Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister(10:00-10:12 A.M. June 28, 2013)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 10:00-10:12 A.M. June 28, 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
At today's Cabinet meeting, approval was granted for personnel changes to take effect on July 1, 2013; personnel involved include the Director General of the Minister's Secretariat. That is all.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
You were visiting the Philippines until yesterday, where I believe you toured various facilities and held talks with the Defense Minister. Could you please tell us more about the outcomes of your visit?

Minister:
We were able to hold substantive discussions about strengthening collaboration between Japan and the Philippines. In particular, with regard to our maritime interests, for example, we were completely in accord about the fact that it is absolutely vital for this to be governed by the rule of law and resolved in law, and that changes to the situation made by force will not be acceptable. Moreover, we agreed that we would continue to engage in bilateral cooperation in various areas.

Question:
In terms of the response to missile launches by North Korea, PAC-3 units with a shoot-down order are still deployed at locations such as Ichigaya Base. What are your thoughts on scaling back this posture?

Minister:
Whatever the reason, the MOD and SDF will continue to adopt the necessary surveillance and state of alert with a sense of vigilance.

Question:
Today marks the beginning of the period of public scrutiny of the land reclamation application submitted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau, with a view to the relocation of the U.S. military's Futenma Air Station to Henoko. I would like to ask for your remarks on this matter, and also to ask when you believe the Governor's approval will be forthcoming, given that the documents were submitted for public inspection in March, but the timing has been somewhat delayed, due in part to the fact that corrections had to be made.

Minister:
In any event, we have carefully consulted with Okinawa Prefecture in submitting the land reclamation application. The procedures following this process of public inspection are all in the hands of Okinawa Prefecture, so if there are any further requests of us in due course, we intend to deal with them politely and painstakingly.

Question:
What are your feelings with regard to the start of the period of public inspection?

Minister:
I feel that the procedures relating to land reclamation are moving forward, but in any case, we intend to continue striving to secure the understanding of the region and its local communities.

Question:
With regard to "striving to secure the understanding of the region", the Prefectural Assembly and 41 municipalities within the prefecture are opposed to the land reclamation, even now, so how do you think you will be able to secure their understanding in the future?

Minister:
Well, we have been conducting such endeavors on an ongoing basis until now, but in particular, from our perspective, the basic premise is that it is not acceptable for Futenma Air Station to become a fixture in its current location, so I would like to strive to secure the understanding of local communities in regard to this point as well.

Question:
Earlier, you went to see Minister Yamamoto and offered your suggestions about the use of the land, in light of your visit to former bases in the Philippines. Please tell us about the specifics of your discussions, following the initial photo taking session, and whether you made any concrete suggestions.

Minister:
During my recent visit to the Philippines, I had the opportunity to look around the site of the Subic Bay base. I was briefed directly by the head of the development authority concerning various policies and the situation after the return of the base, and was able to see the site for myself. I was particularly interested in what I heard about the fact that approximately 30,000 people worked at the base before its return, and that although people had expressed anxiety about their jobs when it was returned, these concerns were dispelled and employment there has been secured for around 90,000 people, even now, 20 years after the return of the base. Accordingly, when I saw the Minister earlier, I not only talked about the return of the land, but also told him about how the Philippine government had subsequently created this new development authority and provided support in the form of various systems. Minister Yamamoto is in charge of development in Okinawa, so I talked to him about not only taking into consideration this example from the Philippines, but also visiting various places where development measures have been implemented after the return of a site, and I said that if he took such measures into consideration, it could well help to mitigate the impact on the people of Okinawa.

Question:
I would just like to check something regarding the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG): I have heard that an interim report might not be published, but is your policy at this stage not to publish such a report? I would appreciate your opinion regarding the LDP proposals and your comments on what kind of NDPG you wish to formulate, based on what kind of policy, broadly speaking.

Minister:
We still have not yet decided whether or not to publish an interim report. In addition, with regard to the schedule for the NDPG, I understand that deliberations by the Committee to Review Approaches to Defense Capability are still ongoing at the stage prior to this, so once they have worked that out, I will receive a report, but the procedures for this are outstanding at the moment. Moreover, with regard to the LDP proposals, although the LDP is a ruling party, it is a ruling coalition party, along with the New Komeito, so in compiling the Guidelines, it is necessary to take into account the opinions of the Government and the ruling parties.

Question:
Returning to the subject of the response to North Korea, while the PAC-3s deployed in Ichigaya are visible, there has been no announcement regarding the shoot-down order that forms the basis of their deployment, so I would like to ask you about the actual situation in this regard.

Minister:
I believe that it can only be expressed that we are adopting the necessary posture.

Question:
Do you think this is an easy way for the public to understand?

Minister:
We take responsibility for matters relating to security and respond properly. That is all there is to it.

Question:
With regard to the arrival of the second batch of Ospreys at the Iwakuni base, please tell us about the current schedule and whether you have any plans to hold briefings for the local community.

Minister:
No concrete decisions have been made as yet. I shall let you know without delay, once I am able to disclose the details.

Question:
The ordinary session of the Diet has closed. The bill submitted by the MOD to revise the Self-Defense Forces Act in relation to ground transport ended up being carried over to the next session, so it has not been dealt with. As such, one would imagine that you are aiming for it to be enacted during an extraordinary session of the Diet, which shall take place after the elections for the House of Councillors; could you perhaps tell us your thoughts on this matter?

Minister:
Given that the public has various expectations regarding the duties of the SDF, we submitted a bill for the revision of the Self-Defense Forces Act, which would make ground transport possible, thereby enabling us to meet those expectations to some degree. Unfortunately, it has been carried over to the next session, but looking at the situation in the Diet right now, there are many important bills that were rejected, so we in the Government and this ministry are certainly aiming to ensure that the bill that we have submitted for the revision of the Self-Defense Forces Act will be enacted as soon as possible during the autumn session of the Diet.

Question:
During your visit to the Philippines, did you sound your counterpart out about hosting Osprey drills, or if your talks did not go that far, did you have any kind of discussion about it, and what were your impressions, if so?

Minister:
We did not talk about any specific items of equipment. However, in any case, we agreed that the presence of the U.S. military was a public asset for the whole of East Asia. In addition, Mr. Gazmin, the Secretary of the Philippine Department of National Defense, said that the U.S. military presence was important for the Philippines, and that he would welcome an increased presence, as well as the introduction of new equipment in the future.

(End)

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