Press Conference

Press Conference by Defense Minister Nakatani (11:34-11:50 A.M. July 26, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:34-11:50 A.M. July 26, 2016
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:
I have a question concerning the onshore portion of the construction work at Camp Schwab. The other day, you stated that as this is construction work not directly related to the land reclamation, you would like to resume it quickly and that you received no particular reply at a consultation meeting on July 21. The prefecture plans to ask questions about the contents again. Do you have a plan to discuss this matter in the future?

Minister:
At a meeting of the working group between the government and Okinawa Prefecture on July 14, the Government conveyed its intention to quickly resume the work to realign onshore facilities at Camp Schwab because it is not directly related to the land reclamation. Subsequently, the Okinawa Defense Bureau provided detailed explanations concerning the realignment work to the prefecture. At the meeting on July 21, the prefecture inquired about the work, so I once again explained that as the realignment work is not directly related to the land reclamation, we would like to resume it quickly, and the prefecture did not make any particular reaction or express any particular opinion. Furthermore, as we are now making specific scheduling arrangements, the Okinawa Defense Bureau will conscientiously explain to the prefecture that the work to be resumed is not related to the land reclamation. At the time of the approval of the land reclamation, we held consultations with Okinawa Prefecture to indicate the area of reclamation with a map, and the prefecture gave its permission. While the application document concerning the approval of the reclamation clearly indicates the area of reclamation, we will at this time explain appropriately that the onshore facilities to be constructed, such as barracks and a wet concrete plant, will be located outside that area.

Question:
According to reference materials which were presented by the U.S. side in the dugong lawsuit in 2007 and which were taken up a recent session of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, the onshore portion of the construction work is part of the land reclamation work. Could you tell me on what basis you are stating that this is not directly related?

Minister:
As a procedure for obtaining approval for the construction work, we filed an application in March 2013. The application document concerning approval for the reclamation, in response to which former Governor Nakaima gave approval in December of the same year, also clearly indicated the area of the reclamation work. The barracks and wet concrete plant whose construction will be resumed at this time are located outside that area. Therefore, we will courteously explain to the prefecture that the construction work to be resumed and the land reclamation work are not directly related to each other by showing the map contained in the application concerning the reclamation approved by the prefecture.

Question:
I would like to ask you about the PKO in South Sudan. There was some action that some personnel of the U.K. and German units were evacuated. Has there been any evacuation of SDF personnel?

Minister:
We are continuously obtaining information concerning the situation from the site and are evaluating the situation. At the moment, the situation is calm and nothing unusual has happened to SDF personnel. Regarding the contents of their work, they are engaging in construction work and others within the camp as requested by the United Nations. As for the situation at the site at the present time, there is information indicating that gunfire incidents are occasionally occurring in areas in Juba where there are many displaced people, but the people’s lives are returning to normal and there continues to be nothing unusual in the camp of the Japanese unit. As for the unit’s activity, we will ensure the safety of personnel while firmly keeping track of the local situation and taking into consideration how the United Nations will deal with the situation. Regarding the circumstances of the United Nations, I have heard that as the time of the renewal of the mandate is imminent, the PKO bureau of the U.N. headquarters in New York is conducting a study on the next mandate and activities under it. The Japanese unit will take action in line with that.

Question:
In relation to that, regarding the PKO, I understand that the current U.N. mandate will expire at the end of this month. If the mandate is extended beyond next month, may I take it that the SDF will continue to make contributions through similar activities?

Minister:
The U.N. headquarters is now conducting a study on the next mandate and is drafting a plan, so we will make judgment in light of their contents and the situation.

Question:
Regarding the onshore construction work at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, which was mentioned earlier, do you think that full explanations have already been provided to Okinawa Prefecture?

Minister:
I have repeatedly talked on this matter. The onshore portion of the construction work at Camp Schwab has been implemented as a project separate from the construction of an alternative facility started in July 2014, which refers to the land reclamation and relocation to Henoko. Regarding this matter, we have repeatedly provided explanations to Okinawa, as I mentioned at the beginning. In addition, at the working group meeting on July 14 and a subsequent meeting, the Okinawa Defense Bureau and I provided explanations to Okinawa Prefecture.

Question:
Am I correct in understanding that you have already provided full explanations?

Minister:
Our understanding is that this is construction work separate from the land reclamation.

Question:
Regarding the resumption of the onshore portion of the construction work, you said that specific scheduling arrangements are being made. Do you intend to start the work as early as this month?

Minister:
We will do so after making sure about that. On this point, when I answered a question asked by the prefecture at the meeting on July 21, I received no particular opinion or reaction. Once again, we will explain to Okinawa Prefecture that this is separate from the land reclamation work.

Question:
Will you start the construction after providing the explanation?

Minister:
We will. By providing the explanation, I would like to obtain their understanding.

Question:
In the small hours of this morning, residents at a facility for people with disabilities in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture were murdered. This is said to be the worst case of a massacre committed by a single person since the end of the war. Could you comment on that as a politician?

Minister:
This is a very atrocious case, and I feel strong outrage at it. We must prevent incidents like this from occurring. The investigative agency is now investigating the cause of and the background to this case, so I would like to refrain from commenting on this case. However, it is unforgivable that a cruel crime like this has occurred at a facility where people with disabilities are leading peaceful lives.

Question:
At a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party today, it was revealed that Secretary-General Tanigaki had undergone a cervical vertebra operation. Could you tell me what you know about Mr. Tanigaki’s condition and how you think this will affect the allocation of posts?

Minister:
I have no information concerning the Secretary-General’s condition. As for the allocation of posts, that is a matter to be decided by the Prime Minister and LDP President. My mind is concentrating on doing my best to perform the given duties.

Question:
In relation to the South China Sea, a joint statement was issued at the ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting, but no reference was made to the ruling issued in the case of arbitration related to the South China Sea. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
Yesterday, the joint statement was announced. The statement confirmed the commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes. At the same time, it included the expression of continued serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments in South Cina Sea. While I would like to refrain from making detailed comments on a meeting held by third-party countries like this, the South China Sea issue is directly related to the peace and stability of this region, so it is a matter of concern for the international community, including Japan. As for Japan’s position, which has already been expressed, we are advocating the importance of the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law. My understanding is that the communique contains references to this point.

Question:
After the ruling, China has not indicated readiness to comply with it, having chartered civilian aircraft land on and depart from the Spratly Islands and bombers fly over the region. Could you share your comments on those activities?

Minister:
Japan is a party to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is an international treaty. Under the proceedings based on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, the final arbitration ruling was issued, so Japan hopes that the countries involved will comply with this ruling, leading to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea in the future.

Question:
This is a matter about which I already asked you. Commissioner of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency is telling people within the ministry that he does not want to answer questions in Diet or hold Press Conferences, citing his engineering background as a reason. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
I am not aware of such comments. However, the Commissioner, ATLA has so far held an Extra Press Conference three times, including at the time of the ATLA’s establishment. In particular, two of the three were held in response to requests, so I think that Extra Press Conferences should be held in a timely and appropriate manner when necessary.

Question:
Do you have no intention of interviewing the Commissioner himself about his comments?

Minister:
This is a matter concerning the relationship between the press club and the MOD, so as I have repeatedly mentioned, how this matter should be handled should be considered through consultations with the press club.

Question:
That is not the point. What I would like to know is whether you intend to interview the Commissioner himself about his comments.

Minister:
I have no such intention for now.

Question:
Could you tell me why?

Minister:
This is a matter concerning the relationship between the press club and the MOD.

Question:
That he is saying he does not want to answer questions in Diet or hold Press Conferences indicates disregard for the Diet and the press conference, doesn’t it?

Minister:
I believe that this is a communication issue between him and a certain news reporter.?

Question:
It is not issue given by the news reporter. I have not directly talked with him, but senior ministry officials admitted that he made such comments.

Minister:
This is a matter concerning rule-making, so I hope that appropriate rules will be developed.

Question:
He is saying he doesn’t want to answer questions in Diet or hold Press Conferences. I have heard about that from more than one senior official. The issue is whether you intend to interview the Commissioner about that.

Minister:
My understanding is that this is a matter of the relationship between him and the news reporter concerned.

Question:
No news reporter is involved. More than one senior official has heard him make such comments.

Minister:
I have no intention to interview him about the situation.

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