Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (11:19-11:30 A.M. January 17, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 11:19-11:30 A.M. January 17, 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
None

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I would like to ask you about ACSAs. Recently, there have been ACSA-related moves, such as revising the Japan-Australia ACSA and agreeing to hold negotiations about an ACSA with France. Could you explain the significance of signing ACSAs? Also, could you tell me about the progress in consultations about an ACSA with the United Kingdom and about the prospects for submission of bills related to other ACSAs to the Diet, although I understand that a bill related to the Japan-U.S. ACSA has already been submitted to the Diet?

Minister:
First, regarding the significance of ACSAs, ACSAs are agreements that prescribe the framework of determination procedures that enable smooth mutual supply of goods and services between the SDF and foreign military forces. Through them, it becomes possible to smoothly conduct various activities, such as joint exercises and PKO, so I believe they promote close defense cooperation between the SDF and foreign military forces. Regarding ACSAs with the United Kingdom and France, which you mentioned just now, we are now holding negotiations. As for the status of negotiations, I would like to refrain from making comments out of consideration for our relationship with our partners. Regarding the submission of bills to the Diet, nothing particular has been decided for now.

Question:
Miyakojima City’s mayoral election and vote counting are scheduled for January 22. Media reports are stating that the incumbent mayor and other candidates are divided over supporting or opposing the deployment of a GSDF unit, and depending on the results, the deployment could be affected. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
First, I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the MOD on the situation of Miyakojima City’s mayoral election on January 22 based on conjecture. However, the MOD believes it is necessary to steadily proceed with the deployment of a GSDF security unit in Miyakojima from the perspective of resolving the lack of SDF presence in the southwestern region at an early time. Therefore, we intend to proceed with it while continuing to provide conscientious explanations to the local community, and whatever the election results may be, this policy will remain unchanged.

Question:
What do you think of the fact that a matter concerning national defense has become an issue of contention in the mayoral election?

Minister:
Of course, the viewpoint of national defense is an important matter that relates to the national interests and Japan’s security, not just local interests. At the same time, we must adequately take into consideration the impact on the local residents’ everyday life, so there are two sides to this issue.

Question:
In relation to that, there have been a succession of developments related to Okinawa, including the Osprey accident and a supplementary agreement concerning the scope of the civilian component that was signed yesterday. Are you considering visiting Okinawa in person in order to provide explanations about these matters to the governor or the mayor of Nago City, or about the Miyakojima issue to relevant people?

Minister:
Mitigating the impact on Okinawa is also a very important challenge for the Abe administration. Regarding the recent Osprey accident, after flight operations were suspended temporarily, the MOD held intense, close consultations with the U.S. side in stages, before the resumption of flight operations and before the resumption of aerial refueling training, so I believe that we did all what could be done. On the other hand, it is important to provide adequate explanations to local residents in Okinawa. Furthermore, regarding Miyakojima, about which I received a question earlier, we also face the challenge of resolving the lack of SDF presence in the southwestern region at an early time. Therefore, my wish to find an opportunity to provide adequate explanations myself remains unchanged, although the timing has not been decided.

Question:
President-elect Trump will take office on January 20. The president-elect himself has been making few references to an increase in the costs that the allies should bear. Do you think that this indicates that Mr. Trump has appropriately understood the arguments made by Japan and other allies? Or do you think there is a risk that he will comment on matters like that again in the future?

Minister:
We should not make comments based on conjecture about what policies President-elect Trump may adopt after taking office. However, since immediately after the election, he has been referring to the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and the Prime Minister met with Mr. Trump earlier than any other national leader and made the first move toward developing a relationship of trust. The Japan-U.S. Security Arrangement is not a framework from which only Japan or the United States benefits, and I believe that the expenditures for the stationing of the U.S. Forces should be appropriately shared between Japan and the United States.

Question:
I have a question concerning Henoko. Regarding floats now being installed to indicate the temporary restricted area, ropes were strung over the floats at this time. Could you tell me why this new measure was taken at this time, in addition to indicating the temporary restricted area?

Minister:
After installing the floats, we are installing barriers to prevent the spread of muddied water caused by the construction work. There will be no change in the fact that these floats indicate the demarcation of the temporary restricted area in order to ensure the safety of the work. In any case, the MOD will make efforts to mitigate the impact on Okinawa at an early time by realizing the return of MCAS Futenma as early as possible.

Question:
Will floats like those previously used be unable to ensure the safety?

Minister:
This time, we are installing floats that have been selected as the best from the perspective of the appearance of the demarcation line of the temporary restricted area and also from the perspective of ensuring the safety of the work.

Question:
In relation to the clarification of the scope of the civilian component under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement that was announced yesterday, do you expect this will reduce incidents like the one that occurred last year?

Minister:
First, regarding the supplementary agreement concerning the civilian component, this clarifies the scope of the civilian component, specifies types of civilian component personnel and prescribes the procedures for being recognized as civilian component personnel and the development of the suitability evaluation criteria. This is the second supplementary agreement, after the supplementary agreement concerning the environment. As it is legally binding, it has landmark significance and is different from the improvements of enforcement made in the past. Through the implementation of this agreement, I expect that cooperation between Japan and the United States will be promoted further, and I also expect that as a result of the clarification of the scope of the civilian component, the recurrence of incidents like the one that you mentioned will be prevented through further enhancement of the management and supervision of the civilian component of the U.S. Forces in Japan.

Question:
As Okinawa Prefecture is asserting, incidents and accidents in Okinawa Prefecture have been caused not only by civilian component personnel but also by U.S. military personnel themselves, so this is apparently unlikely to lead to recurrence prevention in relation to military personnel. What would you say to that?

Minister:
I expect that clarifying the scope of the civilian component in this way, making it legally binding, and further enhancing the management and supervision of the civilian component will have effects on military personnel as well.

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