Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(11:30-11:50 A.M. November 27, 2015)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:30-11:50 A.M. November 27, 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
I have two announcements. First, I would like to make an announcement regarding direct subsidies for the three Kube districts in Nago City, where MCAS Futenma will be relocated. On this past October 26, a meeting was held at the Prime Minister's Office between the Government and the three Kube districts in Nago City, which are the relocation sites of MCAS Futenma. At this meeting, the Government explained that it was studying a framework for providing subsidies to the three Kube districts directly. Subsequently, the MOD conducted a review, and today, established guidelines for the provision of subsidies under the Special Regional Support Program for the Realignment. This is to provide subsidies to the three Kube districts directly, in order to contribute to the smooth implementation of the realignment of the U.S. Forces. The three Kube districts are home to Camp Schwab where MCAS Futenma will be relocated. These districts will be directly and most affected by the relocation project. In this light, the guidelines will allow subsidies to be provided directly for projects that the districts are implementing to help mitigate the impact of the U.S. Force realignment, preserve the living environment, and ensure the stable lives of the people. With the establishment of the guidelines, the MOD will continue to thoroughly respond to the requests of the three Kube districts. An MOD official will be providing more information on this at a briefing which will be held shortly. I have one other announcement. Following today's Cabinet meeting, a drill was held on influenza and new infectious disease responses. This was an operational drill of the national headquarters for countermeasures, which was attended by all Cabinet members, including the Prime Minister. I too attended as a member. Today, in conjunction with the operational drill of the national headquarters for countermeasures, drills will be conducted by the relevant ministries and agencies, prefectures and municipalities, and the relevant designated public institutions. As regards the MOD, the MOD Meeting for Pandemic Influenza and New Infectious Diseases will carry out a drill linked with the drill of the national headquarters for countermeasures. The drill will be held to confirm the MOD's measures for preventing and addressing infections during a pandemic influenza outbreak. The MOD recognizes that countermeasures for pandemic influenza and new infectious diseases are critical issues for national crisis management, and will continue to enhance its countermeasures in close coordination with the relevant ministries and agencies.

2.Questions and Answers

Question:
I have a question regarding the direct assistance for the three Kube districts in Nago City. Can you once again explain what the meaning is of providing assistance to the districts not through Nago City but directly? In addition, is it correct to understand that this assistance will be the first installment? Is the MOD planning to provide more direct assistance or any other assistance?

Minister:
The MOD views that more attentive measures are needed for areas near defense facilities, where it is deemed that particular attention needs to be paid to the U.S. Force realignment's increasing impacts on the stable lives of the people, based on the requests of the people. In this context, this year, the council made requests in connection with the MCAS Futenma replacement facility construction project. Therefore, the MOD established guidelines on the provision of subsidies for swiftly carrying out subsidized programs from FY2015, as these districts are home to Camp Schwab and will be most affected by the project. The three Kube districts will apply for subsidies for individual programs, and a decision will be made as to whether or not they will be adopted. These subsidies are not grants in which the three Kube districts have free discretion to decide on the uses. The MOD plans to provide these subsidies in the next fiscal year and beyond as well. It is based on this concept that the subsidies will be provided.

Question:
My question is related to the previous question. I understand that the subsidies will be provided from this fiscal year. What is the size of the budget you have in mind for the three districts combined?

Minister:
The guidelines set for a limit of 13 million yen per organization in FY2015. The subsidy rate is ten-tenth. Eligible programs are, first, programs relating to Japan-U.S. exchanges, for example, programs that contribute to traditional arts or sports competitions. The other is programs relating to the safe lives of the people, including traffic safety workshops, outreach on disaster risk reduction and crime prevention, and security lighting measures. Another is other programs relating to improving the living environment, including the repair and expansion of meeting facilities. These have been identified as the eligible programs. We will be deciding on the programs from here on.

Question:
I have a related question. How will this be funded?

Minister:
This fiscal year, the funding will come from the budget allocated for subsidies to improve areas around the U.S. Forces' facilities, under expenses related to the stationing of the U.S. Forces in Japan in the FY2015 budget.

Question:
I have a related question. You stated that subsidies would be provided directly to the three Kube districts, in light of the U.S. Force realignment's impacts on the stable lives of the people. What exactly are the allowances being provided for? To mitigate the impacts of the construction work? Or, as I believe the Chief Cabinet Secretary noted, to mitigate the impacts on the people's lives of, for example, the noise and traffic congestion caused by the protesters? What exactly are the allowances being provided for?

Minister:
We have received requests from the people in the Kube districts as there are a variety of impacts on the areas. The Government views that considerations need to be given as much as possible to preserve the living environment and improve the lives of the people in the three Kube districts, which will be directly and most affected by the MCAS Futenma replacement facility construction project, based on the requests received from the three Kube districts. With an eye to providing subsidies directly to these districts, the MOD prepared the guidelines.

Question:
I have a question in regard to this matter. I believe the Chief Cabinet Secretary stated during his press conferences that subsidies would be provided because the people have requested the Government to do something about the significant traffic congestion and noise problems caused by the protesters. Is it correct to understand that the MOD shares the same view?

Minister:
There are protests against the relocation to Henoko. While the freedom of expression and the people's right to access information must be respected, it is a matter of course that one is not allowed to conduct, without any restrictions, acts that violate laws and ordinances, such as illegal parking and making noise, acts that cause inconveniences, and acts that pose danger. We are listening to the requests of the people in the three Kube districts regarding these matters, including the impacts on this region. The Government will take responses by taking into consideration these requests received from the three Kube districts.

Question:
If the limit is 13 million yen, I gather that the limit for the three districts combined is 39 million yen. We can expect Nago City to intensify its protests against the Government's provision of such sums of money directly as subsidies. How do you intend to gain the understanding of Nago City?

Minister:
While local governments are also involved, the Government will be giving considerations as much as possible to the fact that the people in the three Kube districts will be most affected by the MCAS Futenma replacement facility construction project. If it is found that there are overlaps with projects overseen by Okinawa Prefecture or Nago City, then the implementer of the projects and other details will be coordinated among the relevant officials. The three Kube districts will be implementing the projects for which such details have been coordinated. Therefore, I believe it is not true that the projects will go against the wishes of local governments. More information will be provided at the briefing that will be held shortly.

Question:
What is the reason for setting the limit at 13 million yen?

Minister:
This fiscal year's budget has already been allocated. I understand that the amount was thus calculated based on measures that can be taken in response to the requests we received from each of the three districts, within the limited budget that is available for this fiscal year.

Question:
Does that mean the upper limit will change next fiscal year and beyond?

Minister:
With regard to next fiscal year's budget, we will be negotiating with the financial authorities from here on and will be making the necessary requests.

Question:
So there is a possibility that the limit will be higher than 13 million yen?

Minister:
We came up with this year's amount in the context of the overall framework. As for the budget request and how we will respond to the requests of the three districts next year, we will make our request and coordinate with the financial authorities.

Question:
I would like to change the subject to the MOD's public relations. This Tuesday, the Director General of Public Affairs of the Joint Staff moved to the tenth floor. I understand that the public affairs offices of the GSDF, MSDF, and ASDF will also be moving next door. While I assume that this is to strengthen the MOD's public relations system, can you once again tell us the significance and aim of these changes?

Minister:
The MOD has been enhancing its public relations capability based on the "Direction of the MOD Reform" of August 2013 and subsequent reviews. More specifically, this year in late March, a permanent MOD Reporting Center was established for conducting public relations in a timely and appropriate manner, in order to adapt to the operations of the SDF that carry out seamless responses to any situation. The Center consists of the Press Secretary of the Minister's Secretariat as the Director of the Reporting Center, the Director General of Public Affairs of the Joint Staff as the Deputy Director of the Reporting Center, and the directors of the press offices of the internal bureau and staff offices as members. The Center provides a framework for the MOD's civilian officials and SDF uniform personnel to carry out integrated public relations efforts swiftly, accurately, and consistently. To enable the Reporting Center to function more effectively and efficiently, we have decided to consolidate the press and public affairs arms of the internal bureau and staff offices and have them located on the same floor. This week, the public affairs and press division of the Joint Staff relocated to the tenth floor of Building A. Gradually, the public affairs and press divisions of each staff office will be relocated to the tenth floor of Building A. The purpose is to enhance coordination across divisions and increase mutual communication, so that the Center can better send out information as one voice in a quicker, more accurate, and more consistent manner. To this end, we will make maximum efforts. I often have opportunities to visit TV networks where news is done by having many people together on a very large floor, without any walls. Using these examples as reference, the MOD hopes to report information quickly and accurately.

Question:
I have a question concerning Australia's submarines. I understand that Japan will be submitting a proposal to Australia as early as next week. Will the provision of submarine technology not run into conflict with Japan's Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology? If not, can you please explain why?

Minister:
Yesterday, the National Security Council (NSC) held a meeting and examined the case of the overseas transfer of components and other equipment if Japan were to jointly develop and produce Australia's future submarines. The overseas transfer in this case refers to Japan, if selected as partner, designing and building Australia's future submarines together with Australia, and after the submarines are built, providing the necessary assistance for operations and maintenance undertaken by Australia. The NSC confirmed that the transfer of the components necessary for the joint development and production of Australia's future submarines constitutes a case in which the overseas transfer may be permitted, for the reason that it has positive significance from the viewpoint of Japan's security, and furthermore, appropriate control following the transfer to Australia is ensured. More specifically, Japan and Australia share fundamental values and strategic interests, and the two countries' promotion of multi-layered cooperation in a variety of fields, including defense equipment cooperation, contributes to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and the international community. Secondly, if Japan is selected as partner for Australia's future submarine project and Japan is to transfer the necessary components for the joint development and production with Australia, this case would fall under "overseas transfer relating to international joint development and production projects with countries cooperating with Japan in security area including the U.S." Thirdly, the overseas transfer in this case will be implemented in accordance with the Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of Australia Concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology. In the case of extra-purpose use or transfer to third parties, the Government will oblige Australia to gain Japan's prior consent. Therefore, taking into consideration that it can be found that appropriate control would be ensured following the transfer, it can be deemed that the transfer does not pose security problems for Japan. As a result of the NSC's examination yesterday, it was confirmed that this is a case in which overseas transfer may be permitted.

Question:
If I may, I would like to ask a question pertaining to the Futenma issue. The Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education has decided to designate the earthenware and stone tools discovered near the construction site for the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko as cultural properties as early as this afternoon. It is anticipated that studies would be conducted in this area. How do you think this will impact the construction work for the relocation?

Minister:
I am aware that the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education is confirming whether or not they are cultural properties. I understand that the prefectural and city boards of education need to take the required procedures to designate this area where these fragments of earthenware and stone tools were discovered as land where buried cultural properties could exist. With regard to the impact on the project, I cannot provide speculative responses. In any case, the handling of buried cultural properties on the premises of Camp Schwab will be dealt with appropriately in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances.

Question:
I have a related question. You said that this would be dealt with appropriately in accordance with the relevant laws and ordinances. Is my understanding correct then that if they are designated as buried cultural properties, as long as laws and ordinances prescribe that studies are needed, the MOD would stop the construction work and agree to the implementation of the studies?

Minister:
The Board of Education is now examining and confirming whether or not they are cultural properties. Therefore, I am unable to provide speculative responses regarding the impacts on the project.

Question:
Is my understanding correct that the MOD intends to agree to the studies if they are necessary?

Minister:
As that is a hypothetical situation, I cannot respond to your question. In any case, we will deal with it appropriately in accordance with the law.

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