Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (11:09-11:20 A.M. January 10, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:09-11:20 A.M. January 10, 2017
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
Happy New Year. I will appreciate your continued support this year. I am scheduled to visit Guam January 12-13 in order to check how the relocation of the U.S. Marine troops stationed in Okinawa to the island is progressing. In Guam, I will visit places related to the Guam relocation project, including Andersen Air Force Base and the Apra area of the Naval base. I will also observe the U.S. Forces stationed in Guam.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
In response to the placing of a comfort women statue in the Republic of Korea (ROK), the ambassador to the ROK has temporarily returned. Could you share your comments on that and on what effects you expect it to have on the defense relationship, including GSOMIA?

Minister:
The placing of the statue of the girl on December 30 last year runs counter to a historic agreement on a final and irrevocable resolution of the comfort women issue that was reached at the end of 2015 between Japan and the ROK, and so it is very regrettable. Japan has responded by taking measures such as cancelling participation in projects related to Busan City by officials of the consulate-general there, temporary returning of the ambassador to the ROK and the consul-general, suspending consultations about the Japan-ROK currency swap arrangement and postponing the Japan-ROK High-Level Economic Consultations. Japan will continue to strongly protest the action, which runs counter to the historic agreement, and call for the removal of the statue. Concerning the agreement, both Japan and the ROK are required to steadily and conscientiously implement it. However, Japan and the ROK, both of which are allies of the United States, share common interests in the peace and stability of East Asia. Moreover, the entry-into-force of GSOMIA, which has resolved a long pending matter, contributes to the peace and stability of the region, so I would like to firmly strengthen cooperation concerning the security environment.

Question:
There has been a media report about an integrated defense strategy. Could you tell me the facts about the strategy, which apparently assumes a contingency concerning the Senkaku Islands?

Minister:
It is natural to constantly study the SDF's preparedness and response to emergency situations based on the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Program Guidelines in order to ensure the defense of Japan in the security environment surrounding the country. However, the media report that we have decided to formulate an integrated defense strategy centering on a policy for the SDF's response to contingencies involving China is not factual.

Question:
A media report said that although the Japanese and U.S. governments proposed a joint exercise regarding anti-submarine operations between Japan, the United States and the ROK at a consultation meeting of working-level defense officials of the three countries last month, the proposal failed to materialize because of the ROK's reluctance. Could you tell me the facts about that?

Minister:
Of course, I am aware of the media report about that. On December 16, the consultation meeting of working-level defense officials of Japan, the United States and the ROK was held in Seoul, the ROK, and opinions were exchanged about the response to North Korean nuclear missiles and defense cooperation between the three countries. However, I would like to refrain from commenting on the details of the discussions. As I mentioned earlier, Japan, the United States and the ROK share a common interest in the peace and stability of this region. As I believe close cooperation between the three countries is important for responding to various security challenges, including the North Korea issue, I would like to maintain the close cooperation between the countries.

Question:
What do you think of the necessity of a joint exercise concerning anti-submarine operations?

Minister:
I believe that such an exercise is important.

Question:
What do you think is necessary in consideration of contingencies or crises?

Minister:
In light of the current environment surrounding Japan, it is important to steadily implement training in relation to the peace and stability of the region, but we will hold close consultations about what can be done.

Question:
I have a question concerning your visit to Guam. Through your visit to Guam, specifically how would you like to accelerate the relocation?

Minister:
I believe this is an important initiative directly linked to mitigating the impact on Okinawa. Japan and the United States are closely cooperating with each other in promoting the project to relocate the U.S. Marine troops stationed in Okinawa to Guam, so I would like to take a close look at the progress.

Question:
Do you intend to present to the U.S. side a proposal for accelerating the relocation during this visit?

Minister:
I would like to first look at the progress and then make earnest efforts to accelerate the relocation.

Question:
In relation to that, in Guam, are you going to observe THAAD, which is the U.S. Forces' latest missile interception system?

Minister:
At Andersen Air Force Base, I am scheduled to observe THAAD.

Question:
What is the objective?

Minister:
As I always say, the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe, so we will appropriately deal with the threat from ballistic missiles by developing Japan's own BMD system and also by making efforts to enhance the deterrence and response capabilities based on the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangement. Concerning the development of the BMD system, in order to strengthen the capability to constantly defend the whole of Japan, the MOD/SDF is engaging in various activities, including conducting surveys and research concerning a future ballistic missile interception system. For the moment, the MOD does not have a specific plan to introduce THAAD, but introducing new assets like this could be a specific option for capability enhancement. It can be said that the threat from North Korea's nuclear development and ballistic missile capability enhancement is entering a new stage. We are considering what can be done by the MOD/SDF.

Question:
In relation to North Korean missiles, North Korea has suggested the possibility of going ahead with the test launch of an ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missile. What is the MOD's evaluation or analysis of that?

Minister:
First, as I have already been saying, it is possible that North Korea has already reached the stage of miniaturizing a nuclear weapon and using it as a nuclear warhead. However, in relation to long-range ballistic missiles, at least, we do not believe that North Korea has actually verified technology to protect a warhead at the time of atmospheric re-entry through the past missile launches. Even so, as you pointed out just now, North Korea announced in March last year that it had implemented a simulated atmospheric re-entry test of an ICBM warhead, so it is clear that the country is demonstrating its stance of pursuing the acquisition of this technology. The MOD will continue to make efforts to gather necessary information while maintaining close cooperation with the United States and the ROK.

Question:
I would like a clarification on what you are saying. Are you saying that the technology has not yet been materialized?

Minister:
That is correct. At least, we do not believe that North Korea has actually verified the technology to protect a warhead at the time of atmospheric re-entry.

Question:
What do you think of the possibility of an ICBM being test-launched in the near future?

Minister:
We are striving to gather and analyze information concerning North Korea's activities with serious interest on a routine basis, but I would like to refrain from commenting on the specifics of such information.

-PAGE TOP-