Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(12:22-12:37 P.M. November 18, 2015)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 12:22-12:37 P.M. November 18, 2015
Place: Headquarters Building Conference Room, ASDF Matsushima Air Base
(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 tell us your honest impression of your visit to the Matsushima Air Base and the significance of the latest visit to the base?

Minister:
I thought that the base had a very powerful unit. I watched the flight training of the Blue Impulse team, and was again quite impressed by the very precise and developed skills of the team. The people responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft were very brisk and serious about their jobs, and I felt that they were highly conscious of safety measures in order to forestall accidents. The air controllers were also very quick and serious. On the whole, I got the impression that they have a very respectable unit at the base. The base was damaged in a devastating earthquake four years ago, but the ASDF personnel are working together to restore the base to its former state, maintain the aircraft, and develop the base facilities. I was deeply moved by the fact that the work to restore the base, which requires considerable additional efforts on top of regular training tasks, has been making steady headway. The Blue Impulse team returned to the base upon the completion of a hangar in late 2013. I observed the training at Matsushima Air Base and felt that they are rising back from the damage they suffered. I would like to once again genuinely pay my respects to the ASDF personnel who have united in doing their jobs and who, at the time of the earthquake disaster, went out of the base to make devoted efforts to support relief activities and search for missing people in the very difficult situation faced by the quake-affected areas.

Question:
As you just mentioned, March 2016 will mark the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. What is your view of the role Matsushima Air Base will play and its importance going forward in terms of recovery from the quake?

Minister:
In terms of initial responses immediately after the occurrence of an earthquake or any other form of disaster, the base must first of all maintain a system that allows the ASDF to promptly carry out relief and rescue operations. Another matter is that, as an ASDF base, it needs to develop a structure for taking actions for the assessment of the situation by the Government or local governments, such as an assessment of the overall situation, particularly the gathering of information from the sky, that is, by aircraft. Furthermore, it is necessary to continue to consider equipment for diligent lifesaving and recovery support operations, and specific guidelines for the handling of such operations.

Question:
Could you share with us the outlook for the return of F-2 to the base, and the outlook for the timing of the resumption of the cultivation and training of pilots?

Minister:
As for F-2, we are proceeding with the construction of a hangar scheduled for completion at the end of FY2015. At the same time, we are also continuing with the repair of F-2 that suffered damage. We have not yet decided on the timing of the return to the base of the 21st Squadron responsible for the training of pilots. We will promptly inform the local community of the timing of the return in due course.

Question:
As for the timing, you referred to the end of the current fiscal year in your instructions earlier. Are you saying that the specific timing has yet to be decided?

Minister:
We are making efforts for a return by the end of FY2015.

Question:
You stated in your instructions earlier that the MOD will make thorough preparations for the enforcement of the Legislation for Peace and Security so that SDF units can accomplish their tasks without waver. The Legislation for Peace and Security is set to be enforced at the end of March 2016. Could you tell us about the current status of those preparations, and whether they will be fully ready for April and beyond?

Minister:
The SDF units will be assigned with new tasks. The Legislation for Peace and Security provides for seamless response to all sorts of situations, ranging from the gray zone or an armed attack to situations of an armed attack against a foreign country resulting in threatening to Japan's survival. It is necessary to carefully make preparations for the enhancement of capabilities to accomplish such tasks, beginning with the consideration of plans for the operations of SDF units, and then to make the preparations necessary for training, such as the consideration and development of internal regulations. Based on these ideas, we will carry out the required training and feedback the results as needed. As I stated in my instructions, we are currently considering these new tasks, etc. internally with various organizations. We are taking time and making all considerations in an extremely careful manner by taking all elements into account, including consultations with the countries concerned and the collection and analysis of information together with revisions to a variety of rules and regulations, and the required training. We are now in the process of considering all such matters.

Question:
Regarding Okinawa, yesterday the Government took legal action for proceedings for execution by proxy. There are press reports that the Okinawa Prefectural Government is also considering legal action. This will lead to an unusual situation where the Government and the prefecture bring law suits against each other. What is your view of such a situation?

Minister:
The Government has taken action for proceedings for execution by proxy. As the Government's unified policy is to correct the situation concerning a violation of law regarding statutory entrusted administrative work, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, who has jurisdiction over the Act on Reclamation of Publicly-owned Water Surface , began proceedings for execution by proxy under the Local Autonomy Act. The Government is taking legally-established proceedings. I would like to refrain from making any comment on Okinawa Prefecture's future plans.

Question:
How do you honestly feel about this situation, which could develop into a court battle?

Minister:
I think that the Government has had careful discussions with Okinawa Prefecture over the past 19 years, and has taken cautious procedures step by step. I also believe that the Government has secured consent following administrative procedures by taking into consideration the prefecture's opinions and requests for improvement. There are absolutely no flaws in terms of the administrative procedures. The original purpose of the procedures is the early relocation and restoration of MCAS Futenma, and through this the Government is hoping to relieve the anxieties of the people of Okinawa and remove the danger to residents living around MCAS Futenma.

Question:
At yesterday's press conference, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga stated that the Government's legal action cannot obtain the understanding of the people of Okinawa Prefecture, using the expression the "the bayonet and the bulldozer," and indicated his intention to personally appear for oral proceedings. You stated yesterday that you will deal with this appropriately. What about the idea of you appearing in the court as a business proprietor to represent the Government's stand?

Minister:
We believe that we have proceeded with the work precisely pursuant to the law and administrative procedures. Regarding court proceedings going forward, the MOD will respond appropriately in court in accordance with the judgment of the court.

Question:
You mean that you will personally explain the Government?

Minister:
I will deal with the matter in accordance with the court proceedings.

Question:
Local residents as well as aviation fans across Japan are looking forward to the resumption of the air festival at Matsushima Air Base. No festival has been held since the earthquake. Can you tell us about the prospects for its resumption?

Minister:
We have been unable to hold the festival following the earthquake. I am very pleased to hear that the local residents wish to see the resumption of the festival. We are making the utmost efforts to resume the festival, and I know that preparations for its resumption are underway. But I understand that, at the moment, whether or not the festival can be held next year remains to be seen.

Question:
In your instructions earlier, you mentioned the terrorist attack in France, and referred to the Government's thorough preparedness under the Legislation for Peace and Security. In dealing with international terrorism in cooperation, what specifically can Japan do under the Legislation for Peace and Security, and how do you think Japan's capabilities have been enhanced?

Minister:
The Legislation for Peace and Security has been developed for seamless and legal response to all sorts of situations in order to ensure Japan's peace and security and defend the Japanese people's livelihood. Fundamentally, anti-terrorism activities are within the scope of the police and public security operations, and therefore should be primarily dealt with by them. Going forward, such activities may be conducted on a large scale, but they should also be conducted domestically and in accordance with existing laws. Internationally, the Government has been making diplomatic responses as the international community deals with terrorism. I think that we should build a structure to forestall terrorist attacks through consultation with various countries.

Question:
I have a related question. Next year an international summit meeting is scheduled to be held in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Following the terrorist attack in France, do you have any plans about how to boost security precautions, or what changes should be made?

Minister:
As before, the police and public security organizations are primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, and they have been making efforts to prevent terrorist crimes. Therefore those organizations are responsible for the plans to which you refer. Naturally the MOD and the SDF will get involved in the measures for security and safety upon request from such organizations and in accordance with the law.

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