Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (10:49-11:07 A.M. November 8, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:10:49-11:07 A.M. November 8, 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:
Let me ask you about tasks based on the Legislation for Peace and Security. Earlier, you said at a division meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that the unit's training proficiency has reached a sufficient level. Could you tell me through what process of consideration within the MOD/SDF you have come to the conclusion that it has reached a sufficient level?

Minister:
I have nothing more to say than what I said at the division meeting this morning. On October 23, I inspected the preparatory training for the dispatch. In the previous week, the Chief of Joint Staff inspected it, and the Chief of Staff of the GSDF inspected it at the same time as I did and also on the following day. On that occasion, the Chief of Staff of the GSDF told me that the proficiency level had reached a sufficient level for the new tasks, but he said he wanted to review the results of the training once again. At this time, I received from the Chief of Staff of the GSDF a report on the results of the GSDF's review of the preparatory training for the dispatch of the personnel of the 11th unit, which lasted for two months, so the MOD has ascertained that the proficiency of the unit to be dispatched for the UNMISS mission has reached a sufficient level for the new tasks. This judgment will be shared within the Government, and we will consider the assignment of the new tasks. We evaluated the unit's level of proficiency regarding each check item. What other items we considered would show our hand, so I would like to refrain from answering the question.

Question:
In relation to that, at today's division meeting of the LDP, I hear that the government side presented an implementation plan that includes the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to protection of individuals related to operations in response to urgent request). At the joint division meeting, too, the assignment of the new tasks, including joint protection of camps, was approved. Doesn't the fact that the government presented such a plan mean that it plans to assign the new tasks?

Minister:
As was reported today by Special Advisor Shibayama, regarding the situation in South Sudan, it is relatively stable in the city of Juba, but we must keep watching the situation with a sense of alertness. Although the MOD has ascertained that the proficiency for the UNMISS mission has reached a sufficient level, it is necessary to ensure sharing of the judgment within the Government as a whole and to ascertain that stable consent can be expected. At today's division meeting, it is necessary to make judgement based on the local situation from a comprehensive perspective in due consideration of such matters as whether the conditions for the five principles of PKO participation will be firmly maintained - I believe that they are being firmly maintained - and whether the personnel can conduct significant activities while ensuring their own safety and the new task of "kaketsuke-keigo" can be assigned.

Question:
Will you assign the new tasks under the present circumstances unless the security situation there deteriorates rapidly?

Minister:
Yes. However, although the MOD has judged that the proficiency has reached a sufficient level, it is necessary to ensure sharing of the judgment within the Government as a whole. In addition, in terms of maintaining stable consent, it is necessary to consider this matter and make judgment from a comprehensive perspective in due consideration of the situation that you mentioned just now.

Question:
Could you explain once again the significance of joint protection of camps and "kaketsuke-keigo" in terms of the SDF's international contributions?

Minister:
The Abe administration is promoting a Proactive Contribution to Peace; in other words, Japan cannot preserve its own peace by itself in the present situation and the peace and stability of the world leads to the peace and stability of Japan. This is not a situation where we can afford to think only of the peace and stability of Japan. South Sudan is a young country that has become independent only recently, and contributing to nation-building there will lead to the peace and stability of Africa and ultimately to the peace and security of Japan. In that sense, making solid international contributions within the limits of the constitution and based on law is important.

Question:
Concerning the evaluation of the training proficiency, can't you reveal even major check items, for example?

Minister:
As I mentioned earlier, I received a report that the evaluation was conducted concerning several items, but I would like to refrain from commenting on the details.

Question:
Changing the subject, at the time of the disclosure of cabinet ministers' assets in September, it was disclosed that shares in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and IHI had been purchased in the name of your husband. At that time, you said you could not immediately confirm the background to the purchases because you were not familiar with your spouse's matters. Now, almost two months since then, could you give your answer as to the background to your husband's purchasing of shares in the major defense contractors and how the shares are being treated now?

Minister:
As I replied at that time, my husband has engaged in economic activity as a lawyer for several decades. I am not at all concerned with how my husband is managing the assets that he has acquired through his own economic activity.

Question:
Does that mean that even now, you have not asked him about the background to the purchase and that you are leaving it to him to handle this matter?

Minister:
That is correct. A certain media report made an allegation that made it appear as if I was holding shares related to the defense industry in the name of my husband, but the allegation is quite wrong. I am not concerned with how my husband is managing the assets he acquired through his own economic activity, and the allegation that I am holding some shares in the name of my husband is quite wrong.

Question:
Disclosing the assets of relatives living under the same roof in addition to the assets of ministers themselves has become a rule because of the Recruit scandal and other past incidents in which politicians abused their power to gain profits on shares held not only by themselves but also by their relatives through arrangements similar to insider trading. Although there is no penalty, there are voices suggesting that as a matter of ethics, you should have fully exercised caution even though the purchases may not have been based on your judgment. Could you offer your thoughts on that point?

Minister:
First, my husband's purchasing of shares is an activity that he conducts as an individual person separate from me as a minister. As for the matter of living under the same roof, my husband has all along been engaging in economic activity as a lawyer in Osaka. Of course, we meet with each other around once a week. What I mean is that there is no possibility that the economic activity of my husband, who is a person separate from me, will somehow affect my performance of duties as defense minister.

Question:
The defense minister is the top official of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, which has jurisdiction over defense contractors. In particular, following the removal of the ban on exports of weapons and the Cabinet decision on the three principles of transfer of defense equipment, doubts may be raised about your husband, who I understand has until now been refraining from political activity, because of the purchasing of a large amount of shares in defense-related companies by him, the husband of the defense minister, the top official of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, which is responsible for overseeing major defense contractors under the so-called weapons export strategy.

Minister:
I am not at all concerned with when my husband purchased what shares for what reasons. Although we are a married couple, we are separate persons, so there is no possibility that how he handles what he gained through his own economic activity will somehow affect my performance of duties as defense minister, nor is it necessary for me to say more than that.

Question:
Do you mean to say that you will not ask your husband to sell off the shares and will leave it to him to do as he likes as a separate person from you?

Minister:
There is no need for me to say such a thing.

Question:
Starting this morning, the demonstration flight by the Osprey of the U.S. Forces was implemented around Saga Airport. Could you share your comments on that? Also, could you explain once again why you aim to deploy the Ospreys of the GSDF at Saga Airport?

Minister:
The demonstration flight of the Osprey was realized today upon the governor's request. Regarding the deployment of the Ospreys to be introduced by the GSDF at Saga Airport, we have been providing explanations so that we can obtain the understanding and cooperation of the governor and local residents. As a result of arrangements made with the U.S. Forces in Japan and Saga Prefecture for its implementation, the flight was implemented today in order to give a first-hand look at the Osprey's performance, functions and safety.

Question:
Concerning North Korea, the Republic of Korea (ROK) is moving to guard against a possible missile launch to coincide with the U.S. presidential election voting, which will start tonight. What is the MOD's perception of the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea around the time of the U.S. presidential election voting day?

Minister:
Since the beginning of this year, North Korea has launched missiles more than 20 times. Recently, there has also been a failed launch of a Musudan missile, so we are always striving to gather information and conducting security activity with a sense of alertness regardless of the timing of the U.S. presidential electing voting.

Question:
I would like to ask you about the return of the Northern Training Area of the U.S. Forces. I understand that the U.S. Forces are preparing to return the area by the end of this year. There has been a media report that a ceremony to commemorate the return is scheduled for December 20. Do you plan to attend this ceremony as the Defense Minister?

Minister:
Construction for relocation is ongoing in order to realize the return of a 4,000-hectare section of the Northern Training Area as soon as possible. There has been no change in our policy of proceeding with the work with the aim of realizing the return by the end of the year. However, nothing has been determined with respect to a ceremony or other matters, so I cannot answer your question.

Question:
The Prime Minister has mentioned the realization of the return by the end of this year, as have you. In that case, I assume it is certain that a ceremony to commemorate the return will be held by the end of the year. May I take it that if the ceremony is held by the end of this year, or in the new year, you will attend it?

Minister:
No decision has been made concerning a schedule or other specifics. Nothing specific has been fixed.

Question:
Let me ask you about "kaketsuke-keigo" once again. At today's division meeting, lawmakers expressed the opinion that the authority should be delegated to the commander of the unit or it should be left to the commander to make judgment. What is your view on that?

Minister:
As far as I know from my attendance at the meeting, the opinion was expressed that rather than prescribe details, we should leave it to the commander of the unit to make judgement. However, there are legal requirements concerning the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" itself. It is true that the engineering unit should perform this task within the limits of its capabilities based on an emergency request while ensuring its own safety. Therefore, the unit will make judgment within the scope of compliance with the purpose of the law.

Question:
I assume that when such a request has been made, it is naturally a prerequisite for the commander of the unit to make judgment, but is it your understanding that the unit will perform the task after reporting back to Japan and seeking judgment from the defense minister or the prime minister?

Minister:
That would be an emergency request for the unit, so protection may be provided based on the unit's judgment in some situations. This matter will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

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