Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya (08:46-08:54 November 27, 2018)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 08:46-08:54 November 27, 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
None

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I have a question about defense-related expenditures. There are reports that defense-related expenditure will increase from 0.9% to 1.3% based on NATO standards. Are these reports true, and could you tell us what your thoughts are on this matter?

Minister:
We are now considering the approach to defense-related expenditures as a part of the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program that will take place by the end of the year. At present, we have not made any decisions on a policy, including the matters discussed in the reports.

Question:
With regard to the approach to defense-related expenditure, President Trump and others have also pointed out that we should increase defense-related expenditure. What is the stance of the Japanese government in this respect?

Minister:
I am not aware that President Trump has made such remarks with regard to Japan. However, we aim to ascertain that our new defense force is at an unprecedented level in all the aspects of quantity, quality, and speed. Hence, rather than going along with external opinions or requests, the goal is ultimately for Japan to establish the posture of its new defense capabilities autonomously and independently.

Question:
In the context of the posture of the new defense capabilities, do you recognize to some extent that it is vital to increase defense-related expenditure in the form of building up and accumulating what is necessary?

Minister:
That is right. As I have explained before, rather than setting a future statistical target or target toward proportion of GDP, I believe the statistical figures will gradually be established through the building up of the necessary defense capabilities.

Question:
With regard to Okinawa, the citizens of the prefecture will participate in a referendum on February 24. Could you tell us your views on that? In addition, Motobu Port remains unusable for the loading of sand and soil for land reclamation works. Have there been any changes to the situation, or to the policy on land reclamation works going forward?

Minister:
I am aware of reports about plans by Okinawa Prefecture to hold a prefectural referendum in February. However, as a prefectural referendum is a matter that concerns the independent ordinances of the local government, I shall refrain from giving my views from the position of the Government or the Ministry of Defense (MOD). On our part, while offering detailed and careful explanations, we aim to move forward steadily and step-by-step toward the goal of eliminating the danger of Futenma, described as the most dangerous place in the world, as soon as possible, and to achieve the ultimate goal of returning the site to the people. With regard to Motobu Port, I have received reports that consultations on applying for permission to use the port are currently still ongoing between the contractor and the town of Motobu. We will continue to put effort into this.

Question:
You have mentioned that a prefectural referendum is based on the independent ordinances of the local government. Do you think that the result of the referendum will have an impact on the national government’s policy decisions?

Minister:
As this is a hypothetical question, I shall refrain from answering.

Question:
The defense-related expenditure is undergoing a review as a part of the review of the Mid-Term Defense Program, and this review of the defense-related expenditures also takes into consideration reported NATO standards. Does this mean that the direction has not been decided on?

Minister:
While we are also aware of the so-called NATO standards, the respective countries adapt and conform to these standards in different ways. Therefore, as I have mentioned earlier, we aim to first proceed steadily on the task of building up what we need without being constrained by such standards.

Question:
The topic of “multi-purpose aircraft carriers” was included in the proposals by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In considering the defense of Japan, could you tell us the appropriateness of this proposal and the concrete significance of its use, as of the present point in time?

Minister:
I take the proposals by the LDP seriously, but we have not necessarily firmed up the policy on this matter yet. However, since this is valuable equipment that we already own, I think it would be desirable to use it for as many purposes as possible, and we will continue to conduct research and studies on this matter going forward.

Question:
Will the research and studies be conducted with a view to the preparation of the National Defense Program Guidelines?

Minister:
That is right.

Question:
You mentioned that we already own this equipment. Is it correct to say that you are referring to the large-scale destroyer “Izumo”?

Minister:
That is right, because the question was referring to that.

Question:
Would it be correct to say that this includes the repair and improvement of the deck?

Minister:
I shall refrain from providing details. However, with a view to the preparation of the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program, the ruling party is engaged in discussions through its working group, while discussions are also ongoing within the government’s advisory panel of expert. In the MOD, there is a study committee that I chair, and we aim to work firmly on this matter at the MOD’s study committee while taking the views of the ruling party and the advisory panel of expert into consideration.

Question:
The U.S. Forces are now operating the F-35B as a concrete fighter aircraft that is currently in existence. In the hypothetical event that we do possess “multi-purpose aircraft carriers,” could you tell us your views on the significance of Japan possessing this capability?

Minister:
Are you referring to the possession of the F-35B?

Question:
Yes, the F-35B.

Minister:
We are now studying this. Since the fighter is equipped with the ability to withstand attacks, and to take off from short runways, we are now conducting studies into it.

Question:
Are these studies with a view to the preparation of the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program?

Minister:
We are conducting research and studies on it as one of the aspects of our plans for the overall aircraft system. It does not mean that we have made any decisions on this matter.

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