Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(10:51-11:12 A.M. November 17, 2015)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:51-11:12 A.M. November 17, 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
The MOD has three announcements. First, from (Thursday) the 19th of this week to (Sunday) the 22nd, I will visit Australia for the 6th Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations and a Japan-Australia defense ministerial meeting. Following this, I will continue on to Hawaii in the United States and will return to Japan on (Wednesday) the 25th. In Australia, I will first visit Adelaide and hold talks with Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia. In addition, I will visit shipbuilding-related facilities at ASC, a local shipbuilding company. I will then go to Sydney, and on the 22nd, Japan-Australia 2+2 will be held for the first time in about one year and five months since the previous consultations in June of last year. This will be followed by a Japan-Australia defense ministerial meeting. Through the series of meetings, there will be a broad exchange of views to further deepen the defense and security relations between the two countries based on the "special strategic partnership" between Japan and Australia. Furthermore, a candid exchange of views and discussions will take place regarding the regional security situation. From Australia, I will visit Hawaii from (Monday) the 22nd to (Wednesday) the 25th, and will exchange views with the commanders of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) and others, including USPACOM Commander Harry Harris. Through the series of meetings, I hope the two sides can discuss and share each other's understanding of the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, building a strong Japan-U.S. Alliance, and Japan-U.S.-Australia security cooperation, among other matters. The second announcement concerns personnel decisions. The Cabinet approved the appointment of eight general officers, taking effect on December 1, at the Cabinet meeting today. In addition, personnel changes will take place on the same date involving four generals and 25 major generals. The third announcement is that yesterday late afternoon, I paid a condolence call to the Embassy of France. I expressed my sympathies to Ambassador Thierry Dana. I am deeply shocked and outraged that inhuman and despicable terror attacks in Paris resulted in many victims. I express my deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, and express my sympathy to those who were injured in the attacks. In this time of difficulty facing France, we the Japanese people stand with the people of France. We express our strong solidarity. Terrorism could never be justified by any reason. I strongly condemn terrorism. Japan will take steps to prevent terrorism in close coordination with the international community, including France. The MOD will continue to work to collect intelligence with a heightened sense of urgency while coordinating with the relevant ministries and agencies. These are my three announcements.

2.Questions and Answers

Question:
I have a question regarding the relocation to Henoko in Okinawa Prefecture. Today, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) filed suit against Okinawa Prefecture. Can you please share your comments on this matter?

Minister:
I understand that today, at 8:30 A.M., which is what I have been informed, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism filed a lawsuit with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court, seeking a judgment that will order Governor Takeshi Onaga to remedy the violation of laws and ordinances. At the Cabinet meeting on October 27, it was confirmed that Governor Onaga's revocation disposition of the land reclamation approval was illegal, and that procedures, including execution by proxy, would be initiated based on the Local Autonomy Act, which allows the Government to ultimately seek the judgment of the judiciary. I understand that the lawsuit was filed as part of these procedures that are in accordance with the provisions of laws and ordinances, which was done in response to the Governor's refusal of the recommendations and instructions of the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The MOD will commence the construction work for the building of the replacement facility for MCAS Futenma, and remains committed to realizing the relocation and return of MCAS Futenma as quickly as possible.

Question:
My question is in regard to your visit to Australia and Hawaii. First, in Australia, 2+2 will take place. What are the objectives of these consultations? In addition, specifically, I imagine that joint submarine development is included in the agenda. Can you tell us what the two sides will be discussing and what negotiations will take place?

Minister:
The upcoming 2+2 will be the sixth one. During the consultations, a broad exchange of views is expected to take place on the overall defense cooperation between Japan and Australia. In the course of this, with regard to Japan-Australia submarine cooperation, I will directly explain the process thus far and our current views to Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. In addition, we expect to discuss regional security. I also hope to exchange views regarding the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), among other matters. As for the joint development of submarines, this was originally requested by Australia, and currently, the Japanese Government, joined by private companies, is examining the feasibility of the international joint development and production of Australia's future submarines. At this time, the Australian Government is requesting that we study measures for three submarine-building options and the maximum participation of Australian companies. Japan will study and take measures for all building options. As collaboration with Australian companies is essential for the option of building in Australia, I will visit Adelaide to confirm firsthand the shipbuilding capabilities and so on.

Question:
My question is related to the previous question. Can you once again explain the objective and the significance of your visit to Hawaii?

Minister:
The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, the new Guidelines, were prepared this April. To make the bilateral efforts more effective under the new Guidelines, the Legislation for Peace and Security was passed during the previous Diet session in September. On November 3, an agreement was reached to establish an Alliance Coordination Mechanism (ACM) and a Bilateral Planning Mechanism (BPM), which are important foundations for ensuring the effectiveness of the new Guidelines. In light of these developments, I will exchange views with the commanders of USPACOM and others, including USPACOM Commander Harris who is responsible for operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Through these exchanges of views, I hope the two sides can share each other's understanding of the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region and cooperation for building a strong Japan-U.S. Alliance, among other matters.

Question:
I would like to ask a question in connection with Futenma. This is the first time in 20 years that the Government and Okinawa Prefecture are trying a case in court, and I believe it is an unprecedented situation. What do you think caused feud between the views of the Government and the Prefecture in the lead-up to the lawsuit? In addition, what are your own thoughts on the fact that the situation has evolved into a court lawsuit?

Minister:
The project to relocate MCAS Futenma started based on the consultations that were held between Japan and the United States to remove the risks posed by MCAS Futenma and dispel the concerns and anxieties of the surrounding residents. In this process, we proceeded with the project while holding sincere consultations with Okinawa Prefecture. The MOD believes that the ministry and the administrative authorities of Okinawa Prefecture held thorough dialogues in good faith over a lengthy period. As a result, we received various guidance and opinions from Okinawa Prefecture regarding the land reclamation application procedures, and on this basis, we submitted the application. After receiving the land reclamation approval, we have continued to undertake the project while listening to the opinions of Okinawa Prefecture. In this regard, the MOD believes that it carried out the procedures by taking into account the opinions of Okinawa Prefecture, while giving consideration to the lives of the residents and the environment, in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances. In this respect, we do not perceive that there were flaws. While we have been explaining this to the relevant parties, including the Governor of Okinawa, regrettably we have not yet gained their understanding. We wish to proceed with the construction work to eliminate the issues facing MCAS Futenma as quickly as possible. I understand that it was on this basis that these measures were taken.

Question:
I have a related question. A lawsuit was filed today. However, many people in Okinawa Prefecture are opposed to the project, as shown by the public opinion surveys as well as the election outcomes. Does the Government still intend to make efforts to obtain the understanding of Okinawa Prefecture?

Minister:
Of course we will continue to provide explanations and make efforts to obtain their understanding. The people in Okinawa state that military bases are excessively concentrated in Okinawa, and call on us to provide thorough responses regarding the people's concerns and anxieties posed by these bases. We will continue to make efforts to obtain their understanding on the reduction and relocation of these military bases in Okinawa and the relocation of exercises to Honshu.

Question:
With regard to the relocation to Henoko, for example, looking at the response that was given to the open letter of inquiry that Okinawa Prefecture sent to the MLIT, I did not get a sense that the Government was really trying to gain the understanding of Okinawa. How are you going to gain their understanding, by which I do not mean understanding on mitigating the impacts of military bases on Okinawa Prefecture as a whole but the relocation to Henoko? Or now that the issue has gone to court, will your efforts to gain understanding fall by the wayside a little?

Minister:
We will continue to explain the advantages of the relocation. The first advantage is that it will enable the full return of MCAS Futenma. Its site will also be utilized effectively. Therefore, the relocation will eliminate the concerns of the surrounding residents, and at the same time, as a military base located in a central area of Okinawa Prefecture will be returned, the land can be utilized effectively. In addition, after MCAS Futenma is relocated to Henoko, there will no longer be civilians inconvenienced by the noise. Thus, the relocation will contribute to realizing safety and eliminating risks, while MCAS Futenma's current functions possessed by the U.S. Forces will be relocated to the mainland. In this regard, resolving the existing issues has sufficient advantages also for people in Okinawa Prefecture. We will continue to explain these points and make efforts to gain their understanding.

Question:
I recently had an opportunity to interview the Mayor of Nago City. You also met with the Mayor recently. The Mayor of Nago City stated that the two of you have not had any real communication since then. Will you be visiting Nago City once again? How do you intend to seek this understanding?

Minister:
For over ten years now, I have received a variety of opinions through my personal ties with the people of Nago City and Henoko, and I will continue to maintain such communication, exchange views, and provide explanations. If there is an opportunity, I would like to visit Nago City again to meet with the Mayor and hear the opinions of the people in the community.

Question:
The trial will be starting from here on. How do you think the trial will affect the construction work? What is the general schedule you have in mind for the bank reinforcement work, the reclamation itself and so on?

Minister:
The MOD would like to swiftly proceed with the construction work to realize the relocation and return of MCAS Futenma as quickly as possible. At present, we are developing the temporary yard which is necessary for the bank reinforcement work. As for how we will proceed with the rest of the construction work, we plan to build temporary roads in addition to the temporary yard. With regard to their outlook, it is difficult for me to answer with certainty at this moment in time. We hope to proceed with this work in coordination with the relevant agencies, based on the weather and ocean situation and the local situation, including the exercises of the U.S. Forces. As regards the trial, a judgment will be rendered by the judiciary. We view that measures should be taken in line with the requests of the judiciary and the procedures, in accordance with the laws and ordinances.

Question:
Is it correct to understand that the trial procedures and the progress of the construction work are not directly linked to each other?

Minister:
We perceive that the procedures were executed without any flaws pursuant to laws and ordinances as well as administrative procedures. Our position is that the measures taken by Okinawa Prefecture are illegal and cannot be accepted administratively. I expect that the procedures will move forward so that a judgment related to this will be rendered in a trial.

Question:
You said that you are entrusting the matter to the judgment of the judiciary. However, it will take some time until the judiciary reaches its conclusion. If the judgment accepts Okinawa Prefecture's allegations, then the Government will have to suspend the construction work or will lose the legal basis for conducting the construction work. In such an event, what will you do with the parts of the construction work that are already completed?

Minister:
These matters will be entrusted to the judgment of the judiciary. We will take appropriate responses according to the outcome that is obtained.

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