Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Onodera (09:42-09:50 A.M. January 26, 2018)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:42-09:50 A.M. January 26, 2018
Place: Entrance to the Prime Minister's Office

(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
I will make an announcement concerning the deployment of the F-35 at Misawa Air Base. Today, the ASDF's F-35A fighter aircraft will be deployed at Misawa Air Base for the first time. The first F-35A is scheduled to take off from Komaki Air Base at 9:30 a.m. today and arrive at Misawa Air Base at around 11 a.m. The F-35A squadron will have 10 F-35As by the end of the next fiscal year. The F-35A is the most advanced fighter aircraft, as exemplified by its high level of stealth capability. In recent years, as neighboring countries have been rapidly promoting the modernization and expansion of air power, including fighter aircraft, deploying the highly capable F-35A in Japan is very significant for the country's security. Moreover, the F-35A is capable of not only engaging in air defense combat but also efficiently performing various other tasks, including information gathering, surveillance, and anti-surface and anti-ship attacks. Therefore, the deployment will enhance the joint operation capability, for example by strengthening cooperation between land and maritime units. Furthermore, as the United States, Japan's ally, is also introducing the F-35, interoperability between Japan and the United States will be enhanced. Amid the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan, introducing the F-35A is very important from the viewpoint of strengthening Japan's deterrence and response capabilities. We will continue the introduction and steady deployment of the F-35A at Misawa Air Base.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I have a related question. Concerning anti-surface and anti-ship attacks that you mentioned, it has been pointed out that this aircraft possesses the capability to attack enemy bases as it can be equipped with long-range missiles. Could you explain your view on that point?

Minister:
As many foreign countries are making remarkable progress in developing their air power amid the increasingly severe security environment, we have decided to introduce stand-off missiles that can be launched from outside enemies' threat zones in order to effectively defend Japan while ensuring the SDF personnel's safety, and we have allocated expenditure for the acquisition of the JSM under the government's budget draft for fiscal 2018. The F-35A is a multi-role aircraft capable of performing various tasks, including anti-air, anti-ship and anti-surface attacks, by taking advantage of its high level of stealth capability. Currently, the F-35A cannot exercise its anti-ship attack capability because the ASDF does not possess such an equipment that can be installed on it. In other words, as it stands now, the F-35A cannot perform anti-ship attacks taking advantage of its stealth capability, and that may undermine the defense of Japan. In this respect, the development of the JSM as an anti-ship missile that can be integrated into the F-35A is scheduled to be completed in fiscal 2018. Currently, aside from the JSM, there is no stand-off anti-ship missile that can be installed on the F-35A. Therefore, in order to enable the F-35A to exercise its capabilities, it is essential to introduce the JSM promptly. In any case, the introduction of the stand-off missile is not intended for enemy base attacks. With respect to enemy base attacks, Japan depends on the United States' strike capability under the division of roles between the two countries. There will be no change in this arrangement following the introduction of the stand-off missile.

Question:
Today, the Japan-France 2+2 meeting will be held. Could you explain the significance of defense cooperation with France and the results that you expect to achieve through the series of forthcoming meetings?

Minister:
This time marks the fourth Japan-France 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting since the first meeting held in Paris in January 2014, which I attended as the defense minister. The Japan-France defense ministerial meeting will be the first one since the one held on the sidelines of the Shangri-La conference in June last year. Both Japan and France are Pacific countries, and the two countries are special partners that share fundamental values such as freedom and democracy. It is very significant that the leaders of the Japanese and French defense authorities discuss further enhancement of the relationship at a time when the international community is facing various challenges. To be more specific, through the series of meetings, I would like to exchange opinions with the French side on security and defense policies and share the recognition of the regional situation, including the issues of North Korea. I would also like to discuss the promotion of specific cooperation activities, such as joint exercises and training, defense equipment and technology cooperation and set the future direction of enhancement of the relationship. Regarding the achievements of the Japan-France 2+2 meeting, which is scheduled for this evening, the two countries are making final adjustments. Therefore, I would like to refrain from mentioning further details for the moment out of consideration for our relationship with the partner country.

Question:
In relation to the F-35A, the transaction amount through the FMS has increased substantially in the past several years. Could you explain how you will deal with that? Also, the overpayment portion of the advance payments made in FMS transactions has not been reimbursed, and the overpayment amount has grown to tens of billions of yen. How will you deal with that?

Minister:
First, such advanced equipment can be procured from the United States only through the FMS arrangement. The FMS arrangement is not available with all countries. It is available only with countries in close relations, such as allied countries. However, as you mentioned, concerns over a lack of transparency and high prices of equipment have been pointed out. Therefore, we will enhance transparency and introduce equipment in the future after careful examination.

Question:
Concerning the series of emergency landings, Commandant Neller of the U.S. Marine Corps said this at a symposium: "Quite frankly I'm glad that they were precautionary landings because nobody got hurt and we didn't lose an airplane. I'm not worried about that." Could you comment on that?

Minister:
Our understanding is that he was talking not about the recent precautionary landings in Okinawa but about precautionary landings related to the Marine Corps in general.

Question:
Have you received any response to your request for the suspension of flights of the AH-1Z?

Minister:
Concerning the response from the U.S. side, we have been receiving explanations at the working level since immediately after we made our request on January 24. I instructed to continue careful inspection from the technical viewpoint as well. In any case, ensuring safety is the prerequisite for flights by U.S. military aircraft. Following the series of precautionary and emergency landings, we will continue to strongly request the U.S. side to take thorough recurrence prevention measures.

Question:
Japan's request for the suspension of flights has been virtually ignored. What is your view on that point?

Minister:
We are continuing to communicate with the U.S. to inquire about their response. Through the communication, we are requesting to conduct inspections once again from technical viewpoints.

Question:
May I take it that the U.S. side has no intention for the moment to meet the request for the suspension of flights?

Minister:
That appears to be the case from the flights being made. In any case, we are communicating with the U.S. side. Concerning the details, I instructed to conduct inspections from technical viewpoints.

-PAGE TOP-