Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(10:42-11:00 A.M. January 4, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:42-11:00 A.M. January 4, 2016
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. At the Cabinet meeting today, the Cabinet approved the submission to the Diet of a bill to partially amend the Act on Remuneration, etc. of Ministry of Defense Personnel. This legislation will revise, among other items, the monthly salary of MOD personnel according to the example of national public servants in regular service. My other announcement is that the second Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”) between Japan and the United Kingdom will be held in Tokyo on (Friday) January 8. On the following day (Saturday, January 9), a Japan-UK defense ministerial meeting will be held with Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence, who will be visiting Japan to attend the “2+2” Meeting. The MOD attaches importance to deepening defense cooperation and exchanges with European countries that share fundamental values with Japan. In particular, Japan and the United Kingdom, which is a leading country in the international community and a strategic partner, agreed at the “2+2” Meeting in January of last year to enhance collaboration in the areas of security and defense. Furthermore, in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) released in November of last year, the United Kingdom underscores the importance of the Asia-Pacific region, stating that the region has considerable influence on the future of the rules-based international order, and identifies Japan as the United Kingdom’s “closest security partner in Asia.” There is thus great significance to holding a Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting and a defense ministerial meeting in a timely manner with the United Kingdom, which is a strategic partner that shares fundamental values with Japan, in order to exchange views on regional and global issues and strive to further deepen our bilateral relations. While the agenda is still being coordinated, we expect that the two sides will exchange views on each other’s security and defense policies that take into account the latest situation. In addition, the Japanese side will share its views on the regional situation, including the situation in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and gain the further understanding of the U.K. side. We also hope to discuss bilateral cooperation that includes joint exercises, defense equipment and technology cooperation, and the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) in order to help enhance the defense cooperation.

2.Questions and Answers

Question:
This year, with security-related legislation entering into force by the end of March, I imagine that it will be a year in which attention will be focused on the operations of the SDF pursuant to the security legislation. Can you please tell us your aspirations for this year in light of these developments?

Minister:
My aspiration for this year is to gain understanding, agreement, and sympathy, or “U.A.S” in short. I will make efforts to obtain U.A.S. As I also stated in my New Year’s greetings a short while ago and at the MOD/SDF Senior Officials Meeting, my major objective is to put the safety of SDF personnel in the forefront of my mind, as new missions are assigned to the SDF pursuant to the Legislation for Peace and Security. In the lead-up to its entry into force in March, we are carefully conducting various reviews and making thorough preparation so that we can respond properly in case of emergency. The MOD will continue to conduct reviews and coordinate with the relevant ministries and agencies to move forward with the preparations for the legislation’s entry into force. I will continue to make efforts to deepen the public’s understanding, agreement, and sympathy with the content of the legislation. My second objective is to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and mitigate the impact of military bases on Okinawa. In this regard, Japan and the United States will promote coordination and consultations at a variety of levels in order to further strengthen the deterrent and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, in accordance with the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. In addition, from the standpoint of ensuring the adequate functioning of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, I remain committed to mitigating the impact on Okinawa, including achieving the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko. Furthermore, I will provide thorough explanations to the people in Okinawa on our views concerning the relocation to Henoko and our efforts to mitigate the impact, and will thus continue to make efforts to gain the people’s understanding, agreement, and sympathy. Thirdly, in regard to enhancing security cooperation with various countries, I will promote defense dialogues, capacity building assistance, joint exercises, and equipment and technology cooperation under the leadership of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency with countries that share fundamental values and security interests with Japan, and thereby, further strengthen our collaboration. Additionally, Japan will continue to proactively engage in the efforts of the international community, including counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden and the deployment of SDF to the PKO in South Sudan. Fourthly, to enhance Japan’s defense posture, the building of a more effective “Dynamic Joint Defense Force” needs to be further advanced so that the GSDF, MSDF, and ASDF can unite in solidarity and adapt flexibly to various circumstances. As such, last October, work related to actual unit operations was unified into the Joint Staff. However, there are many challenges we need to address to strengthen our defense posture. This coming year, the MOD will conduct a series of careful reviews and discussions, and I will make efforts to gain understanding, agreement, and sympathy regarding them. The MOD has a plethora of challenges that are not limited to these four items. This year, the MOD will continue to make concerted efforts to promote our defense policies, while carefully examining the security arrangements of Japan and the modality of the international community’s peace and stability efforts.

Question:
Recently, China conducted a test flight at an artificial island that China is reclaiming in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which has heightened tensions between China and Vietnam. Can you please explain the views of the MOD or what responses it will be taking?

Minister:
I am aware of the announcements made by the Vietnamese and Chinese Governments. With regard to China’s recent actions, within the context of the competing claims of the relevant countries over the sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea, Japan has serious concerns about China’s unilateral actions to change the status quo and its attempts to further establish its claims as accomplished facts. China must refrain from such actions as they cannot contribute to a peaceful resolution of the dispute. From the outset, we believe that taking unilateral actions that change the status quo and increase tensions by undertaking large-scale and rapid land reclamation or construction of hubs in the South China Sea is a matter for concern shared by the international community, and the outcomes of such actions cannot be recognized as accepted facts. In order to secure open, free, and peaceful seas, Japan considers it important that the international community works together, and will continue to work closely with the relevant countries.

Question:
I have a related question. It has been reported that a Japan-U.S.-Australia joint exercise will be held in February in the South China Sea. Is this true?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from responding in detail about the operations of the SDF, including their exercises. In any case, the MOD considers it important that the tactical skills of the SDF are improved and that efforts are promoted to deepen the friendship, goodwill, and cooperation between the SDF and the military forces of other countries, through participation in joint exercises with other countries and international naval reviews, with the Japan-U.S. relationship as the cornerstone. To date, the SDF have carried out bilateral and multilateral joint training and exercises with other countries, including the U.S. Forces, in the South China Sea. The purpose of these exercises is to improve tactical skills. Japan will be exploring the implementation of these international cooperation and joint exercises.

Question:
I have a question concerning the earlier topic of China’s activities in the South China Sea. While a private aircraft was utilized, it is said that China conducted the test flight with the aim of securing air supremacy. What is your outlook regarding the possibility that China would turn the artificial island into a military hub? In addition, some view that China is attempting to establish an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea. What is your view on this?

Minister:
In the South China Sea, various countries are making claims over the sovereignty of islands and their interests are conflicting. In January, there were news reports about a Vietnamese fishing vessel being chased and sunk by China. Under these circumstances, Japan has concerns about China’s unilateral actions to change the status quo and its attempts to further establish its claims as accomplished facts. Japan is concerned that these actions will not contribute to the peaceful resolution of the dispute.

Question:
I have a question concerning China. China has indicated that it would build an indigenous aircraft carrier and establish a rocket force. What is the MOD’s assessment of these activities?

Minister:
On January 1 of this year, it was announced that an inauguration ceremony was held in Beijing on December 31 of last year for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army’s leading organ, the PLA Rocket Force, and the PLA Strategic Support Force, and that Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivered an address. I understand that in his address and at other opportunities, Chairman Xi stated that the PLA Army should “optimize its power structure and troop formation and speed up the Army’s transformation from the regional defensive type to the full-spectrum combat type.” With regard to the Rocket Force, I understand Chairman Xi stated that it should “strengthen nuclear intimidation and nuclear counter-attack capabilities and intensify the construction of medium- and long-range precision strike power.” Furthermore, with regard to the PLA Strategic Support Force, I understand Chairman Xi stated that it is “a new-type combat force to maintain national security” and that efforts would be made towards its establishment. China has also announced that it would undertake military reforms by 2020. We perceive that the recent announcement is part of these efforts at military reform. In addition, at the regular press conference on December 31, I am aware that the spokesperson acknowledged the building of a second indigenous aircraft carrier, and explained that this aircraft carrier was being built in Dalian, that it has a displacement of 50,000 tons, that it has a conventional power plant, and that it would adopt ski-jump takeoff mode. These statements made by the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense are considered to be the first time that China spoke in detail about building an indigenous aircraft carrier, and the MOD is closely following its content. We continue to hope that China will disclose plenty of information, including the exact purpose of the aircraft carriers as well as its future building and deployment plans. We will continue to closely follow China’s military developments with strong interest.

Question:
Some media have reported that in November and December, the Central Readiness Force of the GSDF conducted exercises for rescuing Japanese nationals in accordance with the new security legislation. Is this true?

Minister:
On December 17 and 18 of last year, an exercise was conducted on transporting overseas Japanese nationals and others. Prior to this, an advance exercise was conducted from December 10 to 16. This was purely an exercise on transporting overseas Japanese nationals. It is not true that an exercise on rescuing overseas Japanese nationals was conducted. In addition, it is not true that a similar exercise was conducted at the Higashi-Fuji Maneuver Area in November. With the passage of the Legislation for Peace and Security, the MOD is conducting reviews in order to appropriately execute the various missions that are set forth in the laws. The MOD is in the process of conducting various preparations and reviews in the lead-up to the entry into force of these laws. No concrete policies have been decided, including the exact timing for starting the exercises. We will continue to conduct the necessary preparations and reviews to be able to appropriately execute the assigned missions.

Question:
I would like to confirm whether this means that as of now, no exercises have been conducted in accordance with the new security legislation, including exercises on “kaketsuke-keigo” (coming to the aid of geographically distant unit or personnel under attack).

Minister:
The exercise that was conducted last year was purely an exercise on transporting overseas Japanese nationals.

Question:
There are predictions about a possible double election of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. What is your opinion in this regard?

Minister:
This is up to the Prime Minister to decide. The Diet and other situations will need to be closely monitored. The dissolution of the House of Representatives is provided for in the Constitution. My view is that political activities are being carried out, always bearing in mind that the House of Representatives is a “constant battlefield.”

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