Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Onodera(08:46-08:56 A.M. May 27, 2014)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 08:46-08:56 A.M. May 27, 2014
Place: Entrance to the Prime Minister's Office
(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:
I will ask you about the incidents in which Chinese fighters flew very close to SDF aircraft. Contrary to the claim made by the Japanese side, the Chinese side is blaming the SDF aircraft for taking very dangerous action by entering the area where China and Russia were conducting joint military exercises. Given China's claim, could you tell us again, if you are permitted, the specific operations the SDF aircraft are carrying out? Also, what is your reaction to the claim made by the Chinese side?

Minister:
We perform ordinary surveillance operations above the high seas observing international laws. And contrary to the claim by the Chinese side which was covered in a press report, these incidents did not occur in the area where China and Russia were conducting exercises. The fact is that the Chinese side one-sidedly and dangerously approached our aircraft that were operating quite safely. Thus, we staged a protest through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involving high-level diplomats. Although I don't know the reaction of the Chinese side to our protest in detail, I remember that it reacted similarly when the radar lock-on incident broke out. I really hope that the Chinese military authorities and government will truly understand these issues and take proper measures to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.

Question:
In connection with this issue, you have been reiterating the necessity of putting in place a maritime communication mechanism. Despite the fact that you have been proposing this plan to the Chinese side since the radar lock-on incident last year, there has been no response from the other party thus far. Under such circumstances, these incidents occurred. So what is your future plan for approaching the Chinese side?

Minister:
We are hoping to set up a maritime communication mechanism which will serve as a hotline for better communication between the Chinese Navy and the MSDF and between the Chinese Air Force and ASDF. It is vital to install such mechanism which would be useful for the navies and air forces of both countries. So far, the Chinese side has not responded to the proposal made by the Japanese side. Amid such stagnant situation, the Western Pacific Naval Forum was recently held in China at which a maritime code of conduct, CUES (Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea), was adopted by participating countries including Japan and China. CUES prohibits a naval ship from locking fire-control radar on another ship. So if it is difficult to find common ground between Japan and China, one suggestion may be to conclude a code of conduct applicable to their air forces in a similar manner as CUES was adopted for improving naval affairs. Ultimately, however, it is important for Japan and China to establish a bilateral communication mechanism.

Question:
In relation to your answer above, there was an incident yesterday in which a Vietnamese boat sank in the South China Sea after a Chinese fishing vessel struck it. What is your reaction to this kind of action?

Minister:
You are referring to an incident in which many Chinese fishing boats encircled Vietnamese fishing boats, and then a Chinese boat hit and sank a Vietnamese boat. Given that this incident occurred in the presence of Chinese government ships in the vicinity, I view this incident as an extremely serious issue. It is unthinkable for fishermen to offensively collide with each other since under normal circumstances they go out to sea for fishing. It is important for the international community including the Vietnamese authorities to investigate the motive behind the Chinese fishermen for colliding their boat with the Vietnamese fishing boat and all the facts related to the incident.

Question:
The Shangri-La Dialogue is due to be held starting on the 30th, during which you will be giving a speech. What statements do you plan to make regarding the recent actions taken by China?

Minister:
I have not finalized the content of my speech yet. We will work on it while carefully observing China's responses in the next few days.

Question:
When you mentioned CUES earlier, you explained to us that similar dialogue between air forces is also necessary. What is the specific framework you are envisioning?

Minister:
It is still too early a stage to consider a specific framework. As for the maritime communication mechanism, as I said earlier, the idea to set up a communication mechanism between Japan and China has not advanced since the fire-control radar lock-on incident last year. In the meantime, navies from the countries around the East China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean recently adopted maritime rules in the form of a code of conduct. Like this example, a multinational approach to tackle the aforementioned issues is a viable option.

Question:
When would be a good occasion for the Japanese government to propose such multinational approach to the issues?

Minister:
I don't have any specific thoughts on that. In any case, CUES is a first step toward improving military relations, and I think that it could be a great idea to apply it to the air force activities.

Question:
CUES is considered to be a gentlemen's agreement among navies so to speak since it is not legally binding. Are you considering an international agreement that is legally effective to a certain extent, or are you thinking of something like a gentlemen's agreement?

Minister:
We hope to eventually establish a maritime communication mechanism between Japan and China based on a solid mutual agreement. CUES is a step toward such agreement, and this code of conduct is not legally binding as you pointed out. However, in view of the fact that an agreement was reached in a multinational framework to set rules for naval activities, I believe that we took a step forward in the right direction.

Question:
I would like to be sure of a couple things, Minister Onodera. After the incidents last Saturday, is the SDF still conducting surveillance operations as before in the area where Japan's and China's air defense identification zones overlap? Also, if that is the case, have Chinese fighters still been approaching the SDF aircraft to an extreme extent in the overlapping ADIZ area since last Saturday?

Minister:
First, I cannot reveal every specific action we are taking. However, I can tell you that we always carry out routine surveillance including last Saturday, the 24th, when those incidents occurred. And we dealt with the incidents as part of the usual surveillance procedure. After last Saturday, too, we have been conducting usual surveillance. Other than the incidents last Saturday, we have no abnormal incidents to report. We have not detected anything unusual.

Question:
I would like to ask you a question in regard to X-band radar. Construction officially began yesterday at the ASDF base in Kyotango City to first remove the existing facilities there. However, municipal governments including Kyoto Prefecture are expressing concerns that adequate notification was not given to them. What made the MOD delay in giving proper notification to them?

Minister:
It is important for us to gain solid approval from the local community before starting construction. My understanding based on what I heard from the working-level personnel is that the construction starting date was determined at the last minute due to reasons related to weather and preparatory work for the construction. So, although our staff explained to the local community as soon as they decided the construction starting date, it was a last minute notice, and some people complained about it. To avoid further miscommunication, I intend to give an instruction to my staff to provide the local community with advance notice in a prompt and careful manner on the initiation and progress of construction.

Question:
Is the MOD planning to inform the local community about the dates for bringing in materials and equipment needed to install radar?

Minister:
If necessary, I will arrange to have the defense bureau personnel in charge of this matter answer your questions later.

Question:
The local governments are also requesting the MOD to publicize no trespassing areas, release the results of radio wave surveying which the MOD is conducting, and reduce the impact on local roads. What is your plan to deal with these requests?

Minister:
I will instruct my staff to hold thorough discussions with the local governments to decide the proper actions for dealing with the concerns that were raised by the relevant municipal governments. I will make sure that working-level meetings are held to thoroughly discuss the specific requests made by the local community.

(End)

-PAGE TOP-