Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (10:53-11:07 A.M. January 20, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:53-11:07 A.M. January 20, 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:
Today, U.S. President Trump will take office. Mr. Trump has made various remarks concerning the Japan-U.S. Alliance, including during the election campaign. On the other hand, people nominated for cabinet posts have explained in the Senate that there will be no change in the Japan-U.S. Alliance. I assume that there are a variety of challenges and pending issues, but is there any particular matter about which you would like to hasten to discuss with the new administration after his inauguration?

Minister:
It is true that Mr. Trump has made various remarks during the election campaign, but since he was elected, he has referred to the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Also, the Prime Minister held a teleconference with him and met with him in person at a very early time, and I understand that he confirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. There will be no change in our intention to further strengthen the bond between Japan and the United States by consolidating the Japan-U.S. Alliance with the incoming Trump administration as well based on a firm relationship of trust. In addition, amid the increasingly severe regional security environment, it is very important that the Japan-U.S. Alliance functions appropriately. Therefore, if Mr. Mattis' nomination for Secretary of Defense is approved, as you mentioned just now, I would like to create an opportunity to exchange opinions with him at the earliest possible date about Japan's position and the overall regional situation surrounding Japan.

Question:
Mr. Mattis' nomination for Secretary of Defense has been approved by the Senate and he may take office effective today. Are you now making arrangements for a teleconference or a meeting with him?

Minister:
My understanding is that the procedures for approval are ongoing, and the schedule has not been fixed. However, I would like to create an opportunity for a teleconference at the earliest possible date.

Question:
This is a problem for the government, but today, it was decided that the Administrative Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will resign because of an amakudari (which means that senior civil servants retire to join organizations linked with or under the jurisdiction of their ministries or agencies when they reach mandatory retirement age)mediation scandal. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
In the past, I myself served as Minister in charge of Civil Service Reform, so I believe that the rules concerning re-employment must be strictly complied with. As for compliance efforts at the MOD, the Defense Personnel Review Board conducts monitoring activity concerning re-employment of personnel who retire early, and the Cabinet Office's Reemployment Surveillance Commission is responsible for monitoring concerning other personnel. We will strive to fully educate the personnel and monitor reemployment so as to ensure that they strictly comply with the rules concerning reemployment.

Question:
What do you think of the fact that the amakudari problem still persists?

Minister:
It is necessary to prevent government administration from being distorted by firmly respecting the intent of the rules concerning amakudari, so we must fully educate the personnel and conduct monitoring activity in accordance with the intent of the law and the rules.

Question:
Going back to the inauguration of the incoming Trump administration, the president-elect made repeated references to an increase in the expenditures that should be borne by the allies. Not only the president-elect but also some nominees for cabinet posts have made similar references. What do you think this increase in the expenditures means?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from commenting with prejudgment on the meaning of those references and what they think about Japan. As I mentioned earlier, amid the increasingly severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, the Japan-U.S. Alliance plays an indispensable role as the foundation of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, and I believe that the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements are not a framework from which only one side-Japan, for example-benefits. In any case, I will provide specific explanations concerning Japan's position.

Question:
For example, if there is a request for an increase in defense expenditures to 2%, a level required within NATO, would it be possible to meet the request?

Minister:
In Japan's case, we develop a firm strategy and formulate a plan under the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program. Regarding the defense budget, its ratio has been 0.8% each year and we are implementing expenditures in accordance with the plan. However, we must always consider what the best thing to do is in relation to the speed of the severity of the security environment surrounding Japan. Still, increasing defense expenditures is not something that we should do when told to do it by other countries. Rather, in order to ensure Japan's defense, we must consolidate the three pillars of defense-enhancing Japan's defense capability in terms of quality and quantity, strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance and developing our relationships with relevant countries.

Question:
Mr. Mattis, who is expected to take office as the next Secretary of Defense, said at a public hearing that he is placing emphasis on Asia. Do you think that this stance will be inherited as a policy of the new administration, that this reflects the new administration's perception of the situation?

Minister:
We have always welcomed the United States' stance of placing emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region as a security policy. At the same time, the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region is not just a matter concerning the region but also leads to the peace, stability and prosperity of the entire world. As I agree that the situation is becoming severe, I would like to appropriately discuss and share the perception of the situation.

Question:
Concerning the development of facilities related to the Osprey at Camp Kisarazu, according to an announcement made by the U.S. Pacific Command on January 13, an opening ceremony for the factory was held on January 12. However, there was no announcement from the MOD or the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency. Could you tell me the facts that the MOD knows?

Minister:
A project is ongoing to establish common infrastructure for Ospreys of Japan and the United States at Camp Kisarazu. Regular maintenance work for MV-22 Ospreys of the U.S. Marine Corps is scheduled to start at the end of January. Ahead of that, Fuji Heavy Industries, which is responsible for implementing the maintenance work, held an opening ceremony for the Kisarazu factory at Camp Kisarazu on January 12. I believe that implementing the maintenance work for Ospreys of both Japan and the United States at Camp Kisarazu will further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and will also mitigate the impact on Okinawa by promoting the sharing of the impact across the whole of Japan. The opening ceremony for the Kisarazu factory is significant as the first step toward the sharing of the impact.

Question:
From what you said now, may I take it that Ospreys will actually arrive there and the maintenance work will start at the end of January?

Minister:
It is difficult to give a reply concerning specific timing of the arrival, but I have heard that the regular maintenance work is scheduled to start at the end of January.

Question:
Returning to the amakudari mediation issue, I understand that at the MOD, there is also a monitoring office. Has the MOD so far identified any case like the one that occurred at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology?

Minister:
I have not received a report that a case like the one being reported by the mass media has been confirmed.

Question:
From now on, emergency investigation will start at all ministries. What is your approach to that?

Minister:
We will fully educate the personnel once again and deal with this matter appropriately in cooperation with relevant ministries.

Question:
Today, the Diet will be reconvened. In relation to the MOD, I understand that a bill to revise the Act for Establishment of the MOD and a bill to revise the Public Finance Act will be submitted. Could you tell me about your resolve concerning the bills, and may I also ask for your comment on your own clothing today?

Minister:
Regarding the budget, including the supplementary budget, and the bills that will be submitted by the MOD-the bills are now under consideration-I will appropriately and conscientiously answer questions, as they are important for firmly securing Japan's defense capability in terms of quality and quantity in the severe security environment surrounding Japan and developing relationships with relevant countries. That is my stance towards people in opposition parties and to the Diet. To the Japanese people, I will also appropriately explain why these laws are necessary for Japan in plain language.

Question:
Could you comment on your own clothing?

Minister:
Are you referring to how I am dressed today?

Question:
That is correct.

Minister:
Well, I have been making it a habit of dressing in traditional Japanese clothing-that has green in it-on the opening day of a new Diet session. I am resolved to fulfill my duties.

Question:
Miyakojima City's mayoral election and vote counting are scheduled for this weekend. Amid the increasingly severe security environment, I understand that the MOD is attaching great importance to the deployment of a unit to Miyakojima. However, a candidate opposing the deployment is also running in the election, and this is apparently a close race. Could you share your thoughts on the election?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from commenting with prejudgment on the election on behalf of the MOD. As you mentioned now, the MOD believes that 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. On the other hand, it is important to obtain local residents' understanding, so we will proceed with this while providing adequate explanations concerning that point. Regardless of the election results, this will be our approach.

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