Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(05:20-05:35 A.M. November 25, 2015 (Japan time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 05:20-05:35 A.M. November 25, 2015 (Japan time)
Place: Camp H. M. Smith
(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:
Can you please tell us about your meeting with Commander Harry Harris?

Minister:
Before that, I held talks for approximately 30 minutes with Commander Lori Robinson of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). During the meeting, we agreed that we would further collaborate with each other on the joint trainings of the ASDF and U.S. PACAF. In addition, we exchanged views on integrated air and missile defense (IAMD). With regard to my meeting with Commander Harris of the United States Pacific Command (PACOM), the meeting took place which was scheduled to last approximately one hour. First, consultations have started on the Alliance Coordination Mechanism (ACM) and the Bilateral Planning Mechanism (BPM). With these mechanisms being formally established, the Commander and I confirmed that we and the PACOM Command would coordinate with each other more closely. Furthermore, we exchanged views on the South China Sea. I conveyed to the Commander that Japan deems that the efforts of the U.S. Forces are spearheading the efforts of the international community to protect open, free, and peaceful seas and that PACOM is fulfilling an important mission on the front line in these efforts, and that Japan supports them. The Commander and I confirmed that the two countries would deepen their cooperation for regional peace and stability through joint training, including joint cruise training in the high seas, as well as capacity building assistance for countries in Southeast Asia. Additionally, we mutually affirmed the importance of Japan-ROK, Japan-U.S.-ROK, and Japan-U.S.-Australia collaboration. With regard to the relocation of MCAS Futenma and the relocation of the Marines in Okinawa to Guam, I requested further U.S. cooperation on mitigating the impact on Okinawa. Following yesterday's release of a report on the investigation of the Osprey accident, I once again requested Commander Harris to continue to ensure the safety of Osprey flights. This was the general content of my meeting.

Question:
You stated that the two sides agreed on the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. What significance do you attach to this now that you have held talks with the top commanders in the Asia-Pacific region today?

Minister:
The principle of the freedom of navigation, or the freedom of navigation and the freedom of overflight in these open spaces, are rights that all countries possess and should be secured. Unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion are not condoned by the international community, and Japan shares this view. The U.S. side, too, holds this view. In this regard, our views concurred. We agreed to continue our efforts to maintain stability in the region.

Question:
What did Commander Harris say when you expressed your support for the U.S. efforts in the South China Sea?

Minister:
The Commander stated that the United States would continue to conduct such operations to maintain stability and security while closely monitoring the regional situation.

Question:
Did Commander Harris say anything to the effect that the United States would continue the "freedom of navigation operation"?

Minister:
I stated to the Commander that the Government of Japan supports the operations that the U.S. side is engaged in, and that the Japanese Government would take responses as much as possible towards the stability of this region. The U.S. side did not make any comments in particular regarding these activities.

Question:
In connection with the U.S. activities or surveillance posture, did the U.S. side request or express expectations towards the concrete cooperation of the SDF?

Minister:
Our view from before is that Japan will continue to carry out activities that contribute to regional security and stability, such as capacity building assistance and joint training.

Question:
Did Commander Harris make any requests?

Minister:
No, not in particular regarding this matter.

Question:
Did Commander Harris say anything in regard to mitigating the impact on Okinawa?

Minister:
After I explained the ongoing measures of the Japanese Government, I asked for the United States' continued support for the Industrial Corridor, the return of the military bases, and so on.

Question:
What did Commander Harris say?

Minister:
There were no comments in particular. My understanding is that the Commander accepted my request.

Question:
Did Commander Harris ask you to continue to proceed with the work related to the relocation of MCAS Futenma or anything of that nature?

Minister:
The Commander did not make any references to this in particular.

Question:
With respect to the right of collective self-defense, Commander Harris stated that the United States would support the expansion of Japan's role. Following the passage of the so-called security legislation, do you intend to expand the role or increase the commitment of the SDF in the Asia-Pacific region?

Minister:
Commander Harris's views are as he stated in his opening statement. As for Japan, the passage of the Legislation for Peace and Security enables Japan to take seamless responses to any situation. This is also true for the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, which enable responses to any situation, from peacetime to contingencies. Thus, we would ensure the effectiveness of the new Guidelines and further improve the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Moreover, as the Legislation intends Japan to further contribute to the peace and stability of the international community under the policy of Proactive Contribution to Peace based on the principle of international cooperation, we would make effort to that end. As such, further efforts will be made in this direction.

Question:
Was anything about the schedule decided, such as when exactly bilateral plans would be developed or the timing of the full-fledged launch of ACM?

Minister:
We did not discuss any deadlines or dates in particular. Based on the establishment of ACM and BPM, we are now in the stage of holding working-level consultations. Currently, consultations are taking place on the basic concepts and frameworks, and we will continue to hold the consultations.

Question:
After holding talks with Commander Harris, do you feel that the Japan-U.S. relations have further deepened? Did you come away with any such impressions?

Minister:
We were able to share views on the regional situation and the way forward. Up to now, we have responded to each matter while considering the significance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. I believe we shared the view that going forward, cooperative relations should be established not only between Japan and the United States, but also trilaterally, such as involving Australia or the Republic of Korea, or multilaterally to continue to contribute to regional peace and security.

Question:
Minister, the passage of the Legislation for Peace and Security enables Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense. In terms of operations, what exactly can Japan and the United States do that they could not before as a result of the legislation? In addition, did you talk about this with Commander Harris or other officials?

Minister:
The Legislation for Peace and Security revised laws to enable seamless responses to any situation affecting the security of Japan. In particular, the Guidelines that were revised in April of this year outline that the two countries would further ensure the effectiveness of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and further increase the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Furthermore, they set forth that Japan and the United States would cooperate to contribute to world peace and the stability of the international community based on the principle of international cooperation.

Question:
As regards the "freedom of navigation operation" in the South China Sea, is there anything that Japan can do that is more focused on this operation?

Minister:
With regard to this matter, as I stated a short while ago, the international community needs to join hands to address the situation. Regarding the measures for upholding international law and maintaining stable order, to ensure that the rule of law is achieved, Japan considers that a variety of policies should be considered while providing a number of options by paying attention to their implications on Japan. As of now, we do not have concrete plans to conduct regular and continuous surveillance. Japan's intentions as such are as the Prime Minister stated in his responses to questions at the Diet. Thus far, Japan has proactively engaged in activities that contribute to regional stability, including capacity building assistance for countries in the periphery of the South China Sea, and the joint training between the MSDF and the U.S. Forces, and Japan will continue to take responses based on this posture. In any case, ensuring the security of the sea lanes and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea are matters of serious concern to Japan. Japan considers it important that the international community work together to take measures to protect open and peaceful seas and unrestricted activities.

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