Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Eto(08:33-08:39 A.M. October 17, 2014)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 08:33-08:39 A.M. October 17, 2014
Place: Entrance to 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
I would like to give you an update on the disaster relief operation at Mount Ontake. First, I would like to once again pray for the repose of the deceased climbers and express my sympathies for the families of missing people. Since the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces received a request from the governor of Nagano Prefecture in response to the eruption of Mt. Ontake on September 27, we had been engaging in search and rescue operations in coordination with the police and fire departments and the relevant municipalities. However, at 18:15 yesterday, we suspended the disaster relief operations after the commander of the 13th Infantry Regiment received the request of the governor of Nagano Prefecture to withdraw. During the last 20 days of disaster relief operations, we deployed a total of about 7,000 personnel, about 1,800 vehicles and about 300 aircraft including the CH-47 helicopters. We as the MOD and SDF will continue to take necessary actions to protect the lives and property of the Japanese people in response to various types of disasters. That is all.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I believe that an agreement was reached yesterday between Japan and Australia to discuss technological cooperation in developing submarines. Can you tell us about your plans for holding talks with the Australian side to decide the form of technological cooperation?

Minister:
The two sides are currently carrying out talks on marine hydrodynamics, and I expect that administrative officers will conclude the discussion. In any case, we have not decided on the specific form of cooperation.

Question:
Are you considering setting up a new cooperative framework of some sort?

Minister:
That depends on how the bilateral talks proceed from now on.

Question:
I have a question concerning a current event. It seems that some new Cabinet members are planning to visit Yasukuni Shrine during the Shuki Reitaisai (annual autumn festival). Some have expressed their views that the visit to the shrine might be a setback to the efforts by the Cabinet members in unity to realize a Japan-China Summit during the upcoming APEC meeting. What is your opinion about Cabinet members visiting the shrine?

Minister:
I assume that each Cabinet member will make their own decision on what proper actions to take. I personally have no plan to visit the shrine.

Question:
I would like to go back to the subject concerning the search at Mt. Ontake. What is your candid opinion about the fact that the search operation has to be cut off for this year? Also, considering the fact that some victims still remain missing, can you tell us about your future plan?

Minister:
Although the governor has the authority to implement disaster relief operations, in a sense, it is regrettable that the operations have to be suspended now, knowing that seven people are still missing. However, we must acknowledge that the conditions around the peak of the mountain will soon become extremely severe as winter approaches. Given the situation, the SDF must coordinate with the whole of the search effort, and when the search operations resume in the next spring, we intend to cooperate if there is anything we can.

Question:
Reportedly, the United States Marine Corps Ospreys will be deployed for the first time during the disaster relief drill to be held tomorrow in Wakayama Prefecture. What is the importance and the aim of using the Ospreys during the drill?

Minister:
The MOD and SDF are currently planning to acquire tilt-rotor aircraft in the future. Keeping this in mind, I hope that the people of Wakayama Prefecture will witness the safety, capability and other positive features of the tilt-rotor aircraft tomorrow. Also, I want the people to consider the effectiveness of the aircraft in times of emergencies such as the outbreak of an anticipated Nankai Trough earthquake.

Question:
Minister Eto, do you think that this type of disaster relief drill is meaningful from the viewpoint that gaining better understanding of the local community for the use of the Ospreys might ultimately lead to the relocation of the U.S. forces’ Osprey training?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from making a statement on that particular aspect. However, generally speaking, I believe that the usefulness of the tilt-rotor aircraft will be accepted more and more.

Question:
We have been asking each Cabinet member to comment on the system that obliges them to disclose their assets. First, are you ready to disclose your assets?

Minister:
I received an inheritance from one of my parents in a valid manner, plus I have some savings resulting from my occupation thus far. All in all, there is nothing I have to hide. I should note that my mother just passed away this year, and the inheritance process has not yet been completed. So, when that process is finalized, there is a chance that proper adjustment will have to be made on my record.

Question:
Also, what are your thoughts on the current system in place that requires the Cabinet members to disclose their assets?

Minister:
I have some doubt about the fairness of this system. I can understand the purpose of the system as it applies to individual politicians, but I wonder if it is necessary to disclose all the assets in detail to the public. This law is in place due to past events, and I do not have anything more to comment on it. In any case, I reckon that the law will be reviewed through future Diet deliberation.

Question:
At the talk held between Japan and the U.S. on October 2, the U.S. side allegedly opposed the plan to end the operation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within five years. Could you confirm the facts on that?

Minister:
We have been repeatedly requesting the cooperation of the U.S. side to meet this goal on various occasions, and we have been doing all that we can to achieve this goal. This determination is consistent among the Cabinet members including the prime minister. We will maintain our policy of doing everything we can and work diligently. We greatly appreciate your support.

(End)

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