Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(07:50-08:02 P.M. November 6, 2015 (Japan time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 07:50-08:02 P.M. November 6, 2015 (Japan time)
Place: In front of SAKURA Room, 2F, 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 share with us details about your meeting with the Prime Minister of Vietnam?

Minister:
This afternoon, I visited the Institute for Military Science and Technology of the Vietnam People's Army. Many graduates of the National Defense Academy of Japan were present, and I met with them and gave them words of encouragement. I also was briefed on the Institute. After that, I paid a courtesy call to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, and to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and I concurred on the importance of complying with international law based on the rule of law in the seas. We also exchanged views about the current situation in the South China Sea. Specifically, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung commented that Japan's contribution to peace and stability in the region is highly appraised, and added that he looks forward to Japan's support toward the integrated approach taken by ASEAN, including Vietnam, and to having Japan play an active role in these efforts. In response, I stated that the issues in the South China Sea are critical to the foundation of the existence of the international society itself, and no country can take the stance of an outsider. At the same time, I also conveyed that Japan will work closely with Vietnam and be actively involved, in order to contribute to securing maritime stability, which underpins the prosperity of countries in the region, as well as to freedom of navigation and peace and stability in the region. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also stated that he would like to invite the vessels from the MSDF of Japan to call at the international harbor of Cam Ranh Bay. To this, I expressed my gratitude for the opportunity to visit the site for the first time, and for the invitation. In the exchange of views with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, I stated that my visit to Vietnam had realized thanks to Defence Minister Thanh's invitation based on the talks between the General Secretary Trong and Prime Minister Abe in September this year. I extended my appreciation at having the opportunity to meet again with the General Secretary, and conveyed that the defense ministerial meeting between Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh and myself had successfully concluded. The General Secretary expressed that he welcomes the results of the defense ministerial meeting, and based on these results, looks forward to greater cooperation between the defense ministries of the two countries going forward. To both General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, I stated that ASEAN countries are important partners to Japan, and Japan places great importance on our relations with Vietnam even among the countries of ASEAN. I explained that, as the Defense Minister, I strive to put my best effort into promoting further development in defense cooperation and exchange between Japan and Vietnam. Although this Vietnam visit was a short one spanning only two days, I had the opportunity to meet with persons of great importance-Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, and discuss substantial matters that can contribute to the development of defense cooperation and exchange. Hence, I feel that this visit has been a highly stimulating one. Going forward, I hope that we will be able to harness the results of this visit to bring about the realization of concrete defense cooperation and exchange between our officials and defense authorities.

Question:
You mentioned at the beginning that in your talk with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, you spoke about how Japan prioritizes the cooperative relationship with Vietnam, which faces the same issues as Japan in the same East and South China Seas. Could you share with us any other matters that you spoke about in relation to advancements in the seas and other issues related to maritime matters?

Minister:
With regard to these issues, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had affirmed the further promotion of bilateral cooperation in security with Prime Minister Abe at the earlier summit meeting. They have also concurred on the importance of bilateral cooperation in maritime security. The two leaders also recognize that the issues in the South China Sea should be resolved through peaceful means. Based on the results of these talks between the two leaders, I had embarked on this visit at the invitation of the Defence Minister. We had a very fruitful meeting, and discussed concrete measures to further enhance defense cooperation and exchange on the basis of this visit.

Question:
With regard to the issue of the South China Sea, did you make any renewed statements to the General Secretary?

Minister:
To date, with regard to the contents discussed at the ADMM, there have been unilateral attempts to change the status quo through aggressive advancements in the marine and air spaces, particularly in the East and South China Seas, and based on individual assertions that are in conflict with existing international law and order. To Japan as well, the South China Sea issue is not only a matter of strategic interests that involve securing sea lanes, but also represents the universal importance of reaching a peaceful resolution for such situations through the rule of law, complying with freedom of navigation in the open seas and freedom of flight in the sky, and securing the stability of region. Hence, I spoke about the importance of matching the voice by both countries as we are confronted by the same issues.

Question:
What was the response from the General Secretary?

Minister:
He brought up three principles, or three points. Firstly, this issue should be resolved through dialogue. Secondly, it should be resolved through international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Thirdly, steps should be taken toward the enforcement of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

Question:
With regard to the part on the priority matter, the camera had not been in time unable to capture some of the beginning. Could you explain that point to us again?

Minister:
ASEAN is an extremely important partner to Japan. Of the ASEAN countries, the importance of Vietnam as a partner has been elevated through the establishment of an "extensive strategic partnership" for peace and prosperity in Asia in March last year. In light of that, we are putting effort into strengthening the cooperative relationship based on this "extensive strategic partnership." I stated that Japan regards it as a priority to strengthen our relationship with Vietnam, with whom we share the common issue of security in the South and East China Seas.

Question:
The General Secretary held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday. They exchanged views about the South China Sea matter, and also exchanged views about this issue with you today covering the points that you have just explained. What are your views on these successive talks with Japan and China, with the differing positions of the two countries?

Minister:
Japan's perception is that we concurred on the recognition of the situation and other points raised during talks with the Prime Minister when he visited Japan in September this year. Furthermore, my visit to Vietnam had also been the result of these talks. With regard to the response, I have expressed my understanding of the point that it is based on the principles raised by the General Secretary. Hence, as I have explained earlier, going forward, the two countries will cooperate and raise our voices against such issues. I also spoke about the point that the South China Sea case should be resolved peacefully through the rule of law, and they have also concurred on my views.

Question:
This is related to what you have just said. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou will hold talks tomorrow, and there are calls to secure stability in the East China Sea. What are your views on this point?

Minister:
I think that it is good for the two leaders to engage in a discussion about security. Amidst a situation where we are confronted by various issues, I believe that it is important to solve the issues through dialogue.

Question:
There are also those who believe that this will be a historic meeting. Do you share the same view?

Minister:
As this is a bilateral issue, Japan has no particular comments on this point. However, I feel that it is ideal basically to confront various concerns and issues through dialogue and consultation.

Question:
Governor Onaga of Okinawa announced today the rejection of the corrective action advisory made by the Minister for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. While this means that Okinawa will not comply with the corrective action advisory, does the Government plan to continue moving ahead on the land reclamation and construction works?

Minister:
We have put much time and effort into respectfully requesting Okinawa Prefecture to conduct a review, taken corrective action on the matters that were pointed out, submitted the application to carry out land reclamation works in a way that reflects their opinions, and we are of the understanding that these efforts have been accepted by Okinawa. We share a common stance on the need to eliminate the risks associated with the MCAS Futenma as soon as possible. The MOD aims to move forward on the return of the land of MCAS Futenma as soon as possible, eliminate the risks of accidents, etc. and noise impact faced by residents in the area, reduce the scale of the base, and proceed to sort out this matter in visible and tangible ways.

Question:
That is to say that the construction will continue as before?

Minister:
With regard to the procedures, there have been no flaws on our part. We believe that we have made the request to Okinawa Prefecture respectfully, and put in the application in accordance with their instructions. On October 29, we completed the necessary preparations, and started on the construction of temporary structures that are required for the bank protection works. In any case, the MOD will continue to put all our efforts into the return and relocation of MCAS Futenma at the earliest date possible.

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