Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Onodera (10:25-10:48 A.M. December 8, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 10:25-10:48 A.M. December 8, 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
First, I will report on the schedule of the Japan-U.K. meeting of foreign and defense ministers. If circumstances permit, I will visit the United Kingdom from December 13 and participate in the third Japan-U.K. meeting of foreign and defense ministers in London on December 14. On the same day, I will hold the first Japan-U.K. defense ministerial meeting with newly appointed Secretary of State for Defence Williamson. At these meetings, we will exchange opinions about the two countries' security and defense policies. We will also share the perception of the increasingly severe security environment, including the North Korea issue, and discuss how to deal with it. In addition, in consideration of the results of Prime Minister May's recent visit to Japan, we will discuss specifically how to implement cooperation, including joint exercises and defense equipment and technology cooperation. Japan is the United Kingdom's closest security partner in Asia, while the United Kingdom is Japan's closest security partner in Europe, so we would like to further enhance the Japan-U.K. relationship through the forthcoming 2+2 meeting and defense ministerial meeting. Second, I will make an announcement concerning the introduction of stand-off missiles. At this time, in light of the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan, we have decided to introduce new missiles, including JSM, which will be installed on F-35A as a stand-off missile capable of dealing with enemies from outside their threat range in order to effectively defend Japan while ensuring the safety of SDF personnel. Today, the MOD will make an additional budget request. Going forward, we will make adjustments with the fiscal authority in preparation for the compilation of the fiscal 2018 budget. As a result of the introduction of stand-off missiles, in defending Japan, it will become possible to execute various operations more effectively and safely by dealing with sea-surface and landing units invading into Japan from outside the enemy's search and attack ranges without approaching the enemy. Currently, while the importance of Aegis-equipped destroyers that defend Japan against North Korean ballistic missiles is growing, it is essential to introduce stand-off missiles in order to protect the destroyers from outside enemies' threat range. It is the government's responsibility to introduce appropriate equipment so that SDF personnel engaging in the defense of Japan can perform tasks more safely, so it is necessary to introduce these missiles. As the stand-off missiles will be introduced exclusively for the purpose of defending Japan, they are not intended for the so-called enemy base attack. As for the so-called enemy base attack capability, Japan depends on the United States under the division of roles between the two countries, and we are not considering changing the basic division of the roles. Moreover, as these missiles will be introduced exclusively for the purpose of defending Japan, their introduction will not run counter to our policy of exclusive defense. There will be no change in the exclusively defense-oriented policy. Concerning the details, the MOD staff will hold a briefing after the additional budget request is made today.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
In relation to the discovery yesterday of an object presumed to have fallen from aircraft onto a nursery school in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, is there any new information? Also, could you comment on that once again?

Minister:
Concerning this case, Ginowan City informed the Okinawa Defense Bureau yesterday that an object that appeared to be an aircraft part had fallen onto the roof of a nursery school located in the city. In response to this information, the MOD dispatched personnel of the Okinawa Defense Bureau to the site and inquired with the U.S. side about the facts. In addition, the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau visited the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corp. in Okinawa yesterday afternoon and made a request to check the facts at an early time. The U.S. side replied that it was continuing to investigate the facts and that it would inform us as soon as the results became clear. In any case, the MOD will continue to gather information, and as soon as detailed information is received from the U.S. side, we will make appropriate judgment and inform Okinawa Prefecture and other relevant local governments.

Question:
According to a media report, the government is conducting a study with a view to revising the national security strategy by the end of next year. Could you give me the facts?

Minister:
I am aware of that media report. Concerning the contents of the national security strategy that was determined by the cabinet in December 2013, we have a period of around 10 years in mind. The National Security Council appropriately develops this strategy as necessary by periodically conducting a systematic evaluation through the process of implementing various policy measures. Moreover, if an important change in the situation is expected to occur, a study will be conducted and a necessary revision will be made. However, we are not conducting a study as was reported.

Question:
I will ask you about the deployment at Saga Airport of Ospreys that will be introduced by the GSDF. With Ospreys scheduled to be gradually transported from the United States starting in the autumn of 2018, the development of the facilities is unlikely to be completed in time. You said that you will proceed with the deployment at Saga Airport as previously planned. Please tell me about the future schedule, such as by when you aim to obtain the local community's consent and around when you aim to open the camp. In relation to that, could you explain how the aircraft is expected to be stored and operated from the autumn of 2018 onwards?

Minister:
The MOD is studying various options concerning a temporary treatment of the V-22 Osprey in the period until the completion of the development of the facilities. In addition, as we recognize the need to obtain agreements from the governor of Saga Prefecture, who is the manager of Saga Airport, and people who hold the land rights in order to begin the preparation of the facilities at Saga Airport, it is essential to obtain agreements from them as soon as possible. On the other hand, with respect to the deployment of the V-22 Osprey at Saga Airport, we would like to obtain understanding from the people of Saga Prefecture by fully providing conscientious explanations, so we are not considering unilaterally setting a deadline, as has been the case until now. The MOD is considering the schedule of the preparation of the facilities and the deployment of the V-22 Osprey. In any case, in order to promptly start developing the facilities, we will provide conscientious explanations with an increased sense of urgency so that we can obtain understanding from the local people, including the governor of Saga Prefecture.

Question:
I will ask you about the introduction of missiles including the JSM. Does that mean that you will introduce other similar missiles in addition to the JSM? Missiles such as JASSM-ER have also been mentioned. Are you considering other options as well?

Minister:
We are considering making additional requests for necessary budget funds concerning the JSM, which will be installed on the F-35, and the LRSM and JASSM, which will be installed on the F-15 and other aircraft. Although this is a tiny detail, we are calling the JASSM-ER as just "JASSM" because only the JASSM-ER is being manufactured.

Question:
In relation to that, what is your analysis of the maximum range of each missile?

Minister:
Disclosing the range of the missiles will reveal Japan's specific defense capabilities, so I have been refraining from commenting on the range. Having said that, from published materials like Jane's annual report, for example, my understanding is that the range is around 500 kilometers for the JSM, around 900 kilometers for the JASSM and around 900 kilometers for the LRASM. These figures are nothing more than published information, and they do not represent the actual ranges to be available when the missiles are introduced by the SDF.

Question:
You referred to them as stand-off missiles. What is the definition of a stand-off missile-how far it is from an enemy's threat?

Minister:
We call them stand-off missiles because we will use them from outside what we assume to be the enemy's threat range.

Question:
How do you expect to use each of the JSM, LRASM and JASSM?

Minister:
The JSM will be installed on the F-35 stealth fighter, which we plan to introduce. The JASSM and LRASM will be installed on the F-15 after the necessary modification of the aircraft.

Question:
Some missiles combine anti-ship and anti-surface capabilities. In what way will they be used as anti-surface missiles?

Minister:
The JSM, which is made in Norway, will be installed on the F-35, and it combines the anti-ship and anti-surface capabilities. The JASSM is made in the United States. It has anti-surface capability. The LRASM, which is also made in the United States, combines anti-ship and anti-surface capabilities. We believe that in addition to anti-ship capability, anti-surface capability is necessary for the defense of Japan.

Question:
You said that the missiles are made in the United States and Norway. May I take it that you have already obtained an agreement from those countries, particularly from the United States?

Minister:
We have been making various adjustments. We were unable to make a budget request in the summer because we were still making various adjustments. As the adjustments have been completed since then, we have decided to make an additional budget request.

Question:
Why did you not make an item request?

Minister:
During the adjustment process, it was not clear whether we could introduce advanced equipment like this because it also depends on the partner countries' intentions, so we did not make an item request.

Question:
What kind of request will the additional request be? Will it be a request for funds for a study toward acquisition?

Minister:
Concerning the JSM, we will make a budget request for acquisition. Concerning the LRASM and the JASSM, the request will be for funds for a study and preparation for installation because installation on the F-15 will be necessary as a precondition.

Question:
What is the requested budget amount?

Minister:
You should attend the briefing from the MOD staff later.

Question:
Does the introduction of these long-range missiles assume the defense of remote islands?

Minister:
We will use them to protect Aegis-equipped destroyers responsible for missile defense and, also naturally, to defend Japan as a whole. The defense of remote islands is included in the defense of Japan.

Question:
The JASSM has a range of around 900 kilometers. If this is planned to be fired from out of the enemy's range, does that mean you are assuming a situation in which Japan will lose air and maritime supremacy over a fairly large area?

Minister:
We at the defense authorities need to make preparations based on the assumption of various situations. Of course, it is very important to maintain air supremacy. However, we do not know what situation may arise. This equipment will enable SDF personnel to eliminate the threat from an enemy in a situation like that while ensuring their safety.

Question:
For example, when you mention the defense of remote islands, what comes to my mind is the southwestern region, including mainland Okinawa. I assume that a situation requiring the use of missiles with a range of around 900 kilometers means that the U.S. bases on mainland Okinawa would be under an enemy's control. Are you saying that a situation like that could occur in a worst-case scenario?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from commenting on the use of the missile in a specific case.

Question:
I guess that it is almost impossible to respond to a North Korean missile flying in lofted trajectory with a Japanese interception missile. I understand that you plan to acquire missiles capable of attacking enemy bases. Is that because you intend to launch a direct attack on North Korea?

Minister:
First, I assume that we may need to respond to various attacks, including an attack using lofted trajectory. However, what we should do is to appropriately respond with our BMD system. The stand-off missiles that we will introduce at this time will be used exclusively for the purpose of defending Japan.

Question:
Changing the subject, at the Japan-U.K. 2+2 meeting, cooperation with the United Kingdom is important. As the United Kingdom is strong in the development of defense equipment, could you tell me about some matters over which there is room for future cooperation between the two countries?

Minister:
My understanding is that the two countries' defense authorities, particularly the defense equipment authorities, have made various proposals and considerations to each other. For example, they are studying the possibility of developing a higher-performance missile by incorporating technology in fields where Japan excels, such as the seeker technology to search for enemies into a missile already developed by the United Kingdom.

Question:
Concerning the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism between Japan-China Defense Authorities, the Japanese Foreign Ministry has announced that they made a significant progress. If I understand correctly the defense authorities also participated the consultation. Could you explain the significant progress made between the Japan and China defense authorities? Also, could you tell me about the future prospects?

Minister:
The Eighth Japan-China High-Level Consultation on Maritime Affairs was held December 5 and 6 in Shanghai, China, and the MOD, together with other relevant ministries and agencies, participated in it. At the latest consultation, there was an in-depth exchange of opinions about a broad range of maritime issues in which both sides are interested. In relation to the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism between Japan-China Defense Authorities, in light of the agreement reached at the recent Japan-China summit meeting to accelerate the consultations, we held intensive discussions and made positive progress. In light of the progress made at this time, Japan and China will continue to make adjustments. Japan and China will make efforts toward starting the operation of this mechanism at an early time. I will refrain from disclosing the details because this is a diplomatic negotiation. However, it is not that we have reached a broad agreement but that significant progress has been made, so we need to make some more efforts.

Question:
Assuming that the budget for the missiles including the JSM will be smoothly approved, when do you expect that they will be actually deployed for the SDF?

Minister:
We would like to introduce the missiles in time for the deployment of the F-35, which will be gradually implemented and organized in squadrons so that they can be operated with a high level of proficiency.

Question:
According to an informed source, JSM is still under development. Are you expecting to be able to purchase and deploy the missile at an early time?

Minister:
We are moving forward on the assumption that we will purchase and deploy the JSM.

Question:
Changing the subject, on December 4, the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) joint military exercise started, and North Korea reacted strongly to the exercise. Also, Senator Graham of the Senate Armed Services Committee is calling on the Department of Defense to evacuate the families of the U.S. Forces stationed in the ROK. If the United States launches an attack on North Korea, is it possible that Japan will participate in the attack?

Minister:
We will take measures necessary for defending Japan.

Question:
Concerning the measures necessary for defending Japan, if an attack is launched, it is well conceivable that North Korea will retaliate with a second strike. Are you conducting simulations of the casualties that may be caused in that case?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from commenting on a specific assumption.

Question:
Although you say that this is an assumption, it is well conceivable that North Korea will launch a saturation attack. In that case, some casualties would be inevitable. Have you conducted any simulation concerning that point?

Minister:
As I already said, I would like to refrain from commenting on assumptions.

Question:
Changing the subject, on December 10, it will be three years since Okinawa Governor Onaga took office. During this period, the confrontation has continued, as exemplified by the repeated filing of lawsuits related to the Henoko issue. What is the government's assessment of Governor Onaga's stance and approach to the base issue?

Minister:
Over the three years since taking office, Governor Onaga has gained a high level of support from the people of Okinawa Prefecture. I understand that he is devoting himself to his job for the sake of Okinawa Prefecture by implementing various measures. Having said that, concerning security and the base issue, in which the SDF is involved, I visited Okinawa in August this year immediately after taking office as defense minister for the second time, and I held a meeting with the governor and explained measures related to the mitigation of the impact on Okinawa. The government and Okinawa Prefecture share the recognition that it is extremely important to remove the risks posed by MCAS Futenma by realizing the return of the airfield as early as possible. The MOD believes that the government and Okinawa Prefecture should cooperate with each other and deal with this matter conscientiously in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling at the end of last year and the intent of the settlement reached in March last year and that we should proceed with the construction work related to the relocation to Henoko. In addition, I believe that it is necessary to continue efforts to fully explain the government's activities to mitigate the impact on Okinawa, including the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko. Therefore, it is important to continue to deepen dialogue with Okinawa Prefecture at all levels through government-wide cooperation.

Question:
What is your assessment of not being able to gain cooperation for the relocation to Henoko?

Minister:
Both the governor and we believe that the risks posed by MCAS Futenma must be removed. Concerning the relocation to Henoko, we will continue efforts to obtain understanding while continuing to provide conscientious explanations.

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