Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Onodera(05:52-06:03 P.M. May 7, 2014(Japan time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 05:52-06:03 P.M. May 7, 2014(Japan time)
Place: Conference room on the 2nd floor of Hotel Rose Garden
(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
The Japan-Italy Defense Ministers' meeting was held today between Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti and I. This is the first time in seven years for the Japanese Defense Minister to visit Italy. Italy, a member of NATO, the EU, and the G7, is an important partner of Japan, especially from the viewpoint that it will assume a chair for the EU from July this year.

I gave detailed explanations especially on the discussion underway in Japan concerning the right to collective self-defense and the recently adopted Three Principles on Defense Equipment Transfers. The Italian side expressed strong interest when I explained the situation in Japan concerning the right to collective self-defense. They said to the effect, "Like Japan, Italy has learned various historical lessons from the past war experiences. Consequently, Article 11 of the Italian Constitution stipulates that Italy renounces war as a means to resolve international disputes, which is similar to the corresponding clause in the Japanese Constitution. And we have limitations similar to Japan concerning the use of military force." However, the Italian side explained to me that Article 11 of their Constitution allows the exercise of the right to collective self-defense if that is required to promote and secure international peace and justice. So they, who share similar historical sentiments with the Japanese, well understood the issue Japan is facing and the discussion which the Japanese are currently engaging in.

In addition, because both Japan and Italy are maritime nations, we discussed maritime security. Both sides agreed that unirateral attempts to change the status quo cannot be accepted, and that security issues ought to be resolved by means of international law and dialogue. In particular, since both countries are concerned by the current issues around the Crimean Peninsula and those taking place in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, we agreed that said philosophy is important.

Also, in light of the hostage incident in Algeria which broke out in January last year, the Japanese Ministry of Defense is planning to send out defense attach?s to many countries, especially those in North Africa. Since Italy has many years of relations with those countries and the Italian defense authority holds much information about them, I conveyed Japan's interest to conclude an information protection agreement between the defense authorities of the two countries soon. The Italian side was supportive of this idea and told us that they would strive to conclude the agreement as soon as possible. As a part of this effort, the Italian side proposed to send their Chief of Joint Staff to Japan in the near future.

So, at this defense exchange, the two countries agreed to work together in pursuit of maritime security and to conclude an information protection agreement as related to Japan's plan to send out defense attach?s to various parts of North Africa. In addition, considering that Japan recently revised the regulation concerning the transfer of defense equipment, Italy expressed its interest in technological cooperation with Japan for developing new defense equipment. In any case, I expect that the defense forces of the two countries will continue to interact cooperatively.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
Regarding the information protection agreement which you just mentioned, do you expect that such agreement will be beneficial to Japan in terms of information gathering activities in North Africa?

Minister:
Japan is planning to deploy defense attach?s to various North African countries during this fiscal year. Italy has been deeply involved with these countries historically and culturally. It will be vital to exchange information between the military forces of Japan and those countries. It is particularly important for military forces to exchange information concerning terrorism and other regional security issues via deployed defense attach?s.

Question:
Has the timetable for concluding the information protection agreement already been set?

Minister:
The Italian side told me that they want to conclude it as soon as possible. Since we are planning to deploy defense attach?s by the end of this fiscal year, we, too, would like to set up a legal framework to protect information so that deployed personnel can immediately and fully engage in their duties.

Question:
May I interpret that the information protection agreement will not only concern the information handled by defense attach?s but also the information exchanged between Japanese and Italian defense authorities?

Minister:
Our intention is to conclude an agreement to protect information shared between the defense authorities of the two countries. Since such defense-related information will be shared within each country involved, we are aiming to develop a solid framework which encourages information sharing between the two countries.

Question:
Did you reach an agreement today to set a stage for negotiations in the near future?

Minister:
Yes, and the Italian side is aiming to conclude the agreement very soon.

Question:
You mentioned bilateral cooperation in the area of defense technologies. Does this cooperation include joint development of defense equipment?

Minister:
We did not hold an in-depth discussion to cover said aspect. At the meeting today, I explained to the Italian side the new principles Japan recently adopted concerning the transfer of defense equipment in connection with future defense cooperation. They expressed high interest in this regard.

Question:
Are there any specific kinds of defense equipment you personally consider are important in defense cooperation with Italy?

Minister:
Like Japan, Italy is a maritime nation. It has extensive territorial waters, and has been dealing with many refugees near it since the Arab Spring. In addition, some of its neighboring countries across the shore are in conflicts. Italy has a well developed surveillance system to deal with those issues. Therefore, I expect that Japan can gain valuable insight from the kinds of equipment the Italian force is using for national defense.

Question:
How exactly in your own words did you explain the ongoing discussion concerning the right to collective self-defense?

Minister:
I used the realistic scenario which has been discussed by the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security. Suppose the situation in which Aegis destroyers from the United States are deployed for the defense of Japan against North Korea's missiles. If the U.S. Aegis destroyers are attacked before Japan, it would be very difficult for Japan to defend the U.S. ships. I explained to the Italian side today about the ongoing discussion in Japan to prepare for security issues that Japan might encounter in the future. In response, the Italian Defense Minister deeply nodded and cited the clause on the renunciation of war in the Italian Constitution, which is also stated in the Japanese Constitution in a similar manner. Then she suggested some case examples in which military force can be exercised based on the right to collective self-defense within the limitation of the Constitution.

Question:
I heard that Italy has announced its readiness to send out a peacekeeping force to deal with the crisis in Ukraine. Did the Italian side bring that up today?

Minister:
Although we touched on the issue concerning Ukraine today, the Italian side did not specifically mention sending a force.

Question:
As you stated earlier, Italy is rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Did the two sides discuss opportunities for bilateral interactions by the people in charge of such rescue operations in the field to share their techniques?

Minister:
Because Japan and Italy are geographically separated by a great distance, there has not yet been any specific bilateral military cooperation such as joint military exercises. What the other party proposed today was to send the Italian Chief of Staff, which is equivalent to Japan's Chief of the Joint Staff, to Japan in the near future. After the Italian Chief of Staff inspects various defense technologies in Japan, the Italian side hopes that discussion will be held between the military forces of the two countries regarding future defense cooperation.

Question:
After the conference today, what kind of future relations do you hope to develop with Italy?

Minister:
Italy has a long history of cultural interactions with the North African countries. After the hostage incident in Algeria, I think that Japanese people across the nation realized the importance of protecting the safety of Japanese nationals staying in that region by collecting proper information. In light of the incident, the Japanese government decided to send out defense attach?s to African countries. For this initiative to be effective, I believe that it is vital for Japan to gain information from a country that has rich knowledge about and experience with the North African countries where defense attach?s will be deployed. An early conclusion of this information protection agreement will reinforce our efforts to gather information that will be useful in protecting many Japanese nationals working in Africa.

Question:
A press report indicated that a Cabinet decision may be made on whether to exercise the right to collective self-defense as early as during the current Diet session. Do you hope that the current discussion on this issue will move forward fast enough so that the Cabinet can approve exercising the right to collective self-defense during this Diet session?

Minister:
As the Prime Minister recently stated, the proper procedure, as described below, should be followed before making that decision. First, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security will submit a final report as early as next week. Then the central government will prepare a general policy on that issue based on the report prepared by the advisory panel. This will be followed by discussion in the ruling parties, and finally the Cabinet will make a certain decision. I believe that said procedure will be followed.

(End)

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