Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(03:41-03:51 P.M. June 16, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 03:41-03:51 P.M. June 16, 2013
Place: Entrance of the main building at JGSDF Camp Omura
(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:
You have been inspecting the base and military camp at Sasebo and Omura since this morning; what are your impressions of them?

Minister:
Firstly, at the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) base at Sasebo, I heard from those on the front line about the various early warning and surveillance activities being carried out there with a sense of vigilance, including those focusing on the current situation in the East China Sea. In addition, while in transit on a MSDF antisubmarine patrol helicopter, I was briefed on the sort of alarm that would sound if the fire-control radar is locked on, for example, and the steps that would be taken in response. Since coming to Omura, I have been shown various anti-aircraft response drills, for example, and have just seen the routine drills carried out by troops including the rangers. I gained a renewed understanding of the day-to-day efforts being made in terms of training a strong Self-Defense Force.

Question:
With regard to the relationship with North Korea, as the North-South dialogue will not take place, it seems that North Korea is now calling for high-level talks with the U.S. What are your views on this, Minister?

Minister:
I believe that these are probably one-sided reports and remarks from North Korea. I have not received any communications from the U.S. to suggest that they intend to hold such talks. At any event, I think that there is no point being swayed by the various words and deeds emanating from North Korea. What we - by which, I mean Japan, the U.S., and South Korea - would really like to ask North Korea to do is to renounce weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and to stop launching missiles and engaging in other forms of saber-rattling. In addition, we would particularly like them to address the abduction issue. For Japan's part, we will continue to call on North Korea to address the issues of abductions, nuclear weapons, and missiles.

Question:
The other day, you appeared hopeful about the future in regard to North-South talks, but do you still think that the first stage has to be talks between North and South Korea?

Minister:
I too do not really understand the reason why the planned North-South talks did not take place. North Korea requested them, but they ultimately did not take place, and if the reason was that North Korea just would not agree to meet, then I think it is important to discuss things a little more carefully.

Question:
It has been reported in some quarters that the ministry is pursuing a kind of "Equipment Agency," with the objective of integrating the various procurement departments; could you please tell us about this?

Minister:
I do not believe that this idea has been finalized as yet. At any rate, one of the ideas at the moment is that of joint operations, including the procurement departments, so I believe that it will be important to consider optimizing equipment as well in the future.

Question:
So does that mean that the concept of an Equipment Agency is something that is being considered at present?

Minister:
No, we are not thinking about an agency or anything with that kind of name; rather, the first priority is deciding how best to upgrade defense capability, as this will be its role.

Question:
It looks as though the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services will block all spending on the relocation to Guam; what effect do you think this will have on the consolidation plan?

Minister:
This was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but has run into these difficulties in the Senate, and I have heard that there will be talks in due course between the upper and lower houses. In any case, our counterpart is the U.S. government. I believe that there is no change on the part of the U.S. government in regard to the recent Japan-U.S. Agreement.

Question:
With regard to the misfire incident at Yausubetsu in Hokkaido, training by the U.S. Marine Corps has resumed. The decision to resume was unilateral, and there is opposition among the local community. What are your views on this?

Minister:
Immediately after the incident occurred, we asked the U.S. side to prevent recurrence and investigate the cause. In addition, the U.S. side wanted to resume, but at that time, I told them that I wanted them to adopt a more thorough system for preventing recurrence; however, I have now received a report that the exercises have resumed, with the commanding officer of the battalion supervising them. I have also been informed that the battery that caused this incident has not been involved in training yesterday or today.

Question:
Do you believe the measures to prevent recurrence to be adequate?

Minister:
At any event, the battery that caused the incident is not currently involved in training, as of today. We would certainly like them to do their utmost to ensure the peace of mind of everyone in the local community, and we have conveyed this to the U.S. side.

Question:
Arrangements for the plan to station a new coastal monitoring unit on Yonaguni Island have run into difficulties, as the local mayor has requested payment of a "nuisance fee"; could you please tell us about the current situation in regard to efforts to coordinate this?

Minister:
The other day, the Speaker of the Yonaguni Island Assembly informed me that the mayor wishes to withdraw the idea of this nuisance fee. I understand that the relevant Ministry staff and the mayor met in Okinawa - on Friday, I think - and discussed the matter.

Question:
During these talks between the Ministry staff and the mayor, was there any mention of wanting to withdraw the request for a nuisance payment?

Minister:
The discussions are still ongoing, so I would like to refrain from commenting publicly on the content of talks between the mayor and the staff of my ministry, but I can say that the Speaker of the Yonaguni Island Assembly has told me that the mayor wishes to withdraw the request.

Question:
If it comes to withdrawing it, I imagine that this plan will then proceed smoothly; what do you think about this matter?

Minister:
In any event, we believe that early warning and surveillance in this southwestern region is vital. We would like to consider our plans while ascertaining the wishes of the local community.

Question:
For a number of years, the city of Sasebo has been trying to attract a submarine unit, but what do you think are the prospects for realizing this?

Minister:
Today, I had the opportunity to look around the port of Sasebo again. It has endeavored for many years to build cooperative relationships with the U.S. Navy and the MSDF, so I would like to express my gratitude in this regard. However, looking at the current situation, the wharves and port facilities are being used to almost their full capacity by U.S. and MSDF naval vessels, so I had the impression that it will not be all that easy to determine whether or not there is scope to host a submarine unit as well.

Question:
The idea involves attracting them to the site at Sakibe, from which the LCAC relocated.

Minister:
Today, I had the chance to go out on a missile ship from the MSDF port there, and I was actually shown the site from the air as well. In any case, no decision has yet been taken on the options for its use, and the use of everything apart from the one-third of the area being used by the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) remains unclear, so I am not able to reach a judgment on this matter here and now.

Question:
With regard to the unit to recapture remote islands that the Ministry of Defense is currently considering, would this, in short, mean augmenting the equipment or personnel of the Western Army Infantry Regiment?

Minister:
We would like to examine the composition of this unit more closely within the Ministry. At any rate, I believe that there is a shared awareness among us, and among the ruling parties as a whole, concerning strengthening these kinds of amphibious functions of the SDF, so I would like to incorporate into the National Defense Program Guidelines the question of the way in which we can develop these functions.

Question:
Is the Western Army Infantry Regiment one option for the deployment of an amphibious vehicle as well?

Minister:
Of course, the purchase of an amphibious vehicle, albeit as a sample, is something that has already been decided in the budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The fact is that we envisage deploying it in the most appropriate place.

Question:
Do you have any intention to use Ospreys for all of the SDF helicopters within Japan, including at the Omura Air Base, in the future?

Minister:
The Osprey is a type of aircraft called a tilt-rotor aircraft. All we have done is secure a research budget focused on the use of such tilt-rotor aircraft. We have not yet decided the direction that we wish to take in this regard.

(End)

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