Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(10:11-10:24 A.M. November 13, 2015)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:11-10:24 A.M. November 13, 2015
Place: Press Conference Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)
(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:
I have a question regarding the South China Sea. At the Diet, in regard to surveillance activities, the Prime Minister stated that they would be "carefully examined while taking various options into consideration." In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that it flew B-52 strategic bomber near the artificial islands last week. Can you please tell us what the MOD would be doing for surveillance and other activities?

Minister:
Earlier, a meeting of the Committee on Budget of the House of Councillors was held. As you noted, the Prime Minister stated that a careful examination would be undertaken while taking various options into consideration. In this connection, Japan has thus far proactively engaged in activities that contribute to regional stability, including capacity building assistance for countries in the periphery of the South China Sea, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as joint exercises between the MSDF and the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea. The MOD will continue to promote bilateral and multilateral joint exercises and training, among other activities. As of now, the SDF do not carry out continuous surveillance operations in the South China Sea, nor do they have such plans. In any case, ensuring the freedom of navigation and securing sea lanes in the South China Sea are a matter of high concern. Japan will continue to carry out careful examinations while also taking into account the initiatives we have been conducting from before. With regard to the flight of the B-52 strategic bomber of the U.S. Forces over the waters of the South China Sea, while I am aware of the media reports you are referring to, the MOD is not in a position to explain each and every operation of the U.S. Forces. Having said that, my understanding is that the U.S. Forces maintain a strong presence in the South China Sea and its periphery areas from peacetime, including conducting routine surveillance flights, joint exercises with allies, and port calls. In addition, the United States has stated clearly from before that it would continue to conduct overflights, navigation, and maneuvers anywhere which is permitted under international law. Unilateral acts that change the status quo and heighten tension, including large-scale reclamations and the building of hubs in the South China Sea, are recognized as shared concerns of the international community. Japan considers it important that the international community works together to protect open, free, and peaceful waters. As regards the B-52, the Press Secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington spoke about this during his press conference. The Press Secretary stated that the B-52 flight was part of the day-to-day operations, and we do not perceive them to be problematic acts in particular. That is all.

Question:
I have one more question. From two days ago to yesterday, a Chinese intelligence collection vessel made one round trip and a half near the Senkaku Islands, which has not been done before. Can you please share your comments regarding this? In addition, if the MOD will be strengthening its surveillance or taking other responses, can you please elaborate?

Minister:
At around 5 P.M. on November 11, a P-3C aircraft belonging to the Fleet Air Wing 5 of the MSDF confirmed one Dongdiao-class intelligence collection vessel of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) that was headed westward in the waters outside of the contiguous zone south of the Senkaku Islands. It has been confirmed that subsequently, until around 7 P.M. on the 12th, this intelligence collection vessel repeatedly navigated from west to east and east to west in these waters. The MOD will continue to closely follow the military moves related to PLAN, and take all possible measures to surveil the waters and airspace surrounding Japan. I would like to refrain from making conclusive statements regarding the purpose of the vessel's activity. With regard to China's recent moves, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been rapidly expanding and stepping up its operations in waters and airspace, including drills and intelligence collection. In the waters and airspace surrounding Japan, the successive entry into the Pacific Ocean by Chinese fleets by transiting between the main island of Okinawa and Miyako Island is becoming normalized, and the entry and return routes to and from the Pacific Ocean by Chinese fleets include waters north of Japan and are becoming diversified. Furthermore, there has been a tendency for China to conduct operations, such as long-distance flights by aircraft towards the Pacific Ocean by transiting the airspace between the main island of Okinawa and Miyako Island. In this regard, we expect that China will be further expanding the area of operations.

Question:
In relation to the activities of Chinese military vessels near the Senkaku Islands, you just stated that you expect the PLA to further expand the area of its operations. Is it your understanding that the recent operation was conducted as part of the expansion of the area of operations?

Minister:
This time, the vessel did not enter the contiguous zone. However, over a two-day period, the vessel did not merely transit but repeatedly navigated from west to east and east to west in a single day in the vicinity of the contiguous zone, which was peculiar navigation. Japan is following this very closely, and has released this information as it is necessary for many people in and outside of Japan to be aware of this. I would like to refrain from making conclusive statements regarding the purpose of the vessel's operation.

Question:
I have a related question. China and the United States are in a state of conflict over the South China Sea. What is your perception concerning linkages between the vessel's operation and this situation in the South China Sea?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from making conclusive statements regarding the waters in question as well as the purpose of the operation of PLAN's vessel based on the recent activity.

Question:
I have a related question. I understand that the vessel transited this sea area at around 7 P.M. yesterday. What is the current state of the MSDF's surveillance activity?

Minister:
What I have been informed is that it has been confirmed that until around 7 P.M., the vessel repeatedly navigated this sea area west to east and east to west. I understand that the MSDF would continue to monitor the situation thereafter and is currently conducting its surveillance activity.

Question:
According to some media reports, Japanese national rescue trainings, which were supposed to be conducted in mid-December in Iruma Air Base and other places in connection with the transport training of overseas Japanese nationals based on the passage of the security legislation, have been postponed. Is it true that trainings that had been planned have been postponed? In addition, the legislation's enforcement in late March of next year is approaching. Are the preparations for the rescue of Japanese nationals delayed? Can you please confirm?

Minister:
An outline of this training has not been announced yet. The transport training of overseas Japanese nationals was conducted for the first time last fiscal year as part of the joint training. The holding of this fiscal year's training was unveiled in April of this year. At this time, the details are being reviewed and arranged to hold the training in mid-December. I will let you know the details as soon as we have finished making the arrangements. This summer, the Legislation for Peace and Security was deliberated and passed. To properly execute the various duties set forth in the legislation, including measures to protect Japanese nationals, it is first necessary to carry out the required preparations for implementing the trainings, such as considering the operational concepts of the units and considering and developing internal rules. On this basis, the required trainings are held, and their outcomes are fed back as necessary. In this manner, we need to take prudent steps to increase the capacities to execute the duties. In the lead-up to the enforcement of the Legislation for Peace and Security, we are carrying out these various preparations and considerations. A detailed outline, including the exact start date of the training, has not been finalized. In any case, we will continue to carry out preparations and considerations to be able to accurately execute the duties that have been granted. With regard to instructions and so on, I issued basic instructions on September 28, and accordingly, the necessary considerations and preparations are being carried out.

Question:
As the ninth unit will be leaving for South Sudan soon, I would like to ask the following question once again. The security legislation will enter into force while the ninth unit is dispatched to South Sudan. Is my understanding correct that new duties based on the legislation would not be granted to the ninth unit?

Minister:
As regards the operations based on the new legislation, we are still in the stage of carrying out detailed considerations and preparations in the lead-up to the enforcement of the legislation. What I instructed was that avoiding haste and making thorough preparations were an absolute necessity. I also instructed that information be collected in consultation with the countries concerned, while taking ample time to examine matters with the utmost care. In addition, I instructed everyone to make absolutely sure there were no oversights while working in close coordination with the ministries concerned and relevant bureaus within the MOD. Therefore, these considerations are now being made within the MOD. With regard to the unit that will be deployed next, we do not yet intend to give them new duties or new operations.

Question:
Is my understanding correct that the ninth unit would not be executing new duties, and that no preparations or trainings to this end have been conducted?

Minister:
We are still in the stage before this. We are in the phase of considering the new duties associated with the legislation within the MOD.

-PAGE TOP-