Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(09:29-09:40 A.M. June 21, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 09:29-09:40 A.M. June 21, 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:
In preparation for the revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines, I recall that you instructed the Committee to Consider the Modality of National Defense to finalize the interim report by mid-June through deliberations within the Ministry. Can you assure that no changes have been made in the plan to complete it within this month? Also, upon finalizing it, do you have an intention to publicize the content?

Minister:
It was reported to me that the Committee to Consider the Modality of National Defense is currently diligently carrying out a consultation. So far, specific plan for the release of the report has not been decided.

Question:
In other words, is there a chance that it may be released in July or later, rather than in June?

Minister:
Since I am presently asking the committee to inform me of the current status of progress, I presume that a deliberation is still underway on whether the report can be completed at the end of June or the beginning of July.

Question:
Does it mean that the report will be finalized at the end of June or the beginning of July?

Minister:
In any case, the deliberation has been carried out slightly ahead of the schedule in view that this report will be needed by the time of budget request. So, I expect that if the report is finalized early, it will come out early, and if additional discussions are required, it will take longer to complete the report.

Question:
I assume that discussion on the reform of the MOD is also proceeding at the same time. As the Minister, what do you think is the important aspect of the reform? Also, what is the current status of progress?

Minister:
Since there are various opinions concerning the reform of the MOD, I plan to think things out based on the ideas and proposals that will be presented to me. Thus, I have been giving an instruction from before to bring up ideas to me sufficiently before the budget request.

Question:
Related to the problems and malfunctions detected in the P-1 aircraft, there was another press report last December, too, that the engine stopped running due to computer-related problems. Could you confirm the facts on these cases and what your thoughts are on them?

Minister:
When new aircraft are introduced, the typical procedure involving the prototype aircraft or for the development of new aircraft is to fix defects as they are detected while carrying out various operations and tests. I heard that there also was a similar case in which an engine stopped working last October. Since then, the engine has been restored after servicing the relevant computer programs. In any event, while dealing with new aircraft under development, not only the P-1 but any new aircraft, I think it is a normal procedure to correct these problems while various tests are conducted on newly developing aircraft.

Question:
Related to the case involving training ship Shimayuki, the Japan Transport Safety Board has been investigating the case for these past few days. At the press conference right after the Cabinet meeting the other day, you expressed your view to the effect that the risks associated with the event were low, but what is your reaction now?

Minister:
My view has not changed; there were no particular risks involved. In addition, according to the press conference by the Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), the two ships concerned were 250 m apart, and regarding the fact that they did not sail on the right-hand side of each other, the Commandant explained that the vehicle cargo ship, owned by a South Korean, communicated in advance its intention of wanting to sail on the left-hand side using the whistle, and Shimayuki responded accordingly. Thus, I don't have the perception of an event with any particular risks having been involved.

Question:
Then, is it difficult for you as the Minister to accept the disciplinary actions given by the JCG against the navigational issues in this incident?

Minister:
In any case, I understand that the JCG was supposed to give warning to encourage careful sailing as part of its duties. Therefore, I don't perceive any particular wrongdoing on the side of the JCG. On the other hand, both our Ministry and the Commandant of the JCG, as indicated in his press conference, disagree with some news reports that characterized the incident erroneously with such words as "close call" and "dangerous."

Question:
This coming Sunday, on the 23rd, you as the Defense Minister, will be attending the Okinawa memorial ceremony for all the war dead, held in Itoman. This is the first time that the Defense and Foreign Ministers will attend this ceremony. Could you tell us the significance of the Defense Minister attending the ceremony and your present thoughts about it?

Minister:
Since Okinawa is the only part of Japan where a ground war took place, and it is a region that underwent unimaginable hardship amid the ravages of the war, many Japanese people have visited this battlefield site in Okinawa to mourn with a grave sense of sympathy, which continues even today. I, too, will participate in the memorial service as the Defense Minister who engages in ensuring the security of Japan, with a pledge never to allow the ravages of war to happen again.

Question:
You are scheduled to visit the Philippines and Hawaii in the near future. What are the objectives of these visits?

Minister:
Since we have not yet decided about these trips, I will talk about them when they are officially announced. Generally speaking, in consideration of the security of Japan and of neighboring countries, it is important for the MOD to strive to strengthen the relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the United States.

Question:
Regarding the accident in which a high explosive shell landed outside the Yausubetsu Maneuver Area by mistake, the battery of the U.S. side that caused the accident has resumed training although you said last time that it had not been participating in the training in view of preventing similar accidents from recurring. Were there any explanations provided from the U.S. side on the resumption of training by the battery that caused the accident this time, and on the prevention of recurrence? What is your understanding on this?

Minister:
It was reported to me that since the accident occurred, this battery underwent many lessons, so to speak, or repeatedly practiced recurrence preventive measures. By having done so, the U.S. side ultimately made a decision two days ago, in the afternoon of the 19th, on the resumption of the training by this battery. In any event, the training session will be concluded today, and we will pay close attention to the responses of the U.S. side including the commander, attempting to avoid similar accidents.

Question:
Concerning the Ospreys, the Mayor of Yao City in Osaka made a statement that the city would not accept the aircraft to be moved in, and submitted a petition to the MOD expressing that he wanted the decision to be made at an early time. Could you comment on this?

Minister:
Our understanding based on a series of press reports including those conveyed from the Prime Minister's Office, is that the offer was made on the premise that the Governor of Osaka would persuade the local community. With regard to said statement of the Mayor of Yao that he is against it, we have received a document whose content was consistent with his statement. At any rate, we will pay attention to the discussion to be held between the Governor of Osaka and the Mayor of Yao.

Question:
In relation to the relocation of a training site for the Ospreys, there is a press report that deliberation is underway on whether the scale of the training being currently conducted in the Philippines can be increased, and that the Philippines is expected to be sounded out on that suggestion soon, and the U.S. side will also be involved in this sounding out. Could you tell if this is a fact?

Minister:
At this moment, there is no such deliberation being carried out. It is just that training using the Ospreys was indeed conducted in the Philippines in January and April this year. Our understanding is that the training currently being conducted in the Philippines is vital for the Philippines side and also for the U.S. side from the operational perspective, in consideration of the security environment encompassing the entire region. In any case, I think it is important, for the MOD as well, to take a comprehensive approach which will lead to the reduction of the burden on Okinawa.

Question:
Regarding the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces on Yonaguni Island, the leasing of municipal lands was approved by the town assembly held yesterday. What is your updated view on this?

Minister:
Yesterday, the assembly gave the approval. However, ultimately, actual implementations can be initiated only after obtaining signatures and seals from the MOD and Yonaguni Town. So to make necessary arrangements as soon as possible, we will continue talks with the other party. At present, I am thankful for the approval given by the assembly.

(End)

-PAGE TOP-