Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(03:18-03:33 P.M. November 29, 2015)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 03:18-03:33 P.M. November 29, 2015
Place: In Front of the Headquarters Building of MSDF Coastal Defense Group Tsushima
(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 impression of Tsushima and what you made of your latest visit here?

Minister:
Tsushima is a remote island on the northern tip of Kyushu, on the edge of Japan's national boundary. The GSDF, ASDF, and MSDF units are stationed here. I inspected the sites where they are holding positions to defend the front line of Japan's national boundary and personally met with SDF personnel who have a very strong sense of responsibility, backed by enormous perseverance and high morale. I am very proud of them and would like to express my sincere respect for them. In the morning, I visited Camp Tsushima where GSDF Tsushima Guard Unit is stationed. My visit coincided with a ceremony to mark the 35th anniversary of its establishment and a parade through the city streets, with many citizens looking on. The Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture and the Mayor of Tsushima City also attended the ceremony and offered words of encouragement. I was grateful for the understanding and cooperation provided by local residents to the SDF, which I believe allowed SDF personnel stationed in Tsushima to devote themselves to their jobs diligently, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to them. During the parade through the city streets, a huge banner saying, "We love the SDF," was hoisted. This reminded me anew of the importance of doing our jobs thoroughly in order to meet those expectations placed on the SDF. After these events, I inspected MSDF Coastal Defense Group Tsushima. There are many personnel working here on the island, far from the mainland and also far from their families. Among the sea areas surrounding Japan, this location is one of great importance. For example, the SDF personnel here are working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in order to secure the safety of sea lanes in coastal waters and keep the ocean under surveillance. I was able to confirm that each and every one of the SDF personnel is thoroughly fulfilling their responsibility with high morale. I found them to be truly dependable and was strongly impressed by the way they are defending the front lines of our national boundary.

Question:
I have a related question. You just said that the SDF personnel are defending a key area on the front lines of our national boundary. Yesterday, there were media reports that North Korea failed in the test firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Please tell us how the MOD is gathering information to confirm the facts about this incident.

Minister:
I am aware of the media reports. Considering the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from going into any details about what North Korea is doing. However, I can assure you that at the moment, we are not witnessing any events that would have an immediate impact on Japan's security. In May this year, North Korea announced that it has succeeded in test-launching an SLBM, and we believe that North Korea is continuing with the development of SLBMs. The MOD intends to continue to closely monitor military developments in North Korea, including SLBM-related matters.

Question:
I have another related question. What impact, if any, do you think North Korea's ballistic missiles would have on Japan's security?

Minister:
North Korea is continuing to develop such missiles and, in my view, the test-firings are indicative of their higher performance. As for North Korea's capability at the moment, they are moving ahead with the development of nuclear weapons, and given their actual provocative statements and behavior suggesting that they will conduct missile attacks, we recognize North Korea's ballistic missiles as representing a serious and impending threat to Japan's security.

Question:
You are now visiting Tsushima, and tomorrow, you are scheduled to visit an ASDF facility in Unishima, where radars are installed that are said to be somewhat old. The MOD's budget request for FY2016 includes expenses for improving radars. Including what I just mentioned, could you comment on how you are going to boost Japan's missile defense?

Minister:
The MOD and the SDF have deployed a total of 28 radar sites across Japan, which are constantly engaged in warning and surveillance activities in airspace around Japan. Regarding these radar sites, under the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium-Term Defense Program, we are working on the capacity enhancement of FPS-7, a fixed surveillance radar, in order to enhance capabilities to simultaneously and continuously respond to ballistic missile attacks. Regarding the 19th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron stationed in Unishima, the MOD sought some 1.5 billion yen under the FY2016 budget request for geological survey and site preparation necessary for upgrading equipment from FPS-2 to FPS-7. We are planning to implement the actual radar improvements in Unishima in FY2017. The MOD intends to continue efforts to enhance information gathering, and warning and surveillance activities in southwestern areas.

Question:
I would like to ask a question about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The other day, you said that you intend to proceed with considerations for THAAD introduction, apparently in view of a possible emergency situation on the Korean Peninsula. After inspecting the Tsushima base, which is closest to the Korean Peninsula, how are you going about that consideration specifically?

Minister:
Under Japan's current ballistic missile defense system, it is possible to defend the entire area of Japan through multilayer defense that combines the higher-layer interception by four MSDF Aegis vessels mounted with SM-3 missiles and the lower-layer interception by ASDF PAC-3 missiles. In view of the enhanced capabilities of North Korea's ballistic missiles, we will enhance the readiness, and simultaneous and continuous response capabilities of the ballistic missile defense system under the National Defense Program Guidelines. While the MOD has no concrete plans to introduce THAAD at this stage, we believe that the introduction of new assets like Aegis Ashore and THAAD could serve as one specific means of boosting our capabilities. As I stated during my earlier visit to Hawaii, where I inspected the X Band radar and received explanations from people concerned, I would like to accelerate considerations about the future of Japan's ballistic missile defense system while continuing to engage in research on the advanced efforts and equipment of the United States.

Question:
Earlier, you visited a site for which a company from the Republic of Korea (ROK) had acquired the land rights. How do you intend to deal with the land acquisition by the ROK company adjacent to the SDF base going forward?

Minister:
The land in question was originally owned by a Japanese company, and I saw that the land is now being used as a site for an ROK accommodation facility. I do not think that this poses any security concern under current circumstances. At any rate, I consider it important to closely monitor the present situation of land around SDF facilities and pay careful and close attention.

Question:
When former Minister of Defense Onodera visited here two years ago, he said that he would consider legal revisions and new legislation while monitoring the situation. After two years, how do you regard the current situation?

Minister:
I personally inspected the site today, and as I understand it, the investigation process so far has found no circumstances that would cause any immediate interference or difficulties.

Question:
Do you see any leeway to consider the development of relevant legislation going forward?

Minister:
I understand that discussions are in progress within various political parties and among lawmakers.

Question:
I would like to ask a question on the FY2016 budget. Some press reports from this morning claim that the defense budget will exceed 5 trillion yen in FY2016. Could you share with us the current state of budget arrangements?

Minister:
The MOD sought 4,929.9 billion yen in the FY2016 budget request. If expenses related to the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) and those associated with the introduction of a new government plane are included the amount would go up to 5,091.1 billion yen. I am aware of the press reports you just mentioned. The MOD is currently making arrangements with the fiscal authorities to compile the FY2016 budget by the end of the year. However, I would like to refrain from going into details about discussions within the Government. All I would like to say is that the MOD will continue to work to secure the expenses necessary for Japan's defense under the FY2016 defense budget.

Question:
Today marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). What is your view of this and how are you thinking about the future of the LDP? Yesterday, Prime Minister Abe mentioned amending the Constitution in relation to the House of Councillors election. What is your view about amending the Constitution, including whether amendment is necessary or unnecessary following the enactment of the Legislation for Peace and Security?

Minister:
In the case of human beings, in Japan we consider 60 years to be an auspicious age. As a member of the LDP, I feel very proud that the LDP has led Japan's politics for as long as 60 years. However, the LDP did not mark its 60th birthday as a matter of course. The LDP owes its longevity to the efforts of its forebears, and I believe that we must continue to make steady efforts by considering how best to respond to the new times. There are three reasons for the LDP's longevity, in my view. First, we have party organizations in regions and we discuss policies through exchanges of views between the party headquarters in Tokyo and the regions. Second, the LDP is a national party, with people from various quarters and all walks of life getting involved in the running of the party in a nonbiased manner. Their views are reflected in LDP policies in some way or other, but this is being done in an unbiased way with opinions voiced generally and broadly. Third, the LDP is run democratically. This has given rise to the commonly used expression "LDP-like." The General Council holds high-level, in-depth and sophisticated discussions in its decision-making procedures guided by the principle of consensus. The political decision-making process is open, with participating lawmakers using their political acumen and instincts. At meetings of the Policy Research Council, held every day from 8 A.M., lawmakers with knowledge and experience that exceed that of bureaucrats raise very sophisticated questions. I believe that the LDP has survived these long years by developing this mechanism for developing and orchestrating policies. Regarding amending the Constitution, a so-called private plan has already been developed, but this is nothing more than the material for further discussion. I think that we need to develop this into something that is convincing and plausible to the Japanese people with the broad participation of the people. Constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of lawmakers in the Diet, after discussions with various political parties as well as with the organs of public opinion in order to obtain the approval of lawmakers. Policy adjustments not only within the LDP but also with other parties are required, and we have a starting point for doing so. Nevertheless, I believe that we must hold extensive discussions among the political parties.

-PAGE TOP-