Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Onodera(08:54-09:02 P.M. May 8, 2014(Japan time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 08:54-09:02 P.M. May 8, 2014(Japan time)
Place: 1st floor lobby at the Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan
(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
I visited South Sudan today and held a defense ministers' meeting. At the meeting, we agreed that Japan and South Sudan would continue to work cooperatively in the areas of financial support and nation-building. I also had a meeting with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit earlier in which I told him that it is immensely important for South Sudan to bring about peace. Then, President Kiir told me that he would meet with former Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar, who has become a rebel leader, tomorrow in Addis Ababa. I hope that the meeting tomorrow will be a success and facilitate bringing stability to South Sudan. Such development would allow the Japanese government to provide further assistance and the currently deployed Self-Defense Forces to fully engage in the ongoing United Nations Peacekeeping Operation (PKO) here.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
What are your prospects concerning the future PKO activities in South Sudan?

Minister:
Since the security situation deteriorated last December, the dispatched SDF has mostly been providing support to refugees and preparing the ground to establish camp sites for them. However, if a peace agreement is concluded and the current situation is stabilized, I hope that the SDF's engineer units will go back to their initial assignments, namely, the construction of infrastructure and roads, and fulfill their missions.

Question:
What was your impression of the actual security situation during your inspection today?

Minister:
My attention was totally drawn to the overwhelming number of refugees rather than the security situation per se. So many refugees have gathered around the SDF's cantonment, and it seemed me that they are trying to secure safety by staying close to the SDF. In view of such circumstances, I felt anew that it is of urgent importance for the South Sudanese to conclude a peace agreement.

Question:
Don't you think that the current security situation will affect the activities of the SDF?

Minister:
The SDF's mission that is currently assigned by the UN is to prepare the ground to set up camping facilities. I believe that the SDF is making a direct contribution to the people of South Sudan. Our immediate mission is to fulfill the role requested by the United Nations. And we hope to return to our original mission, namely, the construction of infrastructure including roads, as soon as possible when the security situation stabilizes.

South Sudanese Defense Minister John Kong Nyuon:
(Please be advised that this transcription was done from an audio recording. As such, the quality of the transcript is impacted by the quality of the recording and may not be as accurate.)

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera paid a visit today to Juba, South Sudan, and met with President Kiir. President Kiir addressed the government's initiatives to promote peace and to improve the security environment particularly in Juba. This effort will continue when he visits Addis Ababa tomorrow to meet with Riek Machar, former Vice President of South Sudan. President Kiir stated that peace negotiations are crucial in order to achieve peace, cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire. That is the statement President Kiir conveyed to Minister Onodera.

Defense Minister Onodera also met with me today. We, of course, know that Japan is participating in the UN PKO here in Juba, and it has sent an engineer unit to take part in the construction of the infrastructure, especially roads and bridges. We are pleased that our engineer unit will join Japan's engineer unit to build the infrastructure. We appreciate the special cooperation between the two ministries, and between the two armies particularly, namely, Japan's GSDF and the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army).

Our meeting with Minister Onodera was very fruitful. We know that Japan is working hard to deliver social service to the people of South Sudan. It is also very much contributing in the fields of infrastructure, health services and aid to the refugees. Although South Sudan is currently in an insecure situation, we wish to accomplish more once the current situation is stabilized. We will definitely be able to show Asia that we are committed to peace. These are the topics I discussed with Minister Onodera. Thank you for visiting South Sudan.

Question:
Given that the current security situation in South Sudan is not improving, I suppose that military forces and civilians from other countries might ask the SDF for help. Do you think legal reform is necessary to enable the SDF engaging in PKO to use arms to rescue PKO forces from other countries under attack?

Minister:
The Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security is currently discussing that very subject and it will submit a report as early as next week. Then, I understand that the central government will make a certain policy on that issue based on the report prepared by the advisory panel. It is also important to consider input from the ruling parties and the Diet.

Question:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has issued a policy that Japan would vigorously contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the world on the basis of proactive pacifism. Keeping this perspective in mind, how do you feel about the SDF's engagement in PKO here after inspecting the actual on-site activities?

Minister:
I felt for real that Japan's SDF is taking part in various supportive roles on the global stage by way of means such as engineer units and capability building support. I also realized that there are high expectations for the SDF here. I believe that it is vital for Japan to peacefully support other countries in need of help to become economically independent.

(End)

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