Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Eto(09:31-09:36 A.M. October 10, 2014)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:31-09:36 A.M. October 10, 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:
In regard to the ongoing search effort at Mount Ontake, eight people still remain missing. What is the plan of the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces to deal with the situation?

Minister:
Today, an advance investigative team consisting of the SDF as well as police and fire departments first ascertained that search activities can be safely resumed near the summit of Mt. Ontake. Then, the SDF, deploying about 330 personnel, about 90 vehicles and 16 helicopters, in addition to mine detectors that have been used since the 4th, is currently taking part in rescue operations. During the operations, we are mindful about protecting our troops from high altitude-related symptoms such as altitude sickness and hypothermia. Also, given that volcanic tremors and toxic volcanic gas have been detected, we are being careful about the safety of our troops, and therefore, we are taking proper measures to prevent a secondary disaster and planning to suspend the operations as necessary. As for the continued involvement of the MOD and SDF in this rescue effort with associated organizations, we are planning to prepare for a long-term operation by periodically replacing troops.

Question:
Tomorrow will mark two weeks since the eruption. Could you comment on the SDF's engagement so far?

Minister:
Since the troops are rapidly transported to an elevation of 3000 m by helicopters, some of them are adversely affected by the drastic change in environmental conditions. Consequently, some personnel suffered from altitude sickness and hypothermia. So, we gave an instruction to take adequate measures to protect the troops from these issues. We will do our best to the end to find all victims as soon as possible.

Question:
At a division meeting held in New Komeito yesterday, Shigeki Sato, the chairman of the foreign policy and national security committee, stated in his briefing to the effect that he is concerned about the fact that the section on the situations in areas surrounding Japan, which is included in the current Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, was excluded in the interim report on the review of the guidelines, because a series of discussion on that subject was extensively carried out in the legislation process. He continued to the effect that the section should not be removed without a discussion on that. Could you tell us your thoughts on Mr. Sato's view?

Minister:
As I explained at the press conference held when the interim report was released, our general policy is to arrange seamless response measures, and we are currently discussing how this approach will work in various situations. So, deciding on whether to remove that section is not the focus of our ongoing discussion, and we formulated the interim report as it is to suit our goal.

Question:
If the section is deleted from the guidelines, I suppose that the current Law on a Situation in the Areas Surrounding Japan will, of course, become invalid as well. Do you think that the law should be preserved but that it needs to be amended?

Minister:
We are considering that matter too, in our ongoing discussion.

Question:
The governor of Kanagawa Prefecture and the commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan recently held a talk, in which the commander expressed the view that Osprey flights will be normalized in the future, and it will become difficult for the U.S. side to provide advance notice for every flight. What is your response to this view?

Minister:
When it comes to addressing the issues related to the Ospreys, acquiring the understanding of the local people is of utmost importance. For that reason, we as the MOD will continue requesting the U.S. side to provide proper information, and the MOD will also continue promptly providing such information from the USFJ to relevant municipalities.

Question:
I believe that a four ministers' meeting was held involving you, the foreign minister, the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, and the Chief Cabinet Secretary. What did you talk about?

Minister:
We confirmed to work together to promote regional revitalization, especially of Okinawa, in various ways, as a relevant legislative bill is expected to be submitted soon. That is what we talked about.

Question:
So, you talked about revitalization of Okinawa, and not the impact of military bases on Okinawa, right?

Minister:
We agreed to discuss various issues including the impact on Okinawa hereafter. We confirmed this point at the talk.

(End)

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