Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (10:26-10:53 A.M. November 11, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:10:26-10:53 A.M. November 11, 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:
Mr. Trump, who won the U.S. presidential election, said in a teleconference with Prime Minister Abe that he wants to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and that as the Japan-U.S. relationship is an outstanding partnership, he wants to strengthen this special relationship. Compared with the remarks concerning Japan that he made during the election campaign, these comments give the impression that he has backed down somewhat. What do you think of these comments?

Minister:
It goes without saying that it is very important for Japan, too, to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the Japan-U.S. relationship. Therefore, the Prime Minister immediately placed a phone call to him and had the conversation that you mentioned just now. I believe it is very important for the Prime Minister and President-elect Trump to build a relationship of trust. I understand that arrangements are being made for them to have a meeting in New York on November 17. As I mentioned earlier, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is important for Japan's security, and it is very pleasant, or important for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, that President-elect Trump and the Prime Minister build a relationship of reliance.

Question:
In relation to that, yesterday, regarding the Japan-U.S. Alliance after the inauguration of President Trump, Commander Martinez of the U.S. Forces in Japan said at a press conference at MCAS Iwakuni that he expects the U.S. Forces deployed in Japan to remain strong as they have been until now. This was an expression of expectations on his part. Do you expect that Mr. Trump will keep the U.S. Forces in Japan as they stand now? Also, do you think that it is desirable to keep a similar size of forces to the current size?

Minister:
First, at the moment, I would like to refrain from commenting with prejudice on what policy President-elect Trump may adopt. Having said that, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the centerpiece of Japan's security and the presence of the U.S. Forces in Japan is important in terms of not only securing Japan's defense but also ensuring the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and, more than anything, thoroughly pursuing the rule of law, rather than resorting to the use of force. In the meantime, the security situation surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe, so the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance is growing. I am expecting that Japan and the incoming Trump administration will further develop and deepen the U.S. Alliance while maintaining the forward deployment of the U.S. Forces.

Question:
Changing the subject, regarding the PKO in South Sudan, the Kenyan forces started to withdraw following the decision by the United Nations to dismiss the commander, a Kenyan, for an inappropriate chain of command of the PKO at the time of the fighting that took place in the capital city of Juba in July. The Kenyan government is accusing the PKO of being structurally dysfunctional. How do you expect this to affect the Japanese PKO unit?

Minister:
As you pointed out just now, it is very regrettable that the Kenyan government has started to withdraw the Kenyan forces in relation to the United Nation's decision to dismiss the commander in connection with the incident of armed clash in July. I believe that the Kenyan government has until now made considerable contributions to the UNMISS by deploying more than 1,000 personnel, mainly in Wau in the northwestern part of South Sudan. We will continue to watch with strong interest how the Kenyan government and the United Nations will move. However, I do not expect that this will somehow affect the Japanese engineering unit.

Question:
In relation to that, how do you expect the withdrawal of the Kenyan forces to affect the judgment concerning the assignment of the new tasks?

Minister:
I do not expect that the withdrawal of the Kenyan forces will somehow affect the dispatch of the Japanese engineering unit. Of course, as I always say, the MOD has judged that the SDF's training proficiency has reached a sufficient level for the assignment of the new tasks, but while this judgment is shared within the government, we will continue to watch the situation in South Sudan with a sense of alertness and make judgment as to whether or not stable consent can be maintained.

Question:
In relation to the U.S. presidential election, you said that as Mr. Trump has won the election, it is necessary to examine specific policies to be adopted in the future. Isn't it possible that the defense against North Korean ballistic missiles, for example, will be somehow affected at the moment?

Minister:
First, as I already mentioned, I refrain from commenting on President-elect Trump's policies with prejudice. However, as was mentioned in the opening question, it is very important that the Prime Minister and Mr. Trump build a relationship of trust, and it is very important for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region to further deepen the Japan-U.S. Alliance. In that sense, it is unlikely that the inauguration of President Trump will somehow affect the missile defense or other matters.

Question:
As Mr. Trump has won the election, there will probably be a change in the post of secretary of defense. What are your expectations for a new secretary of defense?

Minister:
It is not yet certain whether there will be a change. In particular, with Secretary Carter, I closely share the perception of the situation surrounding Japan, and I had a good meeting with him. The importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance will not change whoever may be appointed as secretary of defense, so I would like to build a firm relationship of trust.

Question:
In relation to Mr. Trump, there is an argument that the inauguration of President Trump will prompt Japan to strengthen its self-defense, as he is demanding the U.S. allies to bear more of the cost. What is your opinion on that point?

Question:
As I already mentioned, although he made a variety of remarks during the election campaign, it is not appropriate to make comments with prejudice on what policies Mr. Trump may adopt after actually taking office as president. However, he made various remarks during the election campaign as you pointed out just now, so this provides an opportunity for us in Japan to think well about the three points that I always mention: defending Japan by itself, strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and cooperation with relevant countries.

Question:
In relation to that, you have declined to comment with prejudice on what policies may be adopted, but maintaining the alliance and keeping the size of the forces in Japan unchanged are different matters. Will the Japanese government consider seeking negotiations about reducing the current size of the U.S. Forces in Japan, including the Marine troops in Okinawa?

Minister:
Let me say this once again. I am not in a position to comment with prejudice on what policies President-elect Trump may adopt. Having said that, the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance and the deployment of the U.S. Forces in Okinawa are important in terms of deterrence and in light of the present severe situation. It is necessary to explain Japan's position while taking into consideration such matters.

Question:
Regardless of Mr. Trump's remarks, do you think that the expenditures for the stationing of the U.S. Forces in Japan are sufficient? Or should the U.S. Forces be kept in Japan by increasing the expenditures if necessary?

Minister:
I believe that they are sufficient.

Question:
Does that mean Japan has no intention to pay more than now?

Minister:
I believe that as it stands now, Japan is bearing the cost that it should.

Question:
Do you have no intention to pay more than now however much is demanded?

Minister:
Such a demand being made is hypothetical, so I am not in a position to answer your question.

Question:
Regarding "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to protection of individuals related to operations in response to urgent request), my understanding is that the assignment of this task has until now been avoided because of the possibility that it could amount to the use of force in the event of engagement in fighting with a government or an organization similar to a government, but it has now been included in the Legislation for Peace and Security. In South Sudan, acts of cruelty and treason committed by government troops have been reported. For example, some people say that there was fighting between the government forces and the U.N. PKO troops. Under such circumstances, specifically what measures do you intend to take in order to prevent engagement in fighting with the government forces when assigning the new tasks?

Minister:
First, I assume that what you have in mind in asking this question is the incident of violence and sexual assault at the hotel into which the United Nations conducted an investigation, but those acts were not committed by the regular government troops. Rather, it is the South Sudanese government that actually brought the incident under control. "Kaketsuke-keigo" is a task that may be performed by the engineering unit dispatched by Japan within the limits of what it can do from the humanitarian perspective in response to an urgent request while ensuring its personnel's safety. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the unit will be involved in situations that you mentioned, such as an armed conflict or the use of force.

Question:
I am not talking about a specific case but about the possibility of engaging in fighting with the government force in general. In short, I suspect that the government force is an organization that include persons willing to engage in acts of violence, not necessarily a well-coordinated organization. I suppose that it would be difficult to prevent engagement in fighting with the government forces without more detailed negotiations or a system of closer communication with them. Are you not considering more specifics concerning such matters?

Minister:
First, "kaketsuke-keigo" will be implemented only when the conditions for the five principles of PKO participation are met, namely only when no armed conflict exists there, no government or organization similar to a government involved in an armed conflict exists and there is stable consent from the accepting country. When there is such stable consent, it is not assumed that the government forces of the accepting country will emerge as an enemy against the Japanese unit. Furthermore, as I already mentioned, "kaketsuke-keigo" is implemented by the SDF engineering unit within the limits of what it can do as an emergency measure from the humanitarian perspective in response to a request in very limited cases when people engaging in NGO activities, for example, have been attacked and when no other units, such as the U.N. infantry troops or the South Sudanese security organization, can immediately respond. Therefore, situations such as engaging in conflict with armed forces are not assumed. In addition, before implementing it, taking actions other than using force, such as making patient persuasion efforts, as you mentioned now, are the first things to do. In that sense, situations such as resorting to the use of force or being involved in an armed conflict are not assumed.

Question:
I have understood well the policy of implementation in limited cases, but will the mobilization for "kaketsuke-keigo" be made after the Japanese engineering unit or the PKO headquarters notifies the government forces or the local security authority that the Japanese unit will be dispatched there instead because something is happening but they are not able to respond?

Minister:
Naturally, the unit will take action after appropriately contacting and sharing information not only with the South Sudanese government but also with the United Nations.

Question:
In the case of "kaketsuke-keigo," the Japanese unit will respond within the scope of the Japanese laws and regulations when conditions, such as the securing of safety, have been met. Otherwise, you said, "kaketsuke-keigo" will not be implemented, but a report issued in July and NGOs have criticized the absence of help from any forces, from any PKO troops. If the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" is assigned and if the Japanese unit does not come to the rescue - although Japan may be acting in accordance with its laws - do you think that it is possible to gain the international community's understanding?

Minister:
When I met with U.N. Special Representative L?j during my visit to South Sudan and also when Special Advisor Shibayama met with her the other day, we fully explained the meaning of Japan's "kaketsuke-keigo": we told her that the Japanese unit is an engineering unit engaging in road building and facility construction and that "kaketsuke-keigo" will be implemented in an emergency case from the humanitarian perspective within the limits of what the unit can do. In that sense, it is not assumed that the Japanese unit will come to the rescue in such a major incident as the one which took place at the hotel in July that has been mentioned. Therefore, we have fully explained the objectives of the unit dispatched by Japan and the meaning of the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" that is authorized under the Japanese law, and it is necessary to continue making explanations.

Question:
Even though the special representative's understanding may have been obtained, do you think that it is possible to obtain understanding from international NGOs and the international community?

Minister:
The SDF's activities are based on law, as Japan is a constitutional state. We should fully explain that point to the international community. Criticism from the international community will not lead us to make the SDF conduct activities that are outside the scope prescribed by law.

Question:
Returning to the issue of expenditures for the stationing of the U.S. Forces in Japan, I understand that late last year, an agreement was signed on the amount of the cost to be borne by Japan over five years, including the current fiscal year. Am I correct in understanding that in principle, the government has no intention to review this agreement regardless of the argument made by Mr. Trump during the election campaign?

Minister:
As I repeatedly mentioned, I would like to refrain from commenting with prejudice on what policies the president-elect may adopt after the change of government. Earlier, I was asked whether the current expenditures for the stationing of the U.S. Forces are sufficient, so I replied that they are sufficient.

Question:
Returning to the South Sudan issue once again, as Japan is a constitutional state, it has revised the law so that "kaketsuke-keigo" can be implemented. But the Kenyan commander of the UNMISS has been dismissed and the Chinese and Ethiopian forces have come under international criticism because the forces rejected the request from the UNMISS headquarters to implement "kaketsuke-keigo." As Japan is a constitutional state, it has legally authorized "kaketsuke-keigo." Won't it matter if the Japanese unit has rejected such a request and has come under criticism from the international community?

Minister:
Your question is a little tortuous, so let me sort it out. I assume that you are referring to the incident in July, when the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" had not been assigned. Even if the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" is assigned in the future, cases like the incident in July - although the situation may be different on a case-by-case basis in the future - are well outside the scope of what the engineering unit can deal with under Japan's PKO act. As we are explaining now and need to continue to explain to the international community, the unit will not do more than what is prescribed by law. If Kenya and China are now coming under criticism from the international community, that is because their forces were infantry troops and were engaging in tasks different from the Japanese SDF, such as security and protection. As such tasks have not been assigned to the SDF, it is wrong to consider the cases of those forces and the SDF at the same level.

Question:
The mandate, protection of civilians, is the same for both, isn't it?

Minister:
The tasks assigned to the Japanese unit under the U.N. mandate are those for an engineering unit, such as civil engineering work, road building and facility construction. Tasks such as security and protection have not been assigned to the Japanese SDF. If such tasks are to be assigned, approval by the Diet is necessary as you know, so the Japanese unit will do what it can within the limits of its tasks.

Question:
The UNMISS mandate authorizes the use of weapons and armed attacks in order to protect civilians, not just protecting civilians. In that sense, the SDF's activities are integrated into the scope of the mandate, aren't they? What are your thoughts on that?

Minister:
The tasks of the Japanese SDF unit are those of an engineering unit, so the unit will conduct activity within the limits of the given tasks. Even if the task of "kaketsuke-keigo" is to be assigned at this time, it will be implemented as an emergency measure from the humanitarian perspective in response to a request within the limits of what the unit can do as an engineering unit.

Question:
The mandate is protecting the civilians, rather than constructing facilities and building infrastructure, isn't it?

Minister:
The mandate covers nation-building in which Japan is involved, including the tasks performed by the engineering unit.

Question:
The mandate has been changed from nation-building to protecting civilians, as you know.

Minister:
Therefore, a new regional protection force will be established.

Question:
The mandate of protecting civilians will be maintained until the regional protection force arrives.

Minister:
Therefore, the Japanese unit is responsible for facility construction, among the several tasks included in the mandate.

Question:
The government is using the mandate in the sense of the most important task, is that correct?

Minister:
The government is not using the word "mandate."

Question:
I mean that the government is interpreting the word "mandate" to mean the most important task.

Minister:
As for the specifics of the tasks performed in South Sudan, there are four tasks, from Task A to Task D, which are: protection of civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights, creating the conditions for delivery of humanitarian assistance, and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement. The engineering unit engages in such work as improving roads and building outer walls in the U.N. Tong Ping area and House area as part of the tasks of supporting the protection of civilians and creating conditions for delivery of humanitarian assistance.

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