Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (10:01-10:20 A.M. November 18, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:10:01-10:20 A.M. November 18, 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
First of all, in relation to the PKO in South Sudan, as I announced at my press conference after the cabinet meeting on November 15, today, I issued an SDF action order to partially revise the SDF action order concerning the implementation of international peace cooperation activities in South Sudan, which prescribes that the area of activity of the engineering unit there should be limited to Juba and the surrounding region starting with the 11th unit in light of the results of the activities so far conducted. The implementation of the new tasks of "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to protection of individuals related to operations in response to urgent request) will also be limited to this area of activity accordingly. The action order also prescribes the implementation of "kaketsuke-keigo" and joint protection of camps as well as an increase by one in the number of medical officers, which is intended to enhance the medical care preparedness, and the application of the order from December 12, when the command will be transferred from the 10th unit to the 11th unit.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
In addition to "kaketsuke-keigo," on which the Cabinet decision was made the other day, the task of joint protection of camps will also be assigned at this time. Could you explain once again the significance of the implementation of the joint protection of camps?

Minister:
Out in the fields where the PKO is implemented, personnel from several countries conduct activity usually in cooperation with each other. In South Sudan, too, one camp is used by units from several countries, including the SDF unit, as their base of activity. Until now, the SDF has been unable to make a joint response when personnel from other countries are facing a crisis under an attack by an armed group on their camp or to participate in routine exercises. However, if personnel from other countries fall victim to the attack, the SDF personnel may also be attacked because they are within the same camp. The SDF personnel and personnel from other countries have a shared destiny because they are within the same camp, so making a joint response will enhance security. In addition, as participation in routine exercises becomes possible, communication and cooperation with personnel from other countries in the event of an emergency will become smooth, enhancing the security of the camp as a whole. In this way, the joint protection of camps is intended to enhance self-security in the severe security situation. This will also contribute to the reduction of risks faced by the SDF by making it possible to conduct activity more smoothly and safely. I have been striving to explain these points to the Japanese people on various occasions, and I will continue to explain the significance of the task on such occasions as press conferences, Diet deliberations and appearances in TV programs.

Question:
According to an opinion survey conducted by our company, the percentage of opposition to "kaketsuke-keigo" is higher than the percentage of support by a wide margin, 47.4% to 28.2%. Regarding this lack of understanding, although you said you will make explanations, could you tell me specifically how you will obtain the Japanese people's understanding and what you think is the reason for the lack of understanding?

Minister:
First, let me explain the significance of "kaketsuke-keigo." This is intended to provide protection as an emergency measure from the humanitarian perspective in response to an urgent request within the limits of what the SDF can do while ensuring its own safety, so this means that the SDF will not abandon people who can be rescued. In the past, in Timor-Leste and Zaire, there were cases in which the SDF came to the rescue of Japanese nationals to provide protection with great difficulties in response to requests for protection from Japanese nationals, although no training had been conducted, by overcoming the absence of a provision for "kaketsuke-keigo" through the application of the provision for transportation or SDF management. It is necessary to adequately explain that a solid legal basis has been provided at this time based on such past experiences and that the task will be assigned after SDF personnel have received training to raise their proficiency to a sufficient level for its implementation. Watching TV yesterday, I heard explanations that made it sound as if the SDF will come to the rescue of other countries' units to provide assistance and protection, but a situation like that is not assumed. While troops from other countries are infantry units, the SDF unit dispatched to South Sudan is an engineering unit engaging in such activities as road building and facility construction, so we will adequately explain matters like that and I would also like to request your cooperation.

Question:
When "kaketsuke-keigo" is actually implemented, will the decision to be made by the unit be very difficult?

Minister:
As I mentioned just now, this task will be implemented in an emergency case in response to a request. In the past cases, the decision was made because of eagerness to rescue the people in some way and because it was concluded that rescuing them was possible. Therefore, in principle, the unit should make the decision.

Question:
After holding a long meeting, lasting one hour, with President-elect Trump in New York, Prime Minister Abe said he was convinced that they will be able to build a relationship of trust. Could you share your comments on that, and could you also offer your thoughts on future enhancement of the Japan-U.S. Alliance?

Minister:
Originally, the meeting was scheduled to last 45 minutes, but I have heard that it lasted as long as one hour and 40 minutes. Furthermore, at a subsequent press conference, the Prime Minister said they took their time holding frank discussions while opening their hearts to each other. As the Japan-U.S. Alliance is a very important relationship, the Prime Minister and President-elect Trump held frank discussions much longer than was scheduled, and I assume that this is a good step toward building a relationship of trust.

Question:
Returning to the South Sudan issue, I understand that the government was considering raising the amount of consolation payment for injury or death of personnel from the previous level of 60 million yen to 90 million yen. What is the present status of consideration?

Minister:
That is under consideration now. An official decision has not yet been made.

Question:
Does that mean the decision will be made by the time when the new tasks will be assigned on December 12?

Minister:
We are also considering the timing now.

Question:
Regarding the situation in South Sudan, could you tell me once again about the present situation and how you will make judgment in the future?

Minister:
I recognize that the security situation in South Sudan as a whole is very severe. In addition, although the situation is relatively stable in the city of Juba and the surrounding region, namely the area to which the SDF's activities will be limited at this time, we will need to watch the situation with a sense of alertness. In particular, in the northern region, namely the home region of Mr. Machar, and near the southern border, armed clashes and murders of ordinary citizens have been frequently occurring. As you know, as a large-scale armed clash occurred in the capital city of Juba in July, the situation does not warrant optimism although the present situation is relatively stable, so we will need to keep a careful watch.

Question:
If the assignment of the new tasks leads to casualties, how do you intend to take responsibility?

Minister:
This time, the new tasks will be assigned and SDF personnel will conduct activity as members of the engineering unit in the PKO following the extension of the deployment. It is I who issued the order concerning the assignment of the new tasks, so the responsibility for that rests entirely with me.

Question:
Am I correct in understanding that you will resign if any casualties are caused?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from saying specifically how I will take responsibility here, but the responsibility for issuing the order rests entirely with me.

Question:
Don't you have the possibility of resigning in mind?

Minister:
I am not considering any such specific possibility at the moment.

Question:
The personnel will depart for South Sudan starting on November 20. Do you have a plan to give them words of encouragement once again?

Minister:
I am considering that.

Question:
Today, you issued the SDF action order. Before issuing the order today, I assume that some procedures were followed among senior officials of the MOD/SDF. Wasn't there a meeting or some such activity this morning?

Minister:
No meeting was held this morning.

Question:
I would like to ask you about an earlier question once again. According to a Jiji Press opinion survey, the percentage of opposition to "kaketsuke-keigo" was higher than the percentage of support. What do you think is the reason for the lack of understanding among the Japanese people?

Minister:
We have not yet adequately explained the significance of the task, or, I should say, we have not yet been able to get our explanations across. In this respect, I would like to work hard.

Question:
At a session of the House of Representative's Committee on Security, I understand that Representative Goto of the Democratic Party took up a report on the situation in Juba. As many parts of the report were blacked out, it was requested that the report be submitted to the committee once again. How do you intend to respond to the request?

Minister:
The report was made public in a blacked-out form because of worries that if reference materials prepared by the MOD and the SDF unit there revealed the unit's information-gathering capability, it would be problematic in terms of ensuring the safety of the SDF personnel conducting activity there. As Representative Goto requested to know specific facts, the decision was left to the council. The submitted report was prepared as of October 8, and much time has passed since then, so I have instructed the submission of a report which will make clear the present security situation in the city of Juba and the surrounding region and in the whole of South Sudan and which may be disclosed without causing any problem.

Question:
I have a question concerning the Northern Training Area. What is the current status of the construction in the Northern Training Area and the current status of the procedures for the return?

Minister:
As I mentioned several times at my press conferences, we are proceeding with the construction for relocation with a view to realizing the return by the end of the current fiscal year. Specifically, in light of the progress in the construction of helipads for relocation, we prepared an implementation plan aiming for the return by the end of the year, consulted Okinawa Prefecture for an opinion on October 18 and received an opinion paper concerning the implementation plan from the prefecture on November 16.

Question:
In relation to that, the governor is requesting re-assessment concerning the Osprey in the opinion paper. The governor intends to visit Tokyo for a meeting with you and make the request next week, as early as November 21. Do you have a plan to meet with him? Also, how are you going to seek his understanding in relation to his request for re-assessment?

Minister:
A meeting with the Okinawa governor has not yet been fixed. Moreover, regarding the environmental assessment, my understanding is that as the assessment has already been conducted, there is no legal obligation.

Question:
In relation to that, I would like to ask you about the construction of helipads in the Northern Training Area. It has been revealed that the MOD compiled reference materials which name citizens protesting against the construction of helipads in the Northern Training Area as persons engaging in illegal or malicious activities and which carried their photos. Are you aware of the presence of these reference materials?

Minister:
I have heard that the reference materials that you mentioned were compiled by the Okinawa Defense Bureau on November 7 for the purpose of explaining the situation of the Northern Training Area and were handed out as explanatory materials to people requesting explanations from the bureau. While we cannot disclose the names of the people to whom the materials were handed, the contents of the materials are being closely examined.

Question:
I have a related question. In the reference materials, it is mentioned that citizens protesting against the construction of helipads trampled on the surrounding area planted with Ryukyu bamboo in relation to the construction of helipads, but the large-scale logging that was the cause of the planting is not mentioned. Which of the construction of helipads and the protesting citizens' activity do you think will have a larger environmental impact?

Minister:
As I mentioned earlier, the contents of the reference materials are being closely examined, so I would like to refrain from commenting on the contents for now.

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