Press Conference

Japan-Philippines Joint Press Conference by the Defense Ministers(12:50-1:06 P.M. June 27, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 12:50-1:06 P.M. June 27, 2013
Place: Department of National Defense of the Philippines
(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
(Minister Onodera) This is the first time in eight years that a Japanese Minister of Defense has visited the Philippines. We can call the Philippines our neighbor because it takes only four hours from Tokyo and two hours from Okinawa by plane. In addition, Japan and the Philippines have in common that they are both island nations with around 7,000 islands, both large and small. During the meeting, both of the countries reached an agreement on the importance of the defense of remote islands and territorial waters, and the need to secure our maritime interests. Furthermore, both countries are facing outstanding challenges about the East China Sea and the South China Sea. We both concurred on resolving these outstanding issues on the basis of the rule of law. Moreover, Japan will further deepen exchanges and cooperation with our neighbor -the Philippines- in the field of defense.

2. Questions and Answers

Question (Japanese reporter):
This is a question for both Ministers, Mr. Onodera and Mr. Gazmin. As Mr. Onodera mentioned just now, China is intensifying its maritime activities in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and the tensions are rising there. I would like to ask both Ministers what was discussed in the meeting and how the two countries will cooperate in the future to address the situation.

Minister Onodera:
We face a very similar situation in the East China Sea. We are very concerned that this kind of situation in the South China Sea could affect the situation in the East China Sea. During the meeting, I have learned from Secretary Gazmin about the various activities taken by the Philippines armed forces. Especially, I was told that the Philippines is seeking a legal resolution on this issue, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, so I told that Japan fully supports the Philippines’ efforts.

Secretary Gazmin:
What I would like to say here is that we are very happy to note that the Japanese Government is supportive of our peaceful resolution of the case through the arbitration and we have agreed to continue our exchanges of information to help each other to make our defense relations stronger.

Question (Philippine reporter):
According to an article in the Japan Times, it was written to the effect that a high ranking government official, though his/her name was not specified, said that we will keep China in check. May I ask what specific action Japan is going to take to keep China in check?

Minister Onodera
I believe Japan and the Philippines have the same view that both countries don’t take any action aiming at any specific nation. When we discuss about matters of territory and territorial waters, it is fundamental to seek resolutions on the basis of the rule of law. I would like to emphasize that current situation should not be changed with the use of force, but should be done through the rule of law and I think this is the concept that is agreed upon in international community today.

Question (Japanese reporter):
I would like to ask about the Osprey drills. In January and April, the U.S. military carried out practice drills in the Philippines, using its new transport aircraft, the Osprey, which are deployed at the Futenma base in Okinawa Prefecture. I would like to ask both Ministers if there is a possibility to conduct practice drills with Ospreys in the Philippines, and what was discussed about this matter in the meeting.

Minister Onodera:
I believe that we agreed that presence of the U.S. is a very important public asset for East Asian region. In addition, we discussed the issue of the U.S’s rebalancing. I received an explanation from Defense Secretary Gazmin that the Philippines is seeking to expand the presence of the U.S. Army by increasing rotational deployment of the U.S. Forces, not from the view of cooperating in rebalancing, and that the U.S. and the Philippines are currently discussing an agreement focused on a further expansion of its presence.

Secretary Gazmin:
Modalities for the increased rotational presence of the U.S. here are right now being examined. One modality is the conducting of high-value, high-impact exercise. Although we did not talk about any individual or specific equipment of U.S. forces, I think that the deployment of new military technologies and equipment to the Philippines should be welcomed.

Question (Philippines reporter):
Good afternoon sirs, this question is for Secretary Gazmin. Sir, there’s a sort of report that the Philippines Government plans to build additional bases in Subic Bay, that will be shared by the U.S. and the Philippines. Will the Philippine Government allow other countries like Japan to build these bases, what is the time frame for building these bases? And how does the Government plan to skirt the constitutional ban on foreign bases?

Secretary Gazmin:
Let me clarify issues now. We’re not going to construct bases. We will be accepting access. Right now, the access agreement has not been primed. We are in the process of crafting the agreement based on, or relative to, our Constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement. After that done then we will be allowing if and when, there is agreement on the access, then there will be equipment coming in from the U.S. Now as far as Japan is concerned, we do welcome other countries, particularly Japan, since Japan is a strategic partner in accordance with our existing protocols.