Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (09:46-10:03 A.M. November 1, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:09:46-10:03 A.M. November 1, 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
Today, the National Security Council meeting and Cabinet meeting were held, and the decision was made on the implementation of counterpiracy activity by the SDF in the seas off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden over the coming one year using a destroyer and two P-3C patrol aircraft. The MOD/SDF will continue to devote full-fledged efforts to prevention of acts of piracy in cooperation with relevant ministries, agencies and countries. In addition, we are scheduled to dispatch an MSDF officer of the rear admiral class to serve as the commander of the CTF151 from early March to late June 2017. This will be the second such dispatch, following the one in 2015. That is all I have to say.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
According to an opinion poll conducted last weekend by Kyodo News, 57.4% oppose the assignment of the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to the protection of individuals related to operations in response to an urgent request) and 30.6% support it. Could you share your comments on the result?

Minister:
Generally speaking, I would like to refrain from commenting on the results of specific opinion polls. Having said that, we must provide adequate explanations concerning "kaketsuke-keigo" to the Japanese people. First, the unit operating in South Sudan is an engineering unit and is engaging in such activities as developing roads and improving facilities. "Kaketsuke-keigo," which is allowed under the Legislation for Peace and Security, is an activity conducted by SDF personnel to provide protection as an emergency measure within the limits of their capabilities from the humanitarian perspective while ensuring their own safety when there is a request from people engaging in relevant activities there. Until now, the SDF has provided protection to Japanese nationals abroad when it has received such requests during the deployment for PKO activities by applying various provisions, as there has been no specific provision that can be directly applied. The task of "kaketsuke-keigo," which has been made possible at this time, is intended to provide protection within the limits of what the SDF can do in order to avoid leaving people who can be saved to die, so it is important to adequately explain things like that.

Question:
You said that it is important to provide explanations, but on what occasions will you do that?

Minister:
When I appeared in a television program the other day, I explained the requirements and the purpose as much as possible, but of course it is important to provide adequate explanations in the Diet as well as via TV and other mass media and also when specific explanations are requested.

Question:
In relation to that, have you made judgment as to the training proficiency concerning "kaketsuke-keigo" and joint protection of camps in the PKO in South Sudan?

Minister:
The other day, I inspected the status of training in Iwate. During the inspection, I felt that the training was making progress in terms of adapting to various situations. The following day, the Chief of Staff of the GSDF inspected the training, as did the Chief of Joint Staff in the previous week. I have received a report from the Chief of Staff of the GSDF that the level of proficiency is fairly high. The Chief of Staff of the GSDF also stated that he will report on the status of training that has been implemented since August after reviewing the results within the GSDF. Meanwhile, the Chief of Joint Staff expressed the opinion that the judgement should be made after the report from the Chief of Staff of the GSDF following the review within the GSDF. Therefore, I am now waiting for the final report.

Question:
In relation to that, when will the final report be submitted?

Minister:
A specific date has not yet been set.

Question:
If it is found that there is no problem with the level of proficiency or the local security situation, will you assign the task as a matter of course?

Minister:
On the two points that you mentioned, it is necessary to keep a close watch. For one thing, we must examine whether sufficient training has been implemented to enable SDF personnel to ensure their own safety and cope with assumed situations. Regarding "kaketsuke-keigo," stable consent from the South Sudanese government is legally required, so we must closely examine whether the situation in South Sudan and in the area where the engineering unit is conducting activity is such that stable consent can be obtained.

Question:
Does that mean if those requirements are met, the task will be assigned?

Minister:
What I mean is that the Government as a whole will consider this matter in light of these two requirements under the condition.

Question:
Regarding the activity off the coast of Somalia, why will you reduce its scale at this timing? Also, for what purpose will the destroyer relieved from the activity be used?

Minister:
As for the reduction of the scale, when the activity started, it was necessary to deal with more than 200 cases of piracy, but piracy has now been almost eliminated, with only one attempted case occurring. Although the activity will be continued because the root causes, such as poverty in Somalia, have not been resolved, one destroyer will be sufficient for the activity. As the severe situation surrounding Japan requires destroyers' activities, we will also consider matters like that.

Question:
There has been a media report that the relieved destroyer will be used to deal with the threat from North Korean missiles. Will you consider the possibility of such use?

Minister:
At this time, we have judged that one destroyer will be sufficient to meet the need to deal with acts of piracy. On the other hand, the situation surrounding Japan - you mentioned North Korean missiles - is severe, so we will appropriately deal with matters like that.

Question:
Regarding "kaketsuke-keigo," a media report said that the government has come to the conclusion that the possibility of performing this task for the sake of foreign troops will not be assumed. What are your thoughts on whether or not foreign troops should be eligible for protection through "kaketsuke-keigo"?

Minister:
When I saw media reports mentioning "in response to requests from foreign troops and others" when explaining "kaketsuke-keigo," it occurred to me that the mass media may be causing misunderstanding among the Japanese people. As I mentioned earlier, this task is performed from the humanitarian perspective within the limits of what the SDF engineering unit can do in South Sudan in response to requests for emergency protection from people engaging in relevant activities and others, as is prescribed in the legal provision. Therefore, although there are foreign troops, such as infantry units, in South Sudan, receiving such a request from foreign troops would not be a typical case. Even so, the possibility will not be ruled out. If a few foreign soldiers happen to be involved in an emergency situation near the area where the engineering unit is conducting activity and if it is possible to save them, nothing will be ruled out. Providing protection to foreign troops by performing the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" would be an extraordinary case, and media reports implying that such a case is typical would be very misleading.

Question:
Concerning the order for destruction measures, I understand that at the moment, a permanent order for a three-month period is in place. What are your thoughts on whether or not to extend the period?

Minister:
First, as I have repeatedly mentioned, I would like to refrain from saying whether or not an order for destruction measures has been issued. Revealing our specific response could show our hand. However, as I have continually been saying, the MOD/SDF is striving to gather and analyze information concerning North Korea's activities with grave concern and we are keeping preparedness as necessary from the perspective of making sure to protect the people's lives and property in any situation.

Question:
A Sergeant Major at the 1st Airborne Brigade in Narashino received a disciplinary measure for selling rations through Internet auctions. I have two questions concerning this case. First, could you share your comments on the case? Second, 9,500 items have been sold for a total of 2.48 million yen. Maybe, this is an indication that there is potential demand for rations among the general public except SDF personnel. Could you tell me what measures will be taken to prevent rations from being sold to the outside and whether you are willing to consider selling rations to the general public as part of an effort to deepen understanding on the SDF, for example? Please answer these two questions.

Minister:
Regarding the first point, a Sergeant Major at the Headquarters Company of the 1st Airborne Brigade was dismissed yesterday as a disciplinary measure for illegally obtaining rations of the company between around November 2009 and late June 2015 and selling them through Internet auctions. It is very regrettable that an incumbent SDF member engaged in such a practice, which significantly undermines the Japanese people's trust in SDF personnel and the SDF. In order to never allow incidents like this to occur again, I intend to ensure thorough compliance with service instructions. Having said that, I will consider your suggestions concerning the potential demand among the people and the possibility of selling rations to the general public in order to deepen understanding.

Question:
Concerning the possibility of providing protection for foreign troops that was mentioned earlier, am I correct in understanding that although you do not rule out that possibility because such activity is legally possible, you are not assuming that in principle?

Minister:
That is correct. I will not rule out that possibility, but as I have repeatedly said, it is difficult to assume a case in which the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" would be performed for the sake of foreign troops because the SDF unit operating there is an engineering unit and also because the UNMISS includes infantry units and the South Sudanese government has an organization responsible for maintaining security.

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