Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(12:06-12:16 P.M. November 30, 2015)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 12:06-12:16 P.M. November 30, 2015
Place: Hall of Air Self-Defense Force Unishima Sub 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 first tell us what your impressions or thoughts are after visiting the base in Unishima?

Minister:
Coming here has made me realize once again that the squadron is a frontline unit stationed along the border. Unishima is 50 km from Busan in the Republic of Korea (ROK), and is thus located very close to the Korean Peninsula. It is a remote island along the border. The 19th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron conducts surveillance of the surrounding airspace 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The personnel were doing their jobs in a sincere and orderly manner, with a strong sense of responsibility. Their living situation is extremely inconvenient. Even while experiencing inconveniences, the personnel are fulfilling their duties diligently and steadily based on their sense of mission. I would like to once again acknowledge their high level of professionalism. In addition, I confirmed that our airspace is being protected in a very thorough manner. In Tsushima, I made careful observations of the units of the GSDF, MSDF, and ASDF, respectively, and gave each personnel words of encouragement as much as possible. In this context, it is the local islanders who support the hard-working personnel. The islanders have been very warm to the SDF and have demonstrated understanding and cooperation. In this regard, I would like to express my deepest appreciation. The respective units are located on the frontline along the border and are therefore indispensable to the defense mission of Japan. I hope that the people of Japan come to know that SDF personnel are hard at work here, and moreover, that the SDF personnel conduct their duties diligently.

Question:
Today you saw the actual radar site. I gather that it is a little old or parts of it are run-down. While I also asked this yesterday, can you once again tell us what your views are on the need for a new radar, now that you have actually seen the radar site?

Minister:
This radar facility was built in 1984. Radars are set up in 28 locations nationwide. In short, we must be able to conduct surveillance of the airspace of the entire country at all times and continuously. The current radar is FPS-2, and we are now proceeding with a plan to improve it to FPS-7 and increase its capability. Along with such modernization, the necessary work needs to get done steadily. Right now, the headquarter building is undergoing seismic retrofit work. In the FY2016 budget request, we have appropriated 1.5 billion yen for the geological survey and site preparation. The installment of the radar is planned for FY2017. So these equipment upgrades and enhancements need to be carried out steadily.

Question:
Did you sense the threat of North Korea's ballistic missiles, having actually come to the site?

Minister:
The radar carefully looks out for not only ballistic missiles, but also aircraft and more. Aerial surveillance needs to be conducted in the broad sense of air defense. Furthermore, the number of North Korea's ballistic missiles is increasing. In addition, their capabilities are improving. With North Korea also proceeding with nuclear tests, I perceive these as serious and urgent threats to the security of Japan. In this regard, we need to carry out thorough surveillance.

Question:
Today, some media reported that the MOD and a private company are conducting studies regarding the overseas bases of other countries, in order to draw on this information to utilize for the SDF's anti-piracy operational facility in Djibouti. Is this true?

Minister:
With regard to the operations of the base in Djibouti, the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) that were prepared in 2013 states that, "From the standpoint of carrying out international peace cooperation activities more effectively, Japan will consider measures for making more effective use of the SDF Operational Facility for Deployed Air Force for Anti-Piracy Operation in Djibouti." In response, this fiscal year, commissioned studies are under way to study cases of how other countries are making use of overseas bases. The MOD intends to consider concrete ways of making use of the operational facility, while referring to the findings of these studies. At this point in time, no specific timing or details have been decided. We are carrying out broad studies of what is the case for other countries' overseas bases.

Question:
The passage of the security legislation has enabled the SDF to rescue and protect Japanese nationals overseas. Will the studies be linked to realizing these operations?

Minister:
The studies are being conducted based on the NDPG, which were established before that, from the standpoint of carrying out international peace cooperation activities more effectively going forward. While Japan is carrying out international peace cooperation activities even now, I believe Japan can do much more, and furthermore, Japan can do what it is needed to do. From this standpoint, wide-ranging studies are being conducted on the mechanisms of international peace cooperation activities.

Question:
I have a related question. You stated that no specific details have been decided in particular. However, in reinforcing the operational facility, which functions do you intend to keep in mind in conducting the studies? For example, news reports have mentioned the facility's stockpile warehouse function and transport function.

Minister:
The base in Djibouti is an operational facility for anti-piracy operation. These activities as a matter of course involve cooperating with other countries and exchanging information. In addition, the SDF respond to a variety of requests for cooperation within their given mission. Responses are being taken from the perspective or standpoint of being able to respond to these requests.

Question:
I am sorry to change the subject completely, but I would like to ask a question regarding Japan-Australia submarine cooperation. Today is the deadline for submitting a proposal to the Australian Government. Have you already submitted your proposal? In addition, can you once again explain the significance of Japan-Australia submarine cooperation?

Minister:
Today, we intend to submit to Australia, Japan's proposal which has been compiled based on the work we have carried out to date. As of now, I have not been informed that the proposal has been submitted. With regard to the content of the proposal, as I have stated thus far, the cooperation will lead to Japan-Australia and Japan-U.S.-Australia strategic cooperation. In addition, Japan is the only country that builds and operates 4,000 ton-class, world's largest conventional-powered submarines. Japan's is a low-risk proposal based on world-leading technology. Japan intends to continue to build and operate conventional-powered submarines over a long period, and therefore, we believe Japan can collaborate with Australia in the long-term for the maintenance of its future submarines. I have instructed that these points be compiled and proposed to Australia.

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