Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister Inada(07:21-07:30 P.M. January 5, 2017(Japan Time))

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 07:21-07:30 P.M. January 5, 2017(Japan Time)
Place: Press Area, NATO headquarters
(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:
You have held a meeting with the NATO Secretary General. In which areas did you agree on defense cooperation?

Minister:
First of all, let me provide some explanations. Earlier, I visited NATO and held a meeting with Secretary General Stoltenberg. This was the first visit to NATO by a Japanese Defense Minister in 10 years. From the NATO side, I received a briefing on matters related to Russia and operations implemented by NATO. In the meeting with Secretary General Stoltenberg, we shared the recognition that the need for cooperation between Japan and NATO is growing further amid the increasingly severe global security environment and affirmed that we will further strengthen the Japan-NATO relationship. As for the Japan-NATO cooperation, we affirmed specific cooperation activities conducted in the past in various areas, such as maritime security, including counter-piracy operations, cyber security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, women's empowerment, and peace and security, and we agreed that we will further promote such cooperation. I conveyed Japan's intention to continue to dispatch SDF officers to the NATO headquarters and assign a liaison officer to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, or SHAPE, as has already been proposed by the NATO side, in order to maintain and strengthen the cooperation. Secretary General Stoltenberg responded by welcoming that. We also exchanged opinions about regional and international situations, including the situations in the East China Sea, the South China Sea and Russia, and agreed on the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts based on international law. We affirmed that we will continue to share the recognition of the regional situations surrounding Japan and NATO. I would like to use the latest meeting with Secretary General Stoltenberg as an opportunity to further deepen the Japan-NATO defense cooperation.

Question:
This may have no relation to the contents of the meeting, but Mr. Trump, whose new administration will be inaugurated this month, has called for Japan and NATO to bear more of the defense-related expenditures. What was the shared recognition in that respect?

Minister:
There was no specific discussion based on the assumption of what may happen after the inauguration of the U.S. administration under Mr. Trump.

Question:
But I suppose that both sides cannot help but continue to be conscious of this matter. How do you intend to deal with it?

Minister:
The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the centerpiece of Japan's security policy, while cooperation between Europe and the United States has been promoted through NATO, and I explained that there will be no change in Japan's recognition of that.

Question:
What specific benefits does Japan want to gain through the dispatch of a liaison officer to SHAPE, which you mentioned earlier?

Minister:
From the perspective of strengthening the relationship as partners, the NATO side has sounded Japan about that on various occasions. SHAPE is a headquarters that possesses the command and control function concerning NATO's military operations. I am sure that assigning a Japanese liaison officer in charge of coordination work regarding NATO's exercises and various procedures to its headquarters will lead to the enhancement of the Japan-NATO cooperation.

Question:
Turning to a domestic issue, regarding the Osprey aircraft of the U.S. Forces, it was decided that flight operations will be resumed on January 6. According to the U.S. Forces, the factors of the accident will be examined in detail in a final investigation. What do you think of the decision on resumption at this stage?

Minister:
Since the Osprey accident, it has consistently been explained that it was not caused by factors related to the aircraft itself. As identifying the cause of the accident, providing information and taking recurrence prevention measures are the preconditions-that is also my position-, I have been holding intensive consultations with the U.S. side. While Osprey flight operations have been resumed, we have been continuing intensive consultations about aerial refueling training as well. As you pointed out just now, the U.S. side is still investigating this case, and the cause of the accident has not yet been fully identified. However, the U.S. side presented very detailed recurrence prevention measures. Japan and the United States have agreed that it is possible that this accident was caused by a combination of an environmental factor-nighttime aerial refueling, an operation requiring high-level skills, was conducted under weather conditions such as strong wind and turbulence-and a human factor. Concerning the factors of the accident, the MOD has also analyzed all possibilities and has confirmed that the U.S. side implemented recurrence prevention measures covering a broad range of factors. The U.S. side has given assurances that, as before, aerial refueling training will be conducted only above sea far from the shore, but not above land. As for a detailed document, I also presented my comment, while the MOD has analyzed all possibilities and confirmed the implementation of recurrence prevention measures. On the other hand, it is true that the Osprey has played a role in emergencies and disaster relief, and aerial refueling is an operation essential to its operations. For example, according to explanations provided by the U.S. side, at the time of the earthquakes in Kumamoto in April last year, the Osprey that transported relief goods to the disaster flew from the Philippines, receiving aerial refueling on the way. Taking into consideration these things comprehensively, we can understand the decision to resume aerial refueling training on January 6, and we intend to provide the people of Okinawa and the local communities with adequate explanations concerning the cause of the accident and the recurrence prevention measures.

Question:
Regarding the dispatch of a liaison officer to SHAPE, do you have in mind what class of officer to dispatch or when to dispatch the officer?

Minister:
Concerning the dispatch of a liaison officer to SHAPE, for the moment, we plan to have the defense attach? at the Japanese embassy in Belgium concurrently serve in that position. We will make arrangements for the specific timing of the assignment immediately after obtaining approval from the NATO member countries.

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