working level consultation between Japan and China on June 2 during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. We will continue to seek such opportunities to hold consultations with the Chinese side.

Question:
Did you see any progress in the working level consultation held on June 2?

Minister:
Director General for the Bureau of Defense Policy Tokuchi participated in the consultation on behalf of the MOD. In any case, I will refrain from explaining the content of the meeting in consideration of the other party.

Question:
Has the schedule for the next meeting already been fixed?

Minister:
It has not been determined as yet.

Question:
Related to the Senkaku Islands, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations stated that the incursion of Chinese marine surveillance ships into Japan's territorial waters is heightening the tension, and opposed to any behavior that adversely impacts Japan's administration over the Senkaku Islands. It has been reported that a resolution of such content was moved to the Senate. What is your view on this?

Minister:
I welcome the fact that a resolution that supports the stance of Japan was submitted to the senate. On May 30, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs Cardin, who is in charge of this issue, visited the MOD. During the visit, I conveyed a constructive message to the chairman regarding the current security environment of East Asia including the case of fire-control radar being locked onto a Japanese ship. Anyway, I think it is significant that Japan's response actions were widely supported by the U.S. side as was demonstrated by such resolution.

Question:
I would like to ask about the flight training using the Ospreys. I saw the Osprey flying around Futenma Air Station past 10 o'clock on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. In fact, I filmed it flying above the residential area at 10:51 in the evening. It seems to me that the security policies agreed upon by Japan and the U.S. are not being properly observed. Does the Government or the MOD intend to take any measures to deal with the situation?

Minister:
Regarding the night flight of the Osprey on these three days- Monday June 10, Tuesday the 11th, and Wednesday the 12th-, as was just pointed out, a staff of the MOD also confirmed the fact. Consequently, we intend to request the U.S. side to give us an explanation on the details of the situation.

Question:
I will ask about the function of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) equivalent to that of the U.S. Marine Corps. During the press conference by the Chief of the Joint Staff yesterday and also the subsequent press conference by the Chief of the Ground Staff, they both stated to the effect that the SDF's Marines-like function is insufficient. What is your view on this as the Defense Minister?

Minister:
I think it is important to deliberate on what kinds of capabilities are required while revising the National Defense Program Guidelines in the near future. During the Japan-U.S. joint exercise "Dawn Blitz" which is being carried out right now, such training as the Osprey making a landing on an MOD destroyer, will be conducted, or so I was told. Going through such various kinds of training, I presume that it will become clear what kind of functions and unit organization are necessary. So we would like to consider such matters while reflecting on a range of views such as those of the Chief of the Joint Staff and the Chief of the Ground Staff who are overseeing the field exercise.

Question:
By saying the revision of unit organization, do you mean to consider the establishment of a new specialized unit as one of the options?

Minister:
In any case, through the meeting of the Committee to Consider the Modality of National Defense and the Japan-U.S. joint exercise held this time, I expect that what is needed to improve Japan's defense capabilities will become clear. So we will carry out deliberation with this point in mind.

Question:
Concerning the issue on the night flight of the Ospreys which was brought up earlier, Okinawa Prefecture has requested the MOD to investigate nearly 30 cases of alleged violation of the agreement by the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee. As the Defense Minister, what is your view on these cases? Are they considered to be violating the agreement reached by the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, or not? Also, given that almost a half year has passed since the request was submitted by Okinawa Prefecture, what is the timetable for reporting the results of the investigation? What is the current status of progress?

Minister:
It was reported to me that the MOD had spent a considerable amount of time checking and comparing the contents of these cases, and now the Ministry is providing Okinawa Prefecture with detailed explanations for each case at a time while the two parties are exchanging their views.

Question:
What is the schedule for reporting the outcome?

Minister:
I was informed that the exchange of views is still underway.

Question:
In that process, did you make confirmation that a clear violation of the agreement did occur?

Minister:
So far, I have not received such report.

Question:
With regard to the timetable for additional deployment of the Ospreys, there is information that some of them will be deployed in Iwakuni in August and then the rest will be deployed in Futenma in October. Have you received any information on the schedule from the U.S. side?

Minister:
No such information has been conveyed to us from the U.S. side as yet.

Question:
Regarding the aforementioned issue in which Okinawa Prefecture pointed out the violation of the agreement, will the report of the investigation be issued before the additional deployment takes place? Will it be officially announced?

Minister:
I expect that the form of the announcement will be decided through a consultation with Okinawa Prefecture, as we have been providing Okinawa Prefecture with an explanation for each case.

Question:
There were talks some time ago that retired MSDF destroyers would be transferred to the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and used as patrol ships, and I suppose that the JCG side has been making necessary coordinations. Could you tell us the current status of that process?

Minister:
The stance of the MOD has been that we offer retired vessels to the JCG if the JCG will make use of them. However, I was informed that the JCG decided not to deploy those vessels.

Question:
Concerning the incident in which a mistake was made in firing by the U.S. Marine Corps in the Yausubetsu Maneuver Area, I heard that approval of the local community is unnecessary in terms of a procedure to resume the training after the suspension. Was there an exchange of views or decision-making that took place between the U.S. Forces Japan and the MOD?

Minister:
On this issue, the MOD gave the local authorities concerned an explanation yesterday about investigating the cause of the accident and measures to prevent recurrence. Then the local authorities requested us to carry out deliberation to consider further measures to prevent recurrence. Consequently, I understand that a consultation was held yesterday among the MOD personnel in charge, the Hokkaido Defense Bureau chief, and the battalion commander who is the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps. In any case, we will request the U.S. side to take all possible measures to prevent the recurrence of such accidents.

Question:
In the answer you just gave, you indicated that the MOD is inquiring with the U.S. side. Does it mean that the U.S. side will reply one more time? In other words, will new measures to prevent recurrence be offered from the U.S. side?

Minister:
Since a deliberation is underway, I suppose that the U.S. side will give us a report concerning measures, as soon as they are decided. Please note that they are additional measures, rather than new measures.

(End)

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