Press Conference

Press Conference by Defense Minister Nakatani (11:29-11:52 A.M. July 15, 2016(Japan Time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:29-11:52 A.M. July 15, 2016(Japan Time)
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
Yesterday, I held a defense ministerial meeting in India. At this meeting, which was the fourth defense ministerial meeting, I talked with Defense Minister Parrikar. As for the Japan-India relationship, the two countries have tackled the challenges faced by this region and the international community under the Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership since September 2014. First, regarding the regional situation, we expressed condolences over the death of Japanese and Indian nationals in the recent terrorist incident in Bangladesh, and we also exchanged opinions about the situation of international terrorism and affirmed the need to strengthen cooperation. Regarding the PKO activity in South Sudan, as the Indian unit is located at the same site as the SDF unit, we affirmed that the two countries will maintain cooperation in the PKO activity. With respect to maritime security, as both countries are maritime countries, they share strategic interests in contributing to the maintenance of the order of free and open seas, so we exchanged opinions about the recent situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including the East and South China Seas. Regarding the situation in the South China Sea, we affirmed the importance of the rule of law, which was indicated in the final award recently rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal between the Philippines and China, and agreed that we will pursue peaceful settlement of the disputes. In addition, we agreed to implement defense exchange and cooperation, including at a high level and between military branches. We will implement such cooperation and exchange steadily. Regarding Malabar, we agreed to make it a trilateral joint maritime exercise between Japan, the United States and India, starting next year. We also agreed to pursue unit exchanges between the two countries' ground and air forces, including inviting Indian forces as observers to join exercises organized or attended by the SDF and asset exchanges, such as landing by ASDF transport aircraft at Indian air bases. Regarding defense equipment, we agreed to make progress in discussions toward identifying specific cooperation projects as we are hoping to hold consultations between the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency and the Indian Ministry of Defence and Department of Defence Production in August 2016 at the earliest. Regarding the US-2, I requested India to hold a defense procurement committee meeting at an early time so that the two countries' deliberation on the matter can be accelerated. In this meeting, we agreed with each other on many matters. We also agreed to establish a Maritime Strategic Dialogue, a new forum for maritime strategic consultations, between the two countries' defense authorities, which will be held through annual mutual visits. These are the results of the bilateral defense ministerial meeting with India.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
Regarding the transportation of Japanese nationals in South Sudan, a C-130 transport aircraft transported officials of the Japanese embassy staying in South Sudan last evening Japan time. Is there a plan to use a C-130 to carry out more evacuations in the future? In addition, regarding land transportation of Japanese nationals in the country, are you considering or planning the dispatch of a new unit there?

Minister:
Yesterday, a C-130 moved from Djibouti to Juba and arrived back in Djibouti with four officials of the embassy in South Sudan aboard at around 11:30 p.m. the same day Japan time. With respect to the continued standby of C-130 transport aircraft, we place the top priority on the safety of Japanese nationals, so we will make appropriate judgment while taking into consideration the situation in South Sudan and the need for the evacuation of Japanese nationals staying in the country, among other factors. At the moment, no plan for subsequent air transportation has been fixed. Nor is there a plan for land transportation. We are not planning to dispatch a new unit to the country, either. If the need for evacuation of more Japanese nationals arises in the future, we will take action quickly while closely cooperating with the diplomatic missions, the United Nations and the SDF.

Question:
I would like a clarification on land transportation. You said that there is no plan to dispatch a new unit at the moment. Does that only mean that there is no such plan at the moment or does it also indicate that the dispatch of a new unit is unlikely in the future?

Minister:
Regarding the Japanese nationals remaining in the country, 93 people involved in aid activities were evacuated by aircraft chartered by JICA. Later, four persons were transported by a C-130. The necessary minimum number of Japanese nationals still remain in the country, and the Government is firmly keeping track of their whereabouts. The situation there is now relatively stable. I understand that the risk information level for the country has been lowered by one notch, from white to gray. In any case, we will continue to keep a careful watch on the situation.

Question:
Earlier, you said that in the Japan-India defense ministerial meeting, you affirmed the need to deepen cooperation following the terrorism incident in Bangladesh. Yesterday, what is believed to be a terrorism incident occurred in Nice, France. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
An act of terrorism like this that is targeted at innocent citizens can in no way be accepted, and I feel strong outrage at the repeated occurrence of such incidents. I believe that without ever yielding to terrorism, the international community must create conditions that do not allow acts of terrorism to occur through close cooperation between countries. As for the means to do that, first, we must fully gather and analyze information. Countries must closely exchange opinions with each other about the situation of international terrorism in light of the series of terrorist incidents. In addition, I believe that it is necessary to strengthen cooperation in order to eradicate terrorism.

Question:
To make sure, could you tell me whether the Government of Japan has concluded that the incident in France was an act of terrorism?

Minister:
I am aware that in Nice, France, a truck crash incident occurred. I am also aware that this caused many casualties. I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences for the people who perished in the incident. We cannot rule out the possibility that this was an act of terrorism. However, we have not reached a conclusion on that. The MOD will take necessary actions, including gathering information, while continuing to exchange opinions and information with relevant organizations and relevant ministries and agencies.

Question:
In relation to terrorism, at the time of the terrorism incident in Bangladesh, you referred to the assignment of defense attachés. What are your thoughts on the possibility of increasing or reassigning defense attachés?

Minister:
The Government needs reliable information in order to make judgment. In particular, regarding terrorism-related information, national police agencies and military forces, as organizations responsible for safety and security, possess information concerning international terrorism, so we must make earnest efforts to obtain such terrorism-related information. To do so, defense attachés can constantly keep in touch with military forces in other countries, so I believe that it is necessary to make more efforts than now to gather information through the assignment of defense attachés. Today, in Mongolia, the Prime Minister referred to an increase in defense attachés. While we are preparing to increase attachés in Mongolia, countries where there is no attaché are covered by attachés stationed elsewhere. Although there are problems such as the severe staffing situation and constraints related to systematic hiring and retention of appropriate personnel, given the need to gather information, we will make maximum efforts to increase the number of attachés by comprehensively taking into consideration these circumstances.

Question:
You said that it is necessary to assign defense attachés to more locations than now. Does that mean that you would like to reflect it in the budget request for next fiscal year?

Minister:
We need to assign defense attachés to regions where they are required. Indeed, there was no attaché in Bangladesh. We will assign attachés to regions where they are required after comprehensively considering the matter. Regarding such system, it is necessary to increase the number of personnel in order to strengthen the capabilities to gather and analyze regional information, so we will consider the staffing and assignment of personnel involved in handling of such information in and outside Japan.

Question:
I would like to ask you about the relocation of MCAS Futenma. Yesterday, a working group meeting based on the terms of the settlement was held in Okinawa Prefecture. At the meeting, I understand that the Government provided explanations regarding the partial resumption of the onshore construction work related to the relocation plan to Henoko. Will you determine the specifics of the construction work that will be resumed?

Minister:
At yesterday's working group meeting, the Government conveyed its intention to resume the construction work to realign onshore facilities at Camp Schwab, which is not directly related to the land reclamation work. This afternoon, the Okinawa Defense Bureau will provide further detailed explanations to Okinawa Prefecture. The specific work to be resumed include the land preparation of the site where the construction has already started and the construction of buildings. The MOD would like to appropriately deal with this matter by providing conscientious explanations in order to avoid creating a perception gap with Okinawa Prefecture, which is a party to the settlement, so detailed explanations will be provided to the prefecture this afternoon.

Question:
Okinawa Prefecture is saying that the part of the construction that is related to the relocation to Henoko may concern the terms of the settlement. Regarding this, is it your recognition that the land preparation is not related to the land reclamation?

Minister:
That is correct. What is required under the settlement is the suspension of the land reclamation work, so we have been requesting the resumption based on our recognition that the construction of an onshore boarding facility, which is not directly related to the land reclamation work, may be permitted.

Question:
In relation to that, you said that the land preparation is not directly related to the land reclamation. Does that mean that the land preparation affects other areas where facilities have become obsolete rather than the area where relocation is made to develop a runway?

Minister:
This work is proceeding under the overall realignment plan. This is the construction of a boarding facility for Marine Corps personnel in the onshore area of Camp Schwab. This is part of the realignment of facilities. In this respect, we were proceeding with the construction according to plan, so we would like to resume the work.

Question:
Regarding the resumption of the construction, you said earlier that you would like to avoid creating a perception gap with Okinawa Prefecture as a party to the settlement. Does the resumption require the consent of the prefecture?

Minister:
In relation to the settlement, we suspended the offshore construction work, and at the same time, we also suspended the onshore work. Under these circumstances, as this is part of the realignment of facilities, we are providing explanations to Okinawa Prefecture in order to obtain its understanding on the point that there is no relation to the offshore reclamation work.

Question:
To make sure, could you tell me whether it is necessary for the prefecture to recognize that this does not concern the terms of the settlement if the construction work is to be resumed?

Minister:
We will provide explanations to Okinawa Prefecture. Later, we will reveal the specific timeframe within limits that will not impede the progress of the construction work. In any case, we will implement this after holding consultations with the prefecture.

Question:
When resuming the construction, will it be necessary to hold bids or do some administrative work? Or can it be resumed immediately as it has been put on hold because of the settlement?

Minister:
This afternoon, we will hold consultations with Okinawa Prefecture, so we will consider how to proceed with future construction work in light of the results.

Question:
What are your thoughts on conducting joint research or development of a drone with Israel?

Minister:
In principle, we will act based on the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology.

Question:
Could you tell me whether you are positive or negative about such activity in principle?

Minister:
At the moment, we are conducting a study while gathering information in various countries and concluding agreements.

Question:
My question is whether you are positive or negative about conducting joint research or development of a drone with Israel.

Minister:
At the moment, there is no such plan. However, regarding what equipment Japan may possess, we will gather information and study the matter in various aspects in the future.

Question:
If there is no such plan, why is the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency holding consultations with Israel's SIBAT, or International Defense Cooperation Directorate, and contacting Israeli manufacturers such as I.A.I and Elbit Systems and Japanese manufacturers such as Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation?

Minister:
Individual countries have their respective capabilities and equipment. In addition, it is necessary to conduct a study after gathering detailed information. Various countries, including the United Kingdom and France, are considering what equipment they may possess while signing information confidentiality agreements.

Question:
Israeli heliborne raids are routinely carried out in Gaza and Lebanon, murdering people and involving civilians as collateral casualties. I am asking you whether you are positive about conducting joint research or development of a drone with a country carrying out such attacks.

Minister:
Regarding drones, research and development are proceeding due to the advance of science and technology around the world. In Japan, too, enhancing the air defense capability through the use of drones is an issue that should be considered in the future. In this respect, we are conducting research on equipment in various countries.

Question:
As Israeli drones are repeatedly carrying out airstrikes in Gaza and Lebanon, it is naturally conceivable that joint research or development of a drone with Israel would provoke protest from Arab countries. I am asking you whether you are positive or negative about joint research or development despite that possibility.

Minister:
At the moment, we are gathering information concerning drones in general. We are not taking actions based on any specific plan.

Question:
At the end of May, a senior official of SIBT visited you and held consultations. What was discussed in the consultations?

Minister:
There are requests for a meeting with me from various countries. I am accepting such requests and are holding consultations in order to listen to various opinions and gather information.

Question:
At the end of March, I requested that the Commissioner of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency hold press conferences. There has been no reply at all. I hear that Commissioner Watanabe is internally explaining his reluctance to hold press conferences or answer questions in Diet sessions by citing his engineering background as an excuse. Could you comment on that?

Minister:
Regarding holding of press conferences, the public relations staff are conducting deliberation and consultation. I have heard that until now, an extra press conference has been held twice.

Question:
Four months have passed. Is there no plan to hold regular press conferences?

Minister:
This matter is under consultation.

Question:
Four months have passed.

Minister:
At the moment, a press conference is held as necessary based on consultations, and I have heard that an extra press conference has been held twice.

Question:
Is there no plan to hold press conferences other than extra ones?

Minister:
This is now under consultation.

Question:
Are you saying that a conclusion has not been reached after four months?

Minister:
This is a matter concerning the relationship with the press club, so it is under consultation.

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