Press Conference

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani(10:30-10:54 A.M. January 29, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:30-10:54 A.M. January 29, 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
None.

2.Questions and Answers

Question:
It is reported that North Korea is preparing for a missile launch. What does the MOD know? In addition, can you tell us what responses or measures the MOD is taking?

Minister:
The MOD, with serious concerns over the situation, is working to collect and analyze information regarding North Korean moves. Due to the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of each specific piece of information, as doing so would reveal Japan's intentions. That said, with regard to North Korea's missile launches, in recent years, North Korea has launched multiple ballistic missiles at timings and from locations as it chooses, displaying its surprise attack capabilities. As regards the recent fourth nuclear test, North Korea did not indicate it in advance through a Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statement or by any other means, contrary to the previous three tests. Furthermore, in the past, North Korea has always launched a ballistic missile when it conducted a nuclear test. Based on analyses of North Korea's actions to date, we analyze that the situation does not allow us to deny the possibility of North Korea taking some kind of provocative action, including ballistic missile launches without any advance notice. The MOD will continue to work to collect and analyze information, and will be coordinating closely with the U.S. Forces and so on as well as other relevant organizations to be fully ready to respond to the situation.

Question:
You stated that North Korea might take some kind of provocative action. What is the status of the considerations being made for issuing the "order for destruction measures" or other such responses?

Minister:
The MOD has been taking the necessary responses and measures to deal with North Korea's actions, in coordination with the relevant ministries and agencies, as well as the U.S. Forces and other organizations. However, due to the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from revealing or commenting on the specific responses of the SDF, as doing so would reveal Japan's intentions. The MOD will continue to work to collect and analyze information, and will be coordinating closely with the U.S. Forces and so on as well as the relevant ministries and agencies to be fully ready to respond to the situation.

Question:
In the past, when orders for destruction measures or preparation orders for these orders were issued, I recall that they were announced in some cases and not announced in other cases. Can you please share with us what your intention is as to which aspects would be considered or prioritized this time around in determining whether or not to announce the orders?

Minister:
This time, North Korea has not made any reference related to its moves and so on. As regards our responses this time around, the MOD and the SDF need to protect the lives and property of the people, no matter what situation unfolds. Therefore, I am refraining from disclosing the specific responses of the SDF and other such responses, as doing so would reveal Japan's intentions.

Question:
On the other hand, I believe another way of looking at this is that if it is made known that the SDF are undertaking steady preparations, then the people would feel reassured. In this regard as well, do you have a policy or concept at this time regarding whether or not you will make an announcement?

Minister:
The SDF take a variety of responses. Revealing Japan's intentions in advance could impede the responses in various ways. Accordingly, concrete responses are being taken without revealing Japan's intentions, so that we can respond to any situation. From this standpoint, due to the nature of the matter, I am refraining from disclosing each and every response.

Question:
U.S. authorities have indicated their view that North Korea could launch a missile within two to three weeks' time. What is your comment on this?

Minister:
I am aware of what has been reported. The MOD, with serious concerns over the situation, is collecting and analyzing information regarding North Korean moves. Due to the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of each specific piece of information as well as on these U.S. views and statements.

Question:
At present, do you perceive that there is an increasing possibility of a missile launch?

Minister:
The MOD, with serious concerns over the situation, is always collecting and analyzing information regarding North Korean moves. However, as I stated earlier, due to the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of the information.

Question:
With various news reports coming out one after another, I gather that the Japanese people also have concerns and that some are feeling anxious. What precautions and responses should these people make?

Minister:
I am refraining from commenting on these developments and information as they concern some very sensitive issues and due to the nature of the matter. From the standpoint of fully protecting the lives and property of the people, the MOD is taking the necessary responses in coordination with the relevant ministries and agencies as well as the United States and others. I am refraining from responding about the specific responses, as doing so would reveal Japan's intentions. In any case, the MOD is taking responses from the point of view of constantly and fully protecting the lives and property of the people.

Question:
At the outset, in connection with the missile issue, I think you mentioned "from locations as it chooses." Does that mean you regard that missiles could be launched from locations other than Tongch'ang-ri?

Minister:
If we take a look back at the developments related to North Korean missiles, first, in 1981, North Korea obtained a 300 km-range Scud B. In 1995, North Korea deployed a 1,300 km-range Nodong, and in 1998, it launched Taepodong-1, which flew 1,600 km. And in 2009, it launched Taepodong-2, which flew 3,000 km. In December 2012, North Korea launched a Taepodong-2 variant, which currently may have a range of approximately 10,000 km. Subsequently, North Korea has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles. In terms of the recent situation, North Korea's ballistic missiles, excluding the Taepodong, have been launched using Transporter-Erector-Launchers (TELs), making it difficult to detect signs of the launch in advance. Furthermore, North Korea has been improving the survivability of its ballistic missiles. Since 2014, North Korea has launched several ballistic missiles, including the Nodong. Indeed, North Korea has launched multiple ballistic missiles from locations and at timings as it chooses. In this sense, we analyze that North Korea has enhanced its missile capabilities.

Question:
You have previously said that some have suggested that North Korea has been increasing the precision of its ballistic missile launches from submarines. So you do not deny this possibility?

Minister:
Last May, North Korea announced that it conducted a test launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). And on the 8th of this month, North Korea released a video that is believed to show this SLBM test launch. It is considered that North Korea has been newly developing diverse means of attack. We are currently analyzing the authenticity of this video and so on.

Question:
Can we say that you are closely monitoring the possibility of a ballistic missile launched from a submarine?

Minister:
We have preparations and responses against the situation in place as North Korea itself announced that it had launched a missile and showed its video footage.

Question:
Just to clarify, as the Defense Minister, do you consider the latest missile threat by North Korea to be more of a surprise one?

Minister:
My comments were made in reference to past events and movements. The MOD is carrying out continuous reconnaissance and surveillance as well as information gathering to respond to any kind of situation.

Question:
Did you cancel your trip to Okinawa slated for this weekend to respond to the situation?

Minister:
I was going to visit Okinawa for the event to commemorate the establishment of the ASDF 9th Air Wing on January 31 (Sunday). It was also in my agenda to exchange thoughts with officials from the base-hosting cities, towns, and villages of Okinawa as well as the Governor. There was something I wanted to brief them about. Although the visit was in the process of being coordinated, after considering various factors, we decided not to visit Okinawa at this point.

Question:
Was development in the North Korean missile threat one of the factors?

Minister:
It was a result after various factors were considered.

Question:
I understand collaboration with countries such as the United States was mentioned. What is the current posture of Japan's collaboration with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK)? And what is your plan going forward for this trilateral collaboration, or bilateral collaboration with the respective countries?

Minister:
With regard to collaboration with the United States, from peacetime, our two countries work in close cooperation under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty; we discuss the matters for joint operations against various situations, while we also hold joint exercises and exchange a wide variety of information including the operations of each other's units. Although I am going to refrain from discussing the collaboration between the SDF and U.S. Forces regarding the recent situation in North Korea in detail, we are committed to the defense of Japan by exchanging opinions and sharing information in close cooperation. On the other hand, Japan and the ROK are both allies of the United States. Given that Japan and the ROK share common positions, allies of the United States, and that Japan and the ROK also hold common interests in the peace and stability of this region, our two countries are engaged in multiple layers of defense consultations and exchanges. One of these was a defense ministerial meeting between myself and the ROK's National Defense Minister Han Minkoo in October last year, where we agreed on the importance of bilateral cooperation between Japan and the ROK as well as between Japan and the United States, and trilateral cooperation between Japan, the United States, and the ROK for security. We held a teleconference after North Korea's nuclear test, and agreed that we pursue close cooperation through various frameworks. Director-Generals of the respective defense authorities of Japan, the U.S., and the ROK held a video teleconference on January 8 as part of the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT). This shows that Japan is closely exchanging information and opinions with the United States and the ROK.

Question:
I would like to confirm whether communication with the United States included information sharing about the signs of a possible North Korean missile launch.

Minister:
Our countries exchange information even in peacetime. As for information regarding security, Japan and the US Forces are in close collaboration exchanging opinions and sharing information.

Question:
I am sorry to change topics. My questions are in regard to the joint development of submarines with Australia. Upon Prime Minister Turnbull's return from the United States, the Australian media reported this week that the United States is siding with Japan on this issue. Do you believe that the United States is taking sides with Japan on this issue? Do you believe the issue is developing in favor of Japanese submarines?

Minister:
Australian officials in charge of the issue visited Japan, and Japan submitted its proposal at the end of last year. I believe the Australian government is currently evaluating Japan's proposal thoroughly. As the United States is Japan's ally, we present briefings to American officials about superiority of Japanese submarines with the viewpoints of Japan-U.S., and Japan-U.S.-ROK relations. I believe the decision is up to the American government as for the response from the United States. Therefore, I am not in a position to make any comment on this, including its content.

Question:
Regarding an attempted suicide on a submarine Soryu, the Chief of Staff of the MSDF said last week that the incident should have been made public as much as possible on the day disciplinary actions were taken. What are your thoughts on this? Moreover, can you think of something in the dissemination standard that needs to be reviewed?

Minister:
I feel terribly sorry that personnel who joined the MSDF with great aspirations, and who had a promising future, was driven to attempt suicide because of his superiors' inappropriate discipline that included violence. I am aware that we must take firm actions to prevent such incidents and discipline. The Chief of Staff of the MSDF has already provided an explanation about the publication of the incident. Although we have dealt with the incident taking into consideration the wishes of the personnel's family, the Chief of Staff of the MSDF suggested that we should have communicated with the family more carefully. And I agree with him. In principle, handling of incidents should be made public. We will try to make our relationship with the family closer, and continue to respond with sincerity.

Question:
Minister Amari resigned out of the blue, and Mr. Ishihara, a former secretary general of the LDP, has been appointed as his successor. You and Mr. Amari always sat next to each other in Cabinet sessions. How did you react to his resignation and the change in the position? This is an extremely rude question to ask, but have you ever received cash in places such as your Minister's office?

Minister:
With regard to problems linking politics and money, it is my belief that we politicians ourselves must be extremely careful so that we will not be accused of misdeeds. I continuously tell my office staff to be careful while managing money and not to violate laws, and I am extremely careful myself. Therefore, I have absolutely never engaged in these sort of questionable acts in my Minister's office, and I will continue to be vigilant to never let that happen. Minister Amari's resignation is very regrettable considering that he has undertaken very important jobs to revitalize the economy under the Abe administration, and that it was him who settled the TPP negotiations. However, this is an issue concerning politics and money. I understand that he resigned, although he said he did not violate laws himself, to take responsibility for his poor supervision over his office staff and secretary. The newly appointed Minister Ishihara and I were elected in the same year. As we have worked together in the LDP for about 25 years, I know he has great ability and makes good judgements. Now that he has assumed this crucial position, I would like for him to fulfill his new responsibilities well. As a member of the Cabinet, I will thoroughly support him so that the Abe administration can display steady performance.

Question:
Is there a teleconference planned with the U.S. Defense Secretary to discuss the North Korean situation?

Minister:
We spoke on the phone about a month ago, which was after North Korea's nuclear test. As we have continuous cooperation, a teleconference is not slated for any time soon at this point. We will collaborate and communicate as situations require.

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