Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya (09:33-10:08 November 30, 2018)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:33-10:08 November 30, 2018
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
I have three reports about Self-Defense Force (SDF) trainings, and one report about illegal ship-to-ship transfers. First, related to SDF trainings, from December 1 to December 8, the SDF and the Indian Air Force will carry out a joint training exercise, "SHINYUU Maitri-18" with the goals of increasing the air transport capabilities of the SDF, enhancing mutual understanding between Japan and India, and bolstering our relationship of trust. "SHINYUU" and "Maitri" both mean "true friend" or "best friend." My second report is about the dispatch of Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) members as observers for the U.S.-India joint training exercise, "Cope India," from December 3 to December 10, based on an agreement made at the Japan-India Defense Ministerial Meeting in August. The third report is on the implementation of a Japan-U.S.-Australia Joint Training for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief(HA/DR), "Christmas Drop," which will take place from December 5 to December 17 in the Federated States of Micronesia with the intent of enhancing capabilities related to HA/DR and improving our interoperability with the U.S. and Australian air forces. These trainings will further deepen defense cooperation between Japan and India, and contribute to enhancing interoperability with U.S. and Australian forces. We intend to continue to improve the capabilities of the SDF moving forward through these kinds of training exercises, which we hope will lead to firm defense coordination between Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India. Next, on the response to illegal ship-to-ship transfers, from the beginning of December, Australia will conduct its third monitoring and surveillance activities by aircraft this year. This activities will be based in Kadena Air Base, and will target illicit maritime activities, including the illegal ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels prohibited by United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). Japan welcomes these kinds of activities in which the international community comes together, from the perspective working to ensure the effectiveness of UNSCRs. We hope to continue to cooperate closely on this matter with related countries

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
On construction for the transfer of facilities Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma to Kadena, some reports are saying that land reclamation work will be launched from the middle of next month. Please tell us the facts of this situation.

Minister:
Regarding the timing for land reclamation, we need to consider the state of progress of construction and then the weather conditions as so on. Right now, nothing has been decided. Recently, for approximately one month, there have been meetings between Okinawa Prefecture and the national Government at the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and Vice Governor level, and there have been two dialogues between the Prime Minister and the Governor of Okinawa. I think that these meetings have been extremely significant. Unfortunately, we were not able to come to agreement on our thoughts about this issue. As initially planned, we hope to eliminate the danger posed by MCAS Futenma as soon as possible and complete the return of all lands. We hope to advance progress on this one step after another.

Question:
Concerning the transport of soil for land reclamation work, approval to use Motobu Port has made progress, but still some reports are saying that there are considerations about whether a private wharf in Nago City might be used. Please tell us the facts of this situation.

Minister:
I have received reports that there continues to be discussions on approval for the use of the quay between the contractor and Motobu Town. I absolutely hope to realize that.

Question:
Okinawa Prefecture sent a notice to the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council yesterday. In a press conference about that, the Prefecture-side announced that it wants to amend its prefectural land conservation regulations to target acts of land-filling on the sea. How do you take that announcement?

Minister:
Of course, I am aware of such reports. This matter relates to the regulations of the municipal governments of Okinawa Prefecture. I would like to refrain from making a comment representing the MOD on that.

Question:
How do you take the fact that they submitted a notice to the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council?

Minister:
Our current position is such that a request has been made for an investigation into our actions. In other words, we are in the position of being investigated, so I would like to refrain from commenting on that.

Question:
It is expected that this will make conflicts intensified with Okinawa. How will the MOD seek understanding from Okinawa?

Minister:
We absolutely want to avoid conflict. We hope to continue to make efforts at every level in order to absolutely receive their understanding.

Question:
It has been one month since the restart of construction. Please tell us what kind of work is taking place and what the state of progress is.

Minister:
First, since work stopped for a time, we are now starting up work on the sea once again. In order to do that work, we are now transporting needed materials by, for example, transferring rocks and so on out of construction gates using construction vehicles. As I said a moment ago, the schedule for construction depends on issues such as the weather conditions, and at the current moment in time, nothing has been decided.

Question:
Do you have any certain feelings about the schedule? For example, will you aim to make progress within the year, or after the new year?

Minister:
I don’t have any certain feelings about the schedule. As I said a moment ago, we hope to complete work for the transfer as soon as possible, and realize the full return of land from MCAS Futenma. If the various conditions allow, I hope to make progress on that construction work.

Question:
Concerning the Japan-U.S. joint training exercise set to occur at the Oita Prefecture Hijudai Training Area, you have held an explanatory meeting with the local area, but there were some residents who expressed concern about the safety of the training, which will use Osprey. Please tell us how you take those concerns?

Minister:
Right now, we are making explanations to the relevant municipalities and others. We have plans to conduct a joint training exercise between the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) Western Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, “Forest Light 01” at the Oita Prefecture Hijudai Training Area from December 7 to December 19. We will make use of the MV-22 Ospreys stationed in Okinawa and other vehicles for training activities. The MOD has worked for a long time to make progress on out of prefecture transfers for Osprey training exercises. This is one part of that work. Oita Prefecture is my own home prefecture, and I know that the citizens are extremely worried. We must thoroughly inform the U.S. side to do everything possible for the safe use and management of the Ospreys. The SDF will participate in the training exercise itself, and I hope to also issue firm instructions to the SDF at the same time. I believe that this will lead to the reduction of the impact placed on Okinawa as well. I want the people of Oita Prefecture to understand all of that.

Question:
The Oita Prefecture and the Vice Mayor of your hometown requested that the training be cancelled at a meeting with the Kyushu Defense Bureau on November 22. The local municipalities as well have made that sort of request. Please give some comments on that.

Minister:
I believe that we must make firm efforts to carefully explain the situation in order to absolutely gain their understanding, having acknowledged that they made such requests.

Question:
I have a question about the “multi-purpose aircraft carriers” was included in the proposals by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). On November 27, you said, “since this is… equipment that we already own, I think it would be desirable to use it for as many purposes as possible.” What exactly did you mean when you said that you wanted to use the ship for many purposes? Also, please tell us whether or not you were referring to the Izumo class of ships.

Minister:
First, in the LDP proposal, I do believe they use the phrasing “multi-purpose aircraft carriers.” We just placed Izumo class destroyers into commission three years ago. These destroyers were made with the original intent of being used for multiple purposes. Their main tasks are to load patrol helicopters and truly carry out patrol activities, but we are also currently researching within the MOD on whether the Izumo class destroyers could be further used for multiple purposes, such as, for example, serving as a command ship for a fleet, or as a transport ships ? because they are large ships ? or if they could serve as medical ships if situations demand it, because they do hold many beds. Since I believe that we will use these destroyers for around 40 more years, what I said was that it would be desirable if they could be used for as many purposes as possible.

Question:
Overseas, some are questioning whether Japan intends to make the Izumo class ships into aircraft carriers. If you do make them into aircraft carriers, and if they do come to have attack capabilities, some have pointed out that this would be a deviation from the Japanese Constitution and the exclusively defense-oriented policy of Japan not to possess war capabilities. What do you think about those points?

Minister:
Nothing has been decided yet, final discussions and work are set to happen from now moving forward on the National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program. Beyond that, if I were to say anything, I have been saying consistently that we will not acquire equipment that has the exclusive purpose of causing destructive damage to the territory of other countries. That includes Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), strategic bombers, and, as one example, attack aircraft carriers. There has been no change to that policy. In the future, Japan will not possess the kind of attack aircraft carrier that you just spoke about.

Question:
In the event of cyber counter attack capability, I believe we are running into issues of how to define a cyber attack legally and of whether such an attack could trigger the right to collective self-defense. What is your essential understanding of cyber attacks with respect to the triggering of the right to self-defense?

Minister:
This discussion has been going on for some time and I understand it has also been ongoing among the international community. If a cyber attack was carried out on Japan as part of a military action, it would trigger the right to self-defense. Obviously, a cyber attack would trigger the right to self-defense in the form of cyber counterattack if the cyber attack were to fulfil the three conditions triggering the right to self-defense ? if the damage done were severe enough to profoundly abrogate the right of citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, I believe that the way we deal with cyber attacks up to that point and how we are going to create the legal basis for that response now need to be further debated and discussed.

Question:
Yesterday, there were some reports that agreement was reached to increase spending on the acquisition of Mageshima Island from 11 billion yen to 14 billion yen. Could you tell us your thoughts on this issue once again?

Minister:
I am aware of the reports, but we have not reached that point yet. Of course I hope that we can conclude negotiations quickly and build a facility for field carrier landing practice (FCLP), but the reports have run ahead of actual developments. We are continuing to negotiate with the landowner at Mageshima so I will refrain from commenting on the details of progress, but I will continue to make every effort to conclude negotiations in a timely manner.

Question:
An order to protect the assets of the holding company was issued and negotiations were suspended for some time. Is it true that since the order was lifted in late October, concrete negotiations have begun?

Minister:
Of course we are making our best efforts in negotiations, but I will refrain from providing any details.

Question:
I understand there was a figure mentioned at one time and I doubt that the price of the land would change significantly in the course of negotiations, but are there considerations or an increase in the monetary amount possible in the calculation of the total price?

Minister:
These matters pertains to the negotiations and therefore I cannot comment on any details.

Question:
I would like to ask you about the procurement of equipment. I have heard that it was explained to suppliers that there would be a change in the current contract and that payments for additional parts and components would be postponed. Could you tell us the scope of when the change and when it will be implemented?

Minister:
In the maintenance of equipment on this occasion, we both checked the state of the parts inventory and increased the number of parts procured in past contracts. For this we are considering changes to contracts and we briefed a total of 62 companies on November 2 and November 5. At these briefings, we gave an overview of the contract changes and the extensions that would arise from the additional parts to be ordered should the contracts be adjusted. In line with the extension of contract duration, payments from the government would all be due after the successful fulfillment of the contracts, so we explained that this would result in the postponement of payment dates. Since the briefings there have been a variety of negotiations between the MOD and companies. As for your question, I am unable to give you any details at this stage.

Question:
From the contractors, there has been intense criticism that this means the payments are being deferred and that it is unacceptable. What is your response to the views expressed by the companies?

Minister:
I understand that there are some companies who have expressed such views. I would be very grateful if they would accept the adjustments. However, we cannot force them to accept, so we would like to give a through briefing and I hope that the companies will understand the reasons for the changes.

Question:
The additional parts orders and the postponement of payments are presented in tandem, so this may be seen as a way to get through what is an extremely tight current budget by taking expenses off the balance sheet until the next budget. What would you say to those who feel that this is just a technique for managing government finances, even though there are additional parts orders?

Minister:
There is no such objective, but to be frank, it is not easy to make ends meet and I will just say that we would be grateful to those suppliers if they could agree the change, given that we are ordering additional parts from them.

Question:
Is it correct that the point was that the management of government budget making of this year is very difficult?

Minister:
If you say that, it might sound as though we are doing this to manage the budget. This is not the case, but we have made such a request in the past. I would be most grateful if our contractors would understand our explanation and believe us this year too so that we can affect the changes.

Question:
These are companies with existing contracts for additional orders, so for those companies wishing to receive orders from other customers, you may be taking away their opportunity to do so. How do you view this perspective?

Minister:
Of course our additional parts orders have been made out of necessity and the equipment procured by the MOD does requires quite a degree of specialization, therefore we are proceeding with this task with due consideration to avoiding a scenario where opportunities for new orders are reduced.

Question:
You state that this is not being done for fiscal reasons and that the new orders have been made on the basis of necessity and prior estimates. What I do not understand is why we are in a situation where additional orders have had to be made to 62 contractors. Is it because the estimates for next year were extremely optimistic? Is it because of poor maintenance that these parts all needed to be changed, or because of accidents, or a string of such unfortunate events? Is there some reason of this nature that it was determined that more parts needed changing than envisaged in the schedule?

Minister:
On this occasion, we both inspected the state of the parts inventory and increased the volume of parts procured in existing contracts. The appropriation request to cover the cost of the maintenance of equipment from the FY2015 budget to 2019 is being raised from 761.2 billion yen to 883.5 billion yen, therefore the budget for maintenance has always been properly secured. However, for the parts that we consider will be required in future, we are conducting orders in advance.

Question:
But I do not understand the goal here. Rather than ordering in advance, could you not just go year by year and issue contracts again next year as you have this year?

Minister:
By making all the orders at once, this increases the predictability of production for contractors and they can make plans. We believe this is one benefit. Another potential benefit of making a mass order is that it can reduce costs.

Question:
Here, payments on what were originally one-year contracts have been deferred for 2-4 years. It seems highly doubtful that the companies would agree to a request to further cost reduction in their contracts.

Minister:
And that is why the MOD cannot force the companies to do anything. We recently explained our position and now we are in discussion with the companies individually.

Question:
At the very least, what would have been paid next year will require payment in 2021 or 2023 in line with the additional orders. In that case, the burden in future years, including that of foreign military sales (FMS) is going to grow and the concern is that this will lead to an increasingly tight fiscal straightjacket. What are your thoughts on this?

Minister:
You have a point. The burden in future years, including for FMS, will gradually increase, as has been pointed out in the Diet too. Of course this is a concern that we share and we intend to fully address this in the next National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-term Defense Program.

Question:
At a press conference yesterday, Prince Akishino made a statement critical of government spending on the Daijosai (Grand Thanksgiving). He added that regrettably, the chief of the Imperial Household Agency had ignored his view. What is your view on the Prince’s statement?

Minister:
I will refrain from commenting on the statement of the Prince from my standpoint as theMOD. With regard to the events surrounding the Imperial accession, the plans are already in place and Cabinet decisions are probably done. Therefore, I hope that everyone with jurisdiction will do their best to ensure the events are completed smoothly, given the Prince’s statement.

Question:
In your opening statement, you mentioned the Quadrilateral framework of Japan, the United States, Australia and India. There have been a lot of joint military exercises among these countries recently. Do you believe that this is part of the encirclement of China?

Minister:
No, it is not. The Japanese government upholds the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”. A major assumption of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific is a liberal economic order, but this requires a safe and secure environment. Therefore, we must foster truly trusting relationships between India, Australia, Japan, the United States and of course the countries of Southeast Asia. China is also an important player in the Indian and Pacific oceans and we are keeping watch of its restless activity. Meanwhile, I believe we also need to strive to foster a truly trusting relationship with China and recently, talks were held by the Minister of Defense of Japan and China in Singapore. The agenda of the talks between Japan and China included not just the bilateral communication mechanism to prevent clashes at sea and in the air but also the establishment of a hotline. As such, it is clear that there is no encirclement of China taking place.

Question:
Australia is already seen more or less as an ally. In future, do you intend to also treat countries like India and the United Kingdom as quasi-allies like this, or establish this kind of framework with them?

Minister:
Do you mean countries like India?

Question:
I believe that Australia is already a quasi-ally, so I am talking about countries like India and the UK.

Minister:
The United Kingdom and France already have bases in the Asia-Pacific, so I hope they participate in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. With the UK and France we have defense cooperation on a “2+2” basis, as well as with Australia. At the next Japan-India summit meeting, the Japan-India 2+2 is going to be established and as you say, we hope to make real progress on this commitment, this defense and security cooperation.

Question:
So are you saying that you want India, the UK and France to be quasi-allies?

Minister:
Whether they are quasi-allies or friends, as countries who share our values I hope we can join together in aiming for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

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