Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Onodera(06:33-06:40 P.M. MAY 31, 2014 (Japan time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 06:33-06:40 P.M. MAY 31, 2014 (Japan time)
Place: 4th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel
(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:
The Japan-U.S. Defense Ministers’ meeting just ended. Could you tell us what was discussed?

Minister:
Earlier today, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a powerful speech, in which he stated to the effect that any unilateral and forceful attempts to change the status quo should be resolved by means of international law and dialogue. At our meeting with Secretary Hagel, we reconfirmed that we share the same vision.

Question:
In addition to the U.S., you also held bilateral meetings with the representatives of the United Kingdom and Australia. Were you able to share the same perspective with them as well?

Minister:
I confirmed that those countries share the same perspective as ours and they understand Japan’s new security policies well. They also understood that Japan’s core value as a peaceful nation would remain the same, and are expecting Japan to greatly contribute to the international community based on the concept of proactive contribution to peace.

Question:
Minister Onodera, at the meeting with Secretary Hagel, did you discuss the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation as well as the realignment of the U.S. Forces Japan?

Minister:
Regarding the guidelines, we have already reached an agreement at the “2+2” meeting, and working-level meetings have regularly been held in accordance with the agreement. We will continue bilateral cooperation so that the revision of the guidelines advances speedily. In regard to the alignment, it has been agreed that the Japanese and the U.S. defense authorities will work together to mitigate the impact on Okinawa. The two countries have discussed this matter extensively and as a result, they came to a solid agreement.

Question:
I assume that you are keeping China in mind when making a statement that any attempts to change the status quo by force are unacceptable. You appear to be making sure to spread this message by reiterating it yesterday and today. What is the significance of making such an effort?

Minister:
At last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, too, I frequently presented this vision: any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force are not acceptable, and it is vital to resolve disputes through rule of law. One year later, it seems that Japan’s claim has been in fact widely accepted across this region, including the South China Sea, and that many more countries now accept Japan’s claim.

Question:
What effect do you think this initiative will have on China?

Minister:
If many ASEAN counties, in addition to Japan, take this approach to resolve the current security issues through the rule of law and dialogue, I believe that this trend will lead to stability in East Asia, including China.

Question:
I heard the media staff from ASEAN countries commenting that they were very satisfied about the fact that Secretary Hagel explicitly criticized China’s behavior. On the other hand, neither you nor Prime Minister Abe explicitly named China in your claims. I suppose that this might be related to the geographical locations of the ASEAN counties, as Japan is associated with the East China Sea while many other counties are associated with the South China Sea. As a Japanese journalist, I was often asked questions about the anonymity used in Japan’s presentations compared to the statement made by Secretary Hagel. How would you explain the difference?

Minister:
We also took a rather explicit approach in this forum last year and subsequent statements. Since we believe that Japan’s real intention has already been well communicated to the neighboring countries, at the bilateral talks we intentionally focused on explaining the current specific situation, such as incidents in which Chinese fighters flew extremely close to SDF aircraft.

Question:
Did you discuss the flight incidents with Secretary Hagel at the bilateral talk?

Minister:
I brought up the incidents three times during this forum at the Japan-U.S.-Australia meeting yesterday, Japan-U.S.-South Korea meeting today, and Japan-U.S. meeting today.

Question:
Did Japan and the U.S. reach an agreement to request China to better control its own actions?

Minister:
Rather than requesting China to conduct self-restraint, the approach Japan and the U.S. agreed upon is to stand against any one-sided attempts to change the status quo by force, and to resolve the current security issues through the rule of law and dialogue, as also stated by Secretary Hagel in his speech.

Question:
You told us that many countries agreed on the vision that any attempts to change the status quo by force cannot be allowed. However, the Chinese side intensely challenged the speech made by Secretary Hagel today arguing to the effect that they did not violate international law and that they just exercised their right to set up their air defense identification zone (ADIZ). What is your view on China’s argument?

Minister:
My understanding based on what I listened to during the question and answer session about that issue is that China unilaterally set up the ADIZ without acquiring consent from relevant countries. In addition, the freedom of aviation over the high seas is protected under normal circumstances, even if flights are made in an ADIZ. However, the Chinese side is demanding everyone passing its ADIZ to provide advance notice, which is quite extraordinary. Such behavior is probably considered to be an utter deviation from international standards.
Prime Minister Abe, in response to opinions raised against his course of action, thoroughly presented his rebuttal yesterday to justify his view on the issues over the Senkaku Islands and his visit to Yasukuni Shrine in front of the large audience. He also gave a thorough explanation of his view on historical issues. Consequently, I received many highly positive responses from representatives of various countries with respect to the speech made by Prime Minister Abe and his manner of answering questions from the audience.

Question:
After Prime Minister Abe and Secretary Hagel gave their speeches this morning, Chinese high officials held an emergency press conference, condemning Japan and the U.S. for teaming up to criticize China. What is your reaction?

Minister:
I believe not only Japan and the U.S. but also most participating countries from East Asia, whether or not they speak up about their views during this forum, agree that any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force are unacceptable. I hope that China will accept that this vision is supported by the international community, instead of erroneously accusing Japan and the U.S. for teaming up.

Question:
Did you discuss the defense of the Senkaku Islands at the meeting with Secretary Hagel?

Minister:
That issue was repeatedly addressed by Secretary Hagel in which statements were made and answers were given to questions asked by the audience. So I don’t think it is necessary for me to restate it here.

(End)

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