Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (10:51-11:03 A.M. November 29, 2016)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:51-11:03 A.M. November 29, 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
Yesterday, samples taken from dead domesticated birds at farms in Aomori city, Aomori Prefecture and in Sekikawa Village, Niigata Prefecture, including French ducks and chickens, tested positive for a subtype of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 virus as a result of gene testing, and at 4:37 a.m. today, the governor of Niigata Prefecture made a request for disaster relief dispatch to the Commander of the GSDF 12th Brigade. At around 9:30 a.m. today, approximately 180 personnel of the 30th Infantry Regiment and other units started slaughtering the birds, mainly chickens. They will engage in such activities as carrying away the dead birds after placing them in packing bags, and cleaning up and disinfecting the farm facilities. Upon the Prime Minister's instruction, I issued the following instructions to the personnel at 10:00 p.m. yesterday: strive to gather information in close cooperation with the local governments and relevant ministries and agencies; ensure response readiness and make sure to be well prepared; and respond appropriately in accordance with future changes in the situation. The MOD/SDF will make sure to prevent the spread of the avian influenza outbreak and contain it at an early time in close cooperation with the local governments and relevant ministries and agencies.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
One week has passed since the advance team of the 11th unit for the PKO in South Sudan arrived there. Please tell me about the situation there and the status of training.

Minister:
The advance team of the 11th unit is in the transition process of taking over the work of the 10th unit that is currently operating there, including the construction of facilities within the U.N. site, supply of water and transportation of gravel outside the U.N. site. In addition, in order to adapt to the local traffic regulations, the personnel are undergoing training in vehicle operation. During the process of transition from the 10th unit to 11th unit, we will ensure their safety and make sure to conduct significant activities while closely watching the situation in Juba with a sense of alertness.

Question:
A media report said that the systems of the MOD/SDF suffered cyberattacks, resulting in information leakage. Could you tell me about the facts and the MOD/SDF's response?

Minister:
The MOD/SDF routinely receives many suspicious emails and other communications that are presumed to be cyberattacks, but information leakage or other problems such as were mentioned in the media report have not been confirmed. We have been refraining from commenting on the presence or absence of specific cyberattacks or specific methods of attacks because doing so could reveal our response capabilities. In any case, at the MOD, the Cyber Defense Group is monitoring the information and communications networks and is prepared to respond to cyberattacks on a round-the-clock basis. We will continue to strive to ensure cybersecurity.

Question:
Regarding the avian influenza cases that were mentioned earlier, could you tell me about the status of preparation for the case in Aomori?

Minister:
Until now, we have not received a request for disaster relief dispatch from Aomori. That is, I suppose, partly because the number of affected birds is small compared with the case in Niigata. The MOD/SDF has dispatched liaison personnel and is gathering information.

Question:
How many personnel were dispatched?

Minister:
One liaison officer was dispatched.

Question:
In the case in Niigata, is there a plan to increase the number of personnel? You mentioned responding in accordance with the situation.

Minister:
In the case in Niigata, the number of affected birds is around 310,000, so 180 personnel are now engaging in the operation there. We will consider future actions while watching the situation.

Question:
I would like to ask you about cyber security. Concerning the cyberattack media report, I hear that the DII was disconnected temporarily. How serious was this case? For example, a news program has already carried a comment by a senior SDF officer suggesting that the situation is very critical. How serious was this?

Minister:
The media report mentioned at the beginning, that the use of the Internet by the MOD/SDF as a whole was halted, is not factual. It is true that from the viewpoint of ensuring security, some organizations may strengthen the limitation on the use of the Internet in some cases. However, I would like to refrain from commenting on the specifics of the limitation or the reasons for strengthening it. As of now, damage such as information leakage or destruction of equipment at the MOD/SDF has not been confirmed.

Question:
Until last week, working-level talks between the defense authorities of Japan and China were held, and yesterday, security dialogue was held. Could you tell me about the progress made so far with respect to the Maritime and Air Communication Mechanism and about the prospects for an agreement?

Minister:
Yesterday, the 14th Japan-China Security Dialogue was held in Beijing, China. This was the first dialogue in around one and a half years, and I understand that there was a frank exchange of opinions about the two countries' security and defense policies, bilateral defense cooperation and exchange, and the global and regional security situations. Out of consideration for our relationship with China, I would like to refrain from mentioning the details. Concerning the Maritime and Air Communication Mechanism, I would also like to refrain from commenting on the specific status of arrangements being made or the future prospects. However, Japan intends to use every appropriate opportunity to make efforts toward an early launch of this mechanism.

Question:
In relation to that, does Japan have any preferred timeframe for reaching an agreement on this communication mechanism?

Minister:
As I already mentioned, Japan intends to use every appropriate opportunity to make efforts toward an early launch of this mechanism, but I would like to refrain from commenting on the prospects for an agreement.

Question:
In relation to the South Sudan issue, the main body of the unit will depart tomorrow. I would like to know your perception of the security situation in Juba and what cases you are assuming with respect to the withdrawal of the unit, an action that you said you may take without hesitation depending on the situation.

Minister:
First, the situation remains relatively stable in the city of Juba and the surrounding region, but we will closely watch the situation with a sense of alertness as I always say. The security situation in South Sudan as a whole is very severe, and it is true that armed clashes are occurring in the northern region, the southern border region, and the western region. Therefore, although the situation in Juba is relatively stable, we must watch the situation with a sense of alertness. I am myself gathering information and watching the situation with a sense of alertness every day. I said I will not hesitate to withdraw the unit when necessary because we must abide by the five principles of PKO participation, which are based on the requirements of the constitution. In that sense, when the conditions for the five principles of PKO participation have broken down, we should not hesitate to do that. The SDF engineering unit is building roads and constructing facilities, but we must examine whether the unit can conduct significant activities while ensuring its own safety. Concerning what cases are assumed, we must make judgement in view of the specific situation of individual cases. For example, in the Diet, I mentioned a case in which the unit cannot leave the joint camp where it is based for a long period of time or in which gunfighting continues for a long period of time. The judgment as to whether or not to actually withdraw the unit will be made by the government as a whole according to the specific situation at the time, as I said at the beginning.

Question:
I have the sense that you have been recently emphasizing that you do not hesitate to withdraw. What is your intention?

Minister:
That is written in the statement of the government's basic position that was announced at this time. We are using the expression "without hesitation" in order to explain the government's basic position in an easy-to-understand manner in the Diet.

Question:
You have been emphasizing that recently, I mean emphasizing that more than before, because it is written there, is that correct?

Minister:
It is not that I have started to use the expression "without hesitation" recently, but I am using this because it is an expression used in the statement on the basic position. I have already been of the mind that withdrawing the unit will be natural if the conditions are not met. I have already been saying that.

Question:
Returning to the avian influenza issue, I understand that a meeting of relevant cabinet ministers was held at the Prime Minister's Office from a little before 9 a.m. Did you attend the meeting? If so, what did you report?

Minister:
I attended the meeting and said almost the same thing as my statement at the beginning.

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