Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(07:27-07:37 P.M. November 5, 2015(Japan time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 07:27-07:37 P.M. November 5, 2015(Japan time)
Place: First floor lobby, Hotel Nikko Hanoi
(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:
Could you please elaborate on today's visit?

Minister:
I went to Cam Ranh. There, I first observed the status of the new port that the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence is building to receive foreign vessels. Afterwards, there is a military academy called the Naval Academy in Nha Trang, and I visited this academy. The Director of the Naval Academy, Rear Admiral, explained to me about the education, duties, and other matters related to the Vietnam People's Navy. Cam Ranh has long been home to a military port. I was informed about the current situation of the Vietnam People's Navy, and that the port is located in a geopolitically important area. By seeing the site, I was able to once again deepen my understanding of the importance of Cam Ranh Bay, a geopolitically important area that is 570 km to the Paracel Islands and 460 km to the Spratly Islands. An exchange of views took place on these issues. The Vietnam People's Navy and the MSDF already have amicable relations, and our hosts welcomed us and treated us with great kindness. Every year, the MSDF dispatches vessels to Vietnam, and mutual visits are conducted. In addition, there was the visit to Japan by former Commander-in-Chief Nguyen Van Hien of the Vietnam People's Navy and so on, which have contributed to deepening the ongoing active exchanges at the high-level. I made requests to the Vietnam side for deepening our relations. I have one more item. In Nha Trang, Japan has been providing capacity building assistance in undersea medicine for four years already, and we hope to continue to collaborate to actively hold trainings for capacity building and other activities. A foreign government dignitary had not visited Cam Ranh since former Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera's visit in September 2013. In this regard, it was very meaningful that I was able to make this visit.

Question:
You mentioned the Spratly and Paracel Islands. In this connection, it is said that there is an intense dispute between China and Vietnam over territorial rights. Under these circumstances, curiously, President Xi Jinping is also visiting Vietnam. Can you please share your opinions on this?

Minister:
Our visits just happened to overlap. The purpose of my visit this time is to further strengthen the relationship based on the outcomes of the summit meeting held in September of this year. In addition, this visit was realized by the invitation received from Minister of National Defence Phung Quang Thanh. This is the first visit in nearly two years since the previous visit in September 2013. As such, our visits just happened to overlap.

Question:
Today, anti-Chinese protests so to speak were staged in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in response to President Xi Jinping's visit to Vietnam. Some people were injured as a result. In this context, the Vietnamese people's expectations towards Japan are increasing significantly. Either during today's visit or your meetings, did you get a sense that the Vietnamese side has such expectations? Were there any such moments?

Minister:
With regard to the situation in Hanoi, as I have just arrived here from the airport, what I know goes only as far as the general landscape that I saw. In Cam Ranh, they extended to us a very warm welcome and gracious hospitality. Furthermore, the Commander-in-Chief shared with me various information regarding the local situation and other matters. I came away with the sense that Vietnam and Japan currently enjoy very good relations.

Question:
Can you give us a summary of who you held talks with and what was discussed during your visit?

Minister:
First, I met with Senior Captain Uong Xuan Phuc Son of the Vietnam People's Navy who is supervising the port construction there. Unlike Japan, military forces are also engaged in the economic sector. The military forces are directly involved in the operation and construction of these ports. At the Naval Academy, I met with Rear Admiral Ngo Quang Tien. He is the Director of the Naval Academy.

Question:
You stated that the MSDF dispatches vessels to Vietnam every year. In the future, do you intend to dispatch MSDF vessels to Cam Ranh Bay which you visited today?

Minister:
The dispatches have been conducted from before to forge trust and promote mutual understanding between the defense authorities of the two countries. As regards port calls in Cam Ranh Bay, this is not decided as of now. As I stated moments ago, vessels make port calls in Vietnam to forge trust and enhance mutual understanding. They are not carried out with any particular country in mind.

Question:
Will the two sides be deepening their collaboration that also takes into consideration joint exercises?

Minister:
We have been conducting a wide range of maritime and offshore exercises with various countries from before. With the Vietnam People's Navy, we hope to conduct such joint exercises as part of the normal exercises.

Question:
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made observations of the South China Sea aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. I understand its aim was also to keep China in check in the South China Sea. What do you take of this?

Minister:
A Japan-U.S. defense ministerial meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur. At the meeting, views were exchanged on the situation and environment in the Asia-Pacific region, among other matters. To say the least, we concurred to oppose attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East China Sea and South China Sea. We confirmed that the two countries would carry out maritime activities in accordance with international law. I expressed support for the U.S. Forces' operations in the South China Sea. We agreed to strengthen Japan-U.S. defense cooperation as well as trilateral defense cooperation, namely, Japan-U.S.-Australia, Japan-U.S.-ROK, Japan-U.S.-India, and Japan-U.S.-Philippines. That is my view.

Question:
I apologize for changing the topic, but I would like to ask a question regarding the construction work in Henoko. Nago City intends to apply to the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education to designate the area as an archaeological site based on the discovery of earthenware and stone artifacts. It is noted that this would delay the commencement of the construction work. What is your view of this?

Minister:
With regard to the survey on buried cultural properties within the premises of Camp Schwab, the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the Nago City Board of Education coordinated with each other, and the Board of Education conducted a test excavation from July of this year. I understand that the survey conducted near the coast from mid- to late-October found fragments of earthenware and stone tools. Land where buried cultural properties could exist is called a known buried cultural property site. I understand that to designate an area as such, the boards of education of the prefecture and the city need to take the required procedures. With regard to the handling of buried cultural properties within the premises of Camp Schwab, we will address this appropriately in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances. As for the construction project, we hope to proceed with the project as such to realize the full return of MCAS Futenma as quickly as possible.

Question:
Because the archaeological site is located right in the middle of the construction work site, it is noted that the construction work could be delayed by years. Do you have any comments in this regard?

Minister:
We will address this in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances.

Question:
The plan as of now is to complete the construction work within five years or in five years. What impacts on this do you foresee?

Minister:
This will also be steadily dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances.

Question:
Do you believe the work can be completed in five years?

Minister:
We will take measures in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances. As the purpose is to eliminate noise and risks around MCAS Futenma, we will make efforts to realize the full return as quickly as possible.

Question:
Do you perceive that there will be no impacts?

Minister:
We will simply have to take steady measures in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances.

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