Press Conference

Joint Press Conference by the Defense and Foreign Ministers (11:17-11:33 A.M. July 5, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:17-11:33 A.M. July 5, 2016
Place: The entrance of the Prime Minister's Office

(This is a provisional translation of a joint announcement by the Foreign and Defense Ministers and the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purposes only.)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements
Minister Kishida:
Minister Nakatani and I have just finished the meeting with Ambassador Kennedy and General Dolan. Responding to the recent serious incident caused by a member of the U.S. civilian component, the Japanese and U.S. Governments have engaged in intensive consultations in the spirit of Alliance Cooperation, while also reflecting on the strong will of the people in Okinawa. I believe that the Joint Statement is significant in that it mainly entails clarifying the scope of the civilian component with SOFA status, and enhancing training and orientation processes for all the U.S. personnel with SOFA status. From now on, the two Governments will conduct intensive consultations so as to further elaborate on the measures outlined in the Joint Statement. The GOJ's position is that the result should be a legally-binding intergovernmental document that goes a step further than improvement of implementations of the SOFA which have been achieved. The robust Japan-U.S. Alliance is a foundation for coping with ever increasing severity of international security environment as shown in the terrorist attack over the weekend. We will further reinforce the Japan-U.S. Alliance by putting today's Joint Statement into practice. To that end, it is important to gain understanding of the people of Japan including those in Okinawa. Needless to say, incidents and accidents caused by personnel related to the U.S. Forces should never happen. Both Governments will continue to exert full efforts in preventing recurrence.

Minister Nakatani:
I'd like to make a few remarks. Today we were able to announce the Japan-U.S. Joint Statement. This is a result of the conscientious efforts made by the foreign and defense authorities of Japan and the United States based on the agreement reached between Defense Secretary Carter and me in Singapore on June 4, and it is very significant for preventing the recurrence of incidents and accidents. I believe that it is important for U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ) to set forth clearly that criminal acts are subject to strict punishments and thoroughly take restrictive measures such as by enforcing this policy. Therefore, I made a direct request to Lt. Gen. Dolan, USFJ Commander, and consultations were repeatedly held between Japan and the United States with the aim of eradicating driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI). Today, Lt. Gen. Dolan, USFJ Commander, announced steps to control and punish DUI/DWI and enhance training. The substance of the statement has made clear that the strict countermeasures have been taken by USFJ as a result of the reassessment of the procedures that USFJ uses in light of the recent cases. I'd like USFJ to steadily implement today's statement, act to deter DUI/DWI in an effective manner, and redouble efforts to eradicate DUI/DWI so that DUI/DWI will never be repeated. Japan and the United States will further cooperate in such crime prevention efforts.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
Could you give me a rough timeframe for the preparation of the legally binding intergovernmental document?

Minister Kishida:
As I mentioned earlier, this statement presents specific measures to prevent recurrences on which the GOJ and USG have agreed after the bilateral consultations. From now on, we must conduct intensive consultations on the specifics, and we intend to proceed with this work as quickly as possible. Although we have set no specific timeframe, I believe that we must quickly deal with this matter in response to the feelings of the people concerned.

Question:
Minister Kishida, you said earlier that the scope of the civilian component has been clarified at this time. Let me check with you about whether the scope of members of the civilian component who have the status specified by the SOFA will be narrowed as a result of this clarification or if the document that you mentioned earlier will further narrow the scope.

Minister Kishida:
I believe that the contents of the Joint Statement need to be elaborated through further bilateral consultations. However, based on the bilateral consultations we have had thus far, the two Governments share recognition that personnel with backgrounds like Shinzato's will not be qualified as a member of the civilian component after the ongoing review work. We will continue to hold consultations.

Minister Nakatani:
As for our objective, by clarifying the scope of the civilian component, those who do not qualify as members of the civilian component will not be granted the status and privileges under the SOFA. In other words, the Japanese jurisdiction and criminal jurisdiction procedures will be fully applied to non-SOFA personnel. In this respect, such persons will lose their privileges and be subject to the same punishment as Japanese nationals under Japanese laws. One objective is to improve management by clarifying the scope of military personnel and the civilian component, namely to ensure that instructions will reach and management will extend all the way through. However, at the same time, it is expected that such persons will be appropriately managed and supervised as long as they are involved in the activities of the U.S. Forces in Japan.

Question:
Minister Kishida, you said that Shinzato will be regarded as not belonging to the scope of the civilian component, because it will be comprised of people with a high degree of skill or knowledge who are essential to the mission of U.S. Forces in Japan, such as technical advisors and consultants. Does that mean that some persons will be excluded from the scope?

Minister Kishida:
We will discuss and confirm the specifics. At least, the two Governments share recognition that personnel with backgrounds like Shinzato's will not be qualified as a member of the civilian component, as I mentioned earlier. I cited an example case in which a person who was previously recognized as a member of the civilian component will not be qualified as a result of the review.

Minister Nakatani:
This means that the U.S. side will ensure that only eligible persons obtain the status as members of the civilian component and will improve management and supervision by strictly granting the status through increased efforts to clarify the scope of the civilian component and identify eligibility criteria.

Question:
As this incident is not directly related to the Japan-U.S. SOFA, there are voices of skepticism, particularly from Okinawa Prefecture, about whether the revision of the scope of the civilian component will lead to prevention of the recurrence of similar incidents. Is the Government of Japan considering further measures such as the drastic revision that Okinawa is calling for, or will this be all that will be done at this time? Also, will this lead to recurrence prevention? What are your thoughts on these points?

Minister Kishida:
First, what I explained just now is how the U.S. personnel with SOFA status will be dealt with. In regard to the preventive measures against recurrences, there are also various measures and actions to be taken by the U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ) themselves. We must consider how we can achieve results in the future through the combination of the review and those measures and actions by the USFJ. I believe that relevant parties should make efforts from their own standpoints so that the combined efforts can ensure the prevention in the future and lead to concrete results.

Minister Nakatani:
The Joint Statement also refers to the implementation of monitoring. The U.S. government will strengthen monitoring of U.S. military and other personnel, including the civilian component, who are covered by the SOFA. Therefore, a working group will be established on eligibility for SOFA status in the Joint Committee framework, as was mentioned earlier. While we will continue our consultations, it is expected that such measures will further strengthen management and supervision of the civilian component, leading to effective prevention of the recurrence of crimes by the civilian component.

Question:
It was earlier mentioned that some persons will be excluded from the scope of the civilian component and will be subject to punishment under the Japanese jurisdiction. In Okinawa, it has been pointed out that if persons excluded from the scope of the civilian component flee into a base and hide themselves there or try to destroy evidence, it is possible that Japan would not be able to obtain cooperation from the U.S. Forces. How are you going to press your case to the U.S. side in this respect in future negotiations?

Minister Nakatani:
They will lose their privileges and cannot take such action. They will lose their privileges and status as members of the civilian component under the SOFA. Therefore, in such a case, Japanese criminal jurisdiction procedures will be fully applied.

Question:
How do you think it can be ensured that Japan can conduct investigations on base?

Minister Nakatani:
As they will lose their status as the civilian component, the Japanese criminal jurisdiction procedures will fully be implemented. They won't have such special privileges.

Question:
Am I correct in understanding that Japanese police can conduct investigations on base?

Minister Nakatani:
As they will lose their status, the Japanese criminal jurisdiction procedures will be fully applied.

Question:
I would like a clarification from Minister Kishida. You said earlier that people in a situation similar to the situation of the accused, Mr. Shinzato, will be excluded from the scope of the civilian component. After the implementation of this agreement, may I take it that the number of civilian component members will decline from the present level?

Minister Kishida:
What has been confirmed is that personnel with backgrounds like Shinzato's will not be qualified as a member of the civilian component after the measures which the GOJ and USG agreed having been implemented. Although we must make sure about how this will be applied before mentioning a specific number, at least, there is no doubt that the scope will be narrowed. In short, I believe there is no doubt that the scope of persons who can obtain the privileges of the civilian component will be narrowed.

Minister Nakatani:
Regarding the question concerning the number of personnel, there were around 7,000 U.S. civilian component members in Japan as of the end of March this year. We have agreed on examples of categories of the civilian component as indicated in the Joint Statement. While we are now in the process of checking with the U.S. side about the number of civilian component members belonging to each category based on the Joint Statement, our understanding is that there are around 2,000 contractors. As we will hold further consultations following the Joint Statement, we cannot predict whether the number will rise or fall.

Question:
Could you explain why you have chosen an option other than revising the Japan-U.S. SOFA at this time? Also, while Okinawa has been calling for the revision of the SOFA, you have chosen to issue the Joint Statement. How are you going to obtain Okinawa's understanding?

Minister Kishida:
First, I would like to make clear that as I mentioned earlier, this is different from improved implementations of the SOFA which have been achieved in the past. Taking a step further than that, we will aim to make a legally binding intergovernmental document. That is our goal. We will continue to hold consultations on the specifics of the intergovernmental document. We would like to continue to sincerely explain to the people in Okinawa on these points while finalizing the review works.

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