Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(09:46-09:54 A.M. January 22, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:46-09:54 A.M. January 22, 2016
Place: Entrance to the Prime Minister's Office
(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:
It is said that F-22s of the U.S. Forces have arrived in Yokota. What is the MOD's understanding of the number of fighters that have arrived, how long they will be there, and the purpose of this?

Minister:
A total of 12 F-22 fighters flew to Yokota Air Base-eight fighters two days ago on the 20th and four fighters yesterday the 21st. We confirmed with the U.S. side. According to the U.S. explanation, Yokota Air Base is receiving approximately 26 fighters, F-22s and F-16s, from January 20 to 22. The U.S. side explained that these fighters would be temporarily deployed to Yokota Air Base. In addition, the U.S. side explained that during their deployment to Yokota Air Base, while there are no plans to conduct their flights at Yokota Air Base, the fighters may be flown due to operational requirements or as necessary. With regard to the operation of the aircraft, we requested that the United States commit to minimizing the impact on the people living in the periphery, by ensuring safe flights and thoroughly complying with the aircraft noise regulatory measures of Yokota Air Base. As was made evident by North Korea's recent nuclear test, the security situation surrounding Japan is further increasing in severity. Under these circumstances, as for the arrival of these aircraft, we consider that the deterrence of the U.S. Forces is essential in accordance with the Japan-U.S. Alliance for ensuring the security of Japan.

Question:
Is that to say your perception is that the nuclear test in North Korea was taken into account in flying the F-22s?

Minister:
Prior to this, I held talks over the telephone with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. The deterrence of the United States is essential for the peace and security of this region, and Japan and the United States are coordinating closely on a day-to-day basis. Secretary Carter reaffirmed that the United States would defend Japan by employing a variety of means. I view that the recent flights are part of the Japan-U.S. security cooperation that is conducted from peacetime.

Question:
Some media have reported that F-22s would also be flown to Kadena Air Base. Is this true?

Minister:
We have not received such an explanation from the U.S. side.

Question:
This has not been explained to you?

Minister:
No.

Question:
I have a related question. Was the MOD notified in advance about the arrival of the F-22s?

Minister:
They arrived on the 20th and 21st. The Defense Bureau in Kanto then confirmed with the U.S. side.

Question:
So you were not notified in advance?

Minister:
That is correct.

Question:
Does that not mean that the Alliance Coordination Mechanism to be utilized from peacetime is not functioning?

Minister:
I do not believe so.

Question:
Why do you think that?

Minister:
That is part of what is being conducted based on our mutual trusting relationship and cooperation.

Question:
My question is in regard to the matter involving Minister Akira Amari. The media have reported allegations about the Minister accepting money. What is your view regarding this matter?

Minister:
Yesterday, Minister Amari responded about this at the Diet, and during his press conference, he stated that he would carefully confirm and explain. Therefore, I expect that the Minister would provide thorough explanations after carrying out the necessary investigation.

Question:
Some members of the opposition parties are urging for his resignation. What are your thoughts on these calls?

Minister:
As this is an issue involving political funds and so on, if there are doubts, I believe politicians have a responsibility to provide thorough explanations to clear up the allegations.

Question:
I have a related question. I understand that the MOD expects the agreement on Host Nation Support to be deliberated at the Diet. What impact do you foresee this matter having on the Diet deliberations?

Minister:
First of all, this matter concerns Minister Amari himself. Therefore, the Minister is now carefully looking into this, and I believe it is important that the Minister fully fulfills his responsibility to clear up these allegations and anything that is unclear.

Question:
What is your outlook of the impact on the Diet deliberations?

Minister:
In this regard, I believe it is important first and foremost that the Minister provides thorough explanations.

Question:
This weekend, votes will be cast for the Ginowan mayoral election. As the ministry that is working on the relocation of the military base, can you once again explain the MOD's views regarding how the election result would impact the relocation?

Minister:
As this is an election for selecting a local mayor, the outcome will depend on what the people in the region decide. During the election campaign, the respective candidates explained their views, public pledges, and visions. I expect that the election result would reflect the outcome of the election campaign. With regard to our responses, the Government will make a decision by comprehensively considering various points of view, including the election result. In regard to security, the Government is working to relocate MCAS Futenma to Henoko in order to eliminate the risks it poses and to dispel the concerns of the people living in this area as quickly as possible. In that respect, I regard that efforts should be made to eliminate these risks and concerns as quickly as possible.

Question:
Is my understanding correct that the result of the election campaign will not have any particular effect on the relocation project?

Minister:
The election will be held, and its result will come out. I view that the Government will have to make a decision by comprehensively considering various points of view, including the election result. The Government is now working to remove the risks and concerns in the area as quickly as possible, and will continue to make these efforts.

Question:
I would like to return to Mr. Amari's matter. Did Mr. Amari make any comments on this matter during today's Cabinet meeting or during the ministerial discussions following the Cabinet meeting?

Minister:
No he did not.

Question:
Did the Prime Minister or other Cabinet members make any comments?

Minister:
No they did not.

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