Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya (11:37-12:22 December 18, 2018)

Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya
Time & 11:37-12:22 December 18, 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
Today, the new "National Defense Program Guidelines" and "Mid-Term Defense Program" were passed in the Diet. I will therefore provide a brief explanation of their contents.
The severity and instability of the security environment surrounding Japan is increasing at an accelerating pace. To continue going forward as a peaceful nation, Japan must strengthen its capacity to protect the lives, welfare and assets of the Japanese people, and Japan's sovereign territories, waters, and airspace through independent, self-determined efforts.
Predicated on an exclusively defense-oriented policy, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) carried out extensive investigations internally, and held many discussions with cabinet ministers to determine the nature of a truly effective defensive force for Japan that is not simply an extension of what has been done in the past. Today, we have presented the results of that process.
The new National Defense Program Guidelines first of all clarify the three goals of defense: the creation of a desirable security environment, the deterrence of threats, and the response to threats just in case. Japan's defense architecture, which is meant to fulfill these goals, is structured around "multidimensional integrated defense capability," a truly effective defensive defense that enables a cross-capability strategy that integrates capabilities across all areas.
Furthermore, under the division of roles set forth in the guidelines, we will continue strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance. Additionally, based on our vision of a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific," we will leverage our defensive capability to proceed with multi-directional and multi-layered security cooperation. I believe we must carry out our defensive buildup with greater speed than has been done in the past to meet the changing security environment.
To quickly strengthen the priority items of the Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program, we will distribute resources in a flexible and concentrated manner unrestrained by existing budgets or personnel allocations. In practical terms, we are prioritizing the enhancement of capabilities necessary to fulfill our cross-capability strategy, with a particular focus on acquiring and strengthening capabilities in the areas of space, cyber, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
As to our current areas of capability, we will enhance our air defense capabilities with a focus on the Pacific Coast, we will remodel our Izumo destroyers to enable the use of so called STOVL aircraft which can land directly on-site from off-shore locations when necessary to respond to air attacks in an emergency situation, and also perform monitoring or surveillance, training, and disaster response. We will assign the Izumo destroyers a variety of roles as multi-purpose destroyers.
Additionally, regarding the future fighter aircraft that will replace the F-2, we have launched independent development within Japan with a focus on international cooperation, and we will consolidate capabilities independently within Japan, and proceed with the utmost efforts to build a fighter aircraft that will serve as the core of our future air defense posture.
At the same, in consideration of the continuing trend of Japan's aging society with a low birthrate, and to respond to the development of new military technologies, we will prioritize strengthening our human foundation, technological foundation, and manufacturing foundation. As a result of adding up all the necessary projects in these areas, we are setting the budget of the defensive buildup for our Mid-Term Defense Program at approximately 27.47 trillion yen. Furthermore, we will seek to secure the necessary, substantial financial resources based on further advancing increased efficiency and rationalization, including the optimization of our equipment provisioning, and we will formulate the budget for each fiscal year with a target of approximately 25.5 trillion yen.
Finally, with a view to providing accountability regarding the financial burden of the upcoming fiscal year, we are setting the target contract price pertaining to material expenses for new projects to be within approximately 17.17 trillion yen. Going forward, the MOD and Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will endeavor to strengthen our defensive capabilities based on the policy I have thus far presented, and work to provide even more complete security for Japan. We are determined to work with all our strength to earn the trust of the Japanese people.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
In regards to the remodeling of the Izumo destroyers you referred to in the National Defense Program Guidelines, concerns have been pointed out that equipping the ships with STOVL aircraft would deviate from Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy. What explanation can you provide on this matter?

Minister:
As I have just stated, and as is stated within the Mid-Term Defense Program, the Izumo destroyers will not regularly be equipped with fighter aircraft, and going forward will be used for multiple purposes, such as carrying out patrol missions equipped with anti-submarine helicopters, providing healthcare, or transport under certain circumstances. As I stated previously, we only intend to operate STOVL aircraft when necessary. Accordingly, going forward we will operate the Izumo destroyers as multi-function, multi-purpose ships, and this manner of operation is within the scope of Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy.

Question:
The current National Defense Program Guidelines were revised five years after the previous National Defense Program Guidelines. I believe the previous National Defense Program Guidelines were formulated with a period of 10 years in mind, can you please explain the background and significance to the revision taking place after a shortened period?

Minister:
I participated as a party member serving as the Chairperson of the Research Commission on National Security during the formulation of the previous National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program, and I believe the security environment has changed at a much faster pace than was predicted at the time. In regards to the missile threat posed by North Korea, it is a fact that there are still several hundred ballistic missiles in place capable of reaching Japan. While the missile launches of North Korea has abated, it is a fact that the country has obtained greater capability in the past five years than we expected at the time. Furthermore, in regards to China as well, they have become extremely active in the East and South China Sea, and the speed of this progression has exceeded our expectations. The speed of military technology development in the fields of cyber, space, and EMP, which serve as one pillar of the newly formulated National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program, has exceeded our expectations as well. To firmly respond to the security environment which is changing at this rapid pace, we recognized that it was necessary to revise the National Defense Program Guidelines at the current stage.

Question:
I would like to change the subject and ask about the incident last month that occurred at the Shiga Prefecture the Aibano Training Area, in which a civilian vehicle was damaged by mortar fire by the SDF. The results of the investigation were presented today, could you please share your thoughts on the results and initiatives to prevent its reoccurrence?

Minister:
Regarding the mortar fire accident that occurred at the Aibano Training Area in Shiga Prefecture this past November 14, I would like to once again offer my deep apologies to the victims of the accident, the local government, and all the local residents. As you have stated, the results of the investigation carried out by the investigative committee belonging to the Middle Army were presented today. While the details have been explained by the Chief of Staff, it has been determined that the recent accident occurred through human error, such as the incorrect firing angle being set, without sufficient safety inspections taking place. The local government of Takashima City has already been contacted regarding the implementation of thorough training regarding training safety management, and the strengthening of safety management measures to prevent such an accident from occurring again, and we will thoroughly implement measures to prevent a reoccurrence of the accident. Going forward, we will comprehensively ensure safety to provide peace of mind to all the people of Japan.

Question:
These are the first National Defense Program Guidelines you have formulated from the start as Minister of Defense. In one phrase, how would you evaluate the guidelines, and what is your perception of the remodeling of the Izumo destroyer, which creates an attack aircraft carrier forbidden under the constitution? If you consider it not to be forbidden, how do you intend to respond to domestic and international concerns and criticisms?

Minister:
The National Defense Program Guidelines, are centered on a “multidimensional integrated defense capability.” I believe we were able to create thorough guidelines that define a defense that is able to appropriately respond to the security environment surrounding Japan. On the other hand, I believe it is most important that we obtain the understanding, sympathy, and support of the Japanese people regarding our new defense policy, and going forward we will use a variety of opportunities to contentiously share our thoughts regarding the National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program with the Diet, and seek to obtain understanding.

Question:
What are your thoughts on whether an attack aircraft carrier is permitted?

Minister:
So called assault aircraft carriers are considered to be constantly equipped with fighter aircraft carrying extremely high-powered explosives, support fighter aircraft, or heavily equipped rapid-deploy units that can take down other countries. The remodeling of the Izumo destroyers, however, is only to make them multi-purpose, and going forward they will have the capability to carry helicopters, healthcare equipment, command centers, personnel, and goods for transport, thus allowing them to be operated as multi-functional escort ships. We have also designated them to carry STOVL aircraft only when necessary, and I therefore do not consider them to be assault aircraft carriers.

Question:
Do you believe it falls within the limits of the constitution?

Minister:
Yes, I naturally believe so.

Question:
I would like to ask about your thoughts regarding an exclusively defense-oriented policy. While there are discussions whether this is appropriate to an exclusively defense-oriented policy, what are your thoughts on physically guaranteeing an exclusively defense-oriented policy by possessing absolutely no equipment or capabilities that could exceed an exclusively defense oriented use? Will we guarantee an exclusively defense oriented policy through the will of Japan, the government and the administration not to use our capabilities to exceed defense and attack another country? In other words, will we maintain an exclusively defense-oriented policy without possessing the capabilities, or by having the will to maintain an exclusively defense-oriented policy?

Minister:
I believe this is a very difficult question, but the exclusively defense-oriented policy set forth in the constitution could be considered a passive defense. While I believe that policy will not change in the future, and that we must not consider changing it, when military technology is changing at a pace that exceeds our expectations, we must consider what sort of equipment falls within the limits of being exclusively defense-oriented, or what manner of operation falls within the limits of being exclusively defense-oriented. I believe we must constantly reflect on what philosophy and policy constitutes being exclusively defense-oriented. When considering the Izumo destroyer, I believe the manner of operation I previously described does not violate the spirit of the exclusively defense-oriented policy set forth in the constitution.

Question:
In other words, may I take it to understand that you believe that the exclusively defense-oriented policy should not just be limited by the specifications of the equipment?

Minister:
That is quite a difficult question, but there is no change in our reactive policy under which we will not use our capabilities when Japan is not being attacked. Now, this is not something that should ever happen, but when Japan is attacked, we will obviously have to use our capabilities to conduct the minimum necessary counterattack, so I honestly believe that it is quite difficult to determine whether something is within the scope of the exclusively defense-oriented policy just from the capabilities of the equipment.

Question:
This time, the Mid-Term Defense Program provides a list of the specific cases in which it will be operated, but the Mid-Term Defense Program is merely the documentation of a plan. Is there any intention to create some kind of system or a document to guarantee a brake that will solidify operations that will not allow them to become or be regarded as attack aircraft carriers by putting such operations into a framework?

Minister:
Regarding the entry in the Mid-Term Defense Program, there was a partial amendment by way of the consultation between the ruling parties, as I believe that you are aware. The entry states regarding the operation of STOVL aircraft: “The Izumo class destroyers, the multi-purpose destroyers of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) with on-board helicopters, will be converted based on considerations to make operations with STOVL aircraft possible in the case where it is necessary in the response to aerial attacks in emergency situations as well as for warning and surveillance activities, training, disaster response, etc. The destroyers will continue to be deployed after the remodel as multi-purpose destroyers for a wide variety of missions including Japan’s defense and our response to large-scale disasters.” This was our intent in the first place, but we have described it more specifically. Obviously, they will be operated according to this policy, so we believe that in that sense, this will serve as a firm brake.

Question:
I see the word “etc.” in there. Is there a possibility that U.S. military aircraft will land and take off from converted Izumo class destroyers in the future?

Minister:
For example, in the case where there is no air base where a U.S. military aircraft can make an emergency landing in an accident and there is an Izumo class destroyer in place, we obviously believe that we would permit an emergency landing for rescue purposes. Then there are routine exercises, where there is something that we like to call cross-decking, in which each party carries aircraft and the like from the other party on their ships during joint exercises. We believe that U.S. military aircraft could land on and take off from an Izumo during such joint exercises. And of course, this is something that should not happen, but if it comes to pass that Japan is in an emergency situation, etc., I believe that we will obviously be jointly utilizing the equipment that each party has since it will be necessary to avoid the crisis by using the capabilities that Japan and the United States possess.

Question:
The prime minister himself said in the instructions for the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines that on this occasion of their review, they were supposed to be Defense Guidelines that would not be a mere extension of the past. So, what are the points of difference in the sense of not being an extension of the past in your view?

Minister:
One is “multidimensional integrated defense capability, as symbolized in the name of the National Defense Program Guideline.” Previous Guidelines had always placed integration of ground, maritime, and air at the center. In addition to this, we developed the new Guidelines under the determination that we would not be able to securely maintain peace for Japan in the current security environment unless we firmly built up our defense capability in new areas such as cyber, space, and electromagnetic waves. I believe that this itself means that they are not an extension of the past. Moreover, in the sense of appropriately responding to the security environment that is moving forward with extraordinary speed, I believe that these Guidelines are not an extension of the past in the sense that priorities are firmly set, resources are concentrated there, and the defense capability that is indicated in the Guidelines is expeditiously build up.

Question:
On this occasion, the National Defense Program Guidelines were reviewed after five years. The previous 2010 and 2013 Guidelines were reviewed with a three-year interval. The National Defense Program Guidelines were supposed to be developed approximately every ten years, yet those two were revisions with an interval far shorter than that. I believe that a rapidly changing security environment has been underlying this, but I think that some people would say that the assumption of ten years for the National Defense Program Guidelines, that the policy of developing them every ten years, does not match the current situation. Do you intend to keep this policy of developing them every ten years unchanged?

Minister:
I believe that those three years of the change from the 2010 Guidelines to the 2013 Guidelines have a somewhat different meaning in that the latter was created in the wake of regime change by the ruling parties after they returned to power, since the Guidelines created by the Democratic Party administration at the time?of course I believe that there was much in them that was useful?could be insufficient. That said, as I just mentioned, the security environment is ever-changing at an unforeseen speed. I should not casually predict the future as we have just finished reviewing the Guidelines, but I believe that we should think in a long term and carefully whether the ten-year span is appropriate going forward.

Question:
Regarding the conversion of the Izumo class, I would like to confirm a matter with you. When you say, “as necessary,” I believe that you were referring to the necessity where the act of converting the Izumo class and operating STOVL aircraft could not be replaced by anything else. Could you explain this?

Minister:
As you are aware, the activities of bombers and aircraft carriers in the maritime and air space around Japan including the Pacific side have rapidly been growing in volume and increasing in frequency unlike in the past due to the modernization of the airborne forces of neighboring countries. We believe that it is necessary to strengthen our air defense system not only in the southwest and northern regions but also on the Pacific side. However, there are no bases, airports where aircraft can land and take off other than the Island of Iwo-to, as you are aware. In that sense, in the case where STOVL aircraft is necessary (sic) for Izumo class destroyers, if they can be carried there, we believe that the air defense system on the Pacific side can also be strengthened. For example, in the case where an emergency arises for a fighter aircraft, it cannot make an emergency landing unless there is an airport nearby. Therefore, we thought that in order to secure the safety of pilots, enabling takeoff and landing at Izumo class destroyers could have the same effect as having an airport nearby. Of course, there are airports in the southwest region, but in the case where the airports in the southwest region are destroyed by attacks, there is the view that it is indeed necessary to have this capability. That is how we arrived at the idea of converting the Izumo class and introducing STOVL aircraft on this occasion.

Question:
You say as necessary, but I hear that take-off and landing on ships require a high level of proficiency, so I would think that a significant amount of painstaking, lengthy training will be required during normal times. In this regard, you say that they will not be operated continuously as ship-based aircraft. So, what kind of time span will they be used in? What are the current assumptions? Could you tell us what your understanding is as the cabinet minister?

Minister:
The conversion of the Izumo class has yet to begin, and the selection and introduction of the STOVL aircraft will take place in the future, so it is not as if the plans for specific operations are in place now. But as you pointed out, even if it is an aircraft that can land vertically, we do not believe that making an aircraft land on a moving ship, for example, on the open seas, is that easy a task, and we believe that we will not be able to operate it as such unless a significant amount of training is securely conducted, as you say. Therefore, regarding STOVL aircraft, we are basically establishing their base on land, firmly positioning them as part of the 13th squadron and first operating them on a terrestrial base, but we also believe that it is necessary to firmly conduct training for landing and takeoff at ships at the same time. In fact, we believe that such operations will not be easy even we intend to do so unless we conduct serious training.

Question:
This time, it wound up being a review after five years. Just looking at these five years, there was “hybrid warfare,” the birth of the Trump administration, and there is the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” and there are voices saying that it may be necessary to review the National Security Strategy. Could you tell us the reason why it was not reviewed?

Minister:
I believe that your question also came up previously in another press conference. The National Security Strategy was drafted in lieu of a basic policy for national defense to include the basic policy for national security, policy for diplomacy, including the ideals upheld by Japan and its national interests. It is the first national security strategy created in Japan, and we regard the ideas indicated there as still being effective today. That said, it is my understanding that the Cabinet Secretariat will soon publish a document that summarizes how we currently regard this National Security Strategy. Therefore, it is my belief that it is unnecessary to review the strategy at this point in time.

Question:
By “document,” do you mean a document of the Cabinet Secretariat that summarizes how the security strategy of the NSS has functioned and how the security environment has changed over the last five years?

Minister:
That is our understanding.

Question:
Regarding the landfill work at Henoko, there has been damage, as heavy equipment, etc. have been wrecked near the landfill worksite, and it appears that the Okinawa prefectural police are investigating with the possibility that purpose included the obstruction of moving in soil and sand. Could you tell us the facts that the MOD has?

Minister:
Today, we received a report from the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) that the keys on multiple heavy construction equipment could not be used because the keyholes had been sealed with adhesives and that their fuel tanks had been punctured with holes and showed evidence of having sugar injected through their fuel filler openings among other matters. We have received the report that the police are currently confirming the facts of the case. We believe that such acts should not happen, and that the investigative authorities will deal strictly with the matter.

Question:
What are the problems for the construction work?

Minister:
The current situation is not in one where major problems have been caused for the construction work.

Question:
Do you think that China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning is an attack aircraft carrier?

Minister:
I believe that the situation is one in which is no firmly established international definition of an aircraft carrier and each country names theirs according to the functions that they have. I would like to refrain from saying what type of aircraft carrier that the Liaoning, which China operates, is.

Question:
What is your view of the Ronald Reagan carrier operated by US military forces, an ally, at Yokosuka?

Minister:
This vessel also is not clearly defined as an attack aircraft carrier. However, as mentioned earlier, since vessels that previously had this capability were called attack air carriers, it is a very major presence in terms of US military operations and attack capabilities. It operates a few tens of fighter planes and is also permanently outfitted with and operating related support aircraft and warning aircraft. It operates with a convoy group, in our terminology, for assistance as well. These various aspects give it very robust attack capabilities.

Question:
Is the Reagan an attack aircraft carrier?

Minister:
While I am honestly not certain whether it is appropriate to use this term because it is not clearly defined as an attack aircraft carrier, it is a vessel with robust attack capabilities on par with what was previously referred to as an attack aircraft carrier.
Unless you clearly define what an attack aircraft carrier is, it is difficult to say that the Izumo-type vessel is not an attack vessel.
As I have been explaining, we do not plan to permanently have it carry and be outfitted with fighter planes or utilize it in this manner. As clearly described in the Mid-Term Defense Program mentioned earlier, it will be equipped with planes only when needed. This makes it evident in all respects that it is not an attack aircraft carrier. Nevertheless, as explained earlier, even with this distinction, it is not that easy to suddenly land on a ship without having conducted sufficient training. Sufficient training must be carried out in order to operate the vessel in this way.

Question:
In the course of your various reviews and processes, what was the nature of needs from the MSDF and Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)?

Minister:
We have not adopted this approach because of specific needs or requests from the MSDF and ASDF and just conducted the review from the perspective of defense policy. This led us to conclude that additional functionality should be attached to the Izumo-type escort vessel that must be used for the next roughly 40 years. In fact, the MSDF and ASDF must carefully consider the most appropriate type of collaboration because of situations in which fighters operated by the ASDF will land on a vessel operated by the MSDF. However, while the MSDF and ASDF have been discussing the reality of thinness in Japan’s air defense stance on the Pacific side from both the sea and air and importance of finding a way to resolve this and also making effective use of existing facilities, we did not arrive at the decision due to a specific request from below. Instead we arrived at this approach simply in the context of our overall defense policy.

Question:
The latest Mid-Term Defense Program set a goal of 2 trillion yen in streamlining savings. This is three times as much as the roughly 700 billion yen from the previous guidelines. Please address the feasibility of fulfilling this goal and how you intend to accomplish it.

Minister:
Honestly, it is a difficult target. However, we must seek further efficiency and streamlining reforms in provision of defense capabilities in order to reach this goal. For example, we need to seriously address reforms, such as halting use of equipment with reduced importance, revising projects with low cost-effect performance, implementing rigorous cost management and controls, and optimizing equipment procurement with efficiency purchases that include long-term contracts and other measures. We also need to continue strengthening FMS procurement initiatives and promoting procurement efficiency and streamlining. Though an ambitious and difficult goal, we intend to put our utmost into realizing it.

Question:
Regarding the Izumo and what you said about not reacting to specific needs or requests, was the main actor in the review an internal division at the MOD or the Prime Minister’s Office? Who was the central proponent?

Minister:
At the MOD, the review committee that I chair held multiple meetings and we heard review results from the (GSDF), MSDF, and ASDF and MOD internal divisions. We also received a report on the content of a review conducted by the government’s experts’ committee. The Four Ministers’ Meeting, National Security Council, and other forums debated the issue too. There was finally a political decision in light of these various review efforts. As mentioned earlier, it did not occur as the result of a unilateral voice from one area.

Question:
I heard that the Okinawa police arrested an employee of the Okinawa Defense Bureau on the suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol on December 15, and that there had been a year-end party on the night of the before the commencement of soil injection. What have you been told on this matter?

Minister:
The incident of driving under the influence of alcohol in Okinawa that you mentioned significantly undermines the trust of the general public and I am truly sorry for this occurrence. I intend to give instructions to conduct more rigorous service guidance to personnel and ensure that this does not happen again. There will also be strict punishment.

Question:
It appears that a year-end party was held on the night of December 14. What are your thoughts on this?

Minister:
I am not aware of the full details of this incident and have been told that someone was driving under the influence of alcohol.

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