Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya

Time & Date:
08:37-08:44 March 1, 2019
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 purposes only.)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

None.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
In relation to yesterday’s U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, given the results of the meeting, did you hear any kind of report from Prime Minister Abe, or has there been any talk about a Japan-U.S. telephone conference?

Minister:
We are exchanging a lot of what might be called “special” information. I would like to refrain from discussing the content of those talks.

Question:
During the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, President Trump stated that he is aware of nuclear facilities outside of the facilities in Yongbyon, and he made a statement to the effect that the North Korean side was surprised about that. Does Japan also know about nuclear facilities outside of the facilities in Yongbyon, through information sharing with the U.S.-side and so forth?

Minister:
We are conducting constant information exchanges between Japan and the U.S. on movement by North Korea, and the MOD itself is independently watching the situation as well. I cannot say much about the content of those activities. We are thoroughly sharing information.

Question:
Is it correct to say that Japan does know about facilities other than the ones that have been talked about openly up to this point?

Minister:
I would like to refrain from talking about the detail . We are monitoring the situation closely.

Question:
No agreement was reached during the Summit this time. Are you concerned about losing momentum in the process toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)?

Minister:
I want to express support for President Trump’s decision not to just reach an “easy” agreement. I understand that the Summit ended with talk of continuing to pursue constructive discussions. I look forward to future developments.

Question:
Construction is set to start today related to plans to deploy the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) to Ishigaki Island. What is the schedule for unit deployment, and what sort of scale are we talking about here?

Minister:
I understand that placing sandbags is starting.

Question:
How about the schedule for unit deployment?

Minister:
That is not clear yet. We have just at last started construction. We also still face the issue of what to do about city land.

Question:
What is the situation with regard to coordination with Ishigaki City about acquiring city land?

Minister:
We are currently continuing with negotiations.

Question:
You clarified a point about part of a report on the improvement of soil foundations at Henoko during yesterday’s Budget Committee meeting, following a question from Diet Member Akamine. You said that work for soil foundation improvement down to 40 meters below sea level would be a few percent of all construction work, 70%.

Minister:
No, 70 percent of work will be for areas requiring soil foundation improvements down to as far as 40 meters below sea level.

Question:
Construction down to 70 meters below sea level will take require some proportion of work out of the total work to be done, and that will be 40 percent or less than 40 percent of the work out of the 70 percent of work to be done below sea level.

Minister:
No, 40 meters.

Question:
You have said that safety can be assured by improving soil foundations down to as far as 40 meters below sea level. Within the opinion paper written by Okinawa Prefecture, there is the concern that this will require large-scale, direction-less construction that it will take many years, leading the situation at Futenma to become fixed the way it is. The paper also expressed the concern that even after construction, some portion of the soil will still sink. Are you saying that there is no need to worry about such matters?

Minister:
I understand that construction plans are such that they can handle a certain amount of soil sinkage, based on a certain amount of exhaustive survey work, including for successive construction and so on for the airport. We are going to move firmly forward with a construction plan that will mean that those worries are unnecessary. What was the first part of the question?

Question:
Okinawa Prefecture believes that this will require large-scale and direction-less construction that it will take many years, leading the situation at Futenma to become fixed the way it is.

Minister:
Accordingly, Japan possesses, for instance, extremely advanced techniques related to sand compaction and sand drainage that we have been using for fifty years. Poor soil foundation is a problem down to 70 meters below sea level at the deepest points. Seventy percent of the poor soil foundations occur at 40 meters below sea level or less. When we normally construct an airport, it requires approximately 1.2 million nails. For Henoko, we have plans to use 70,000. I think it is possible to definitely move forward with this.

Question:
In your answer yesterday, you admitted that the deepest areas are 90 meters below sea level, when you expressed that there are areas deeper than 70 meters that comprise extremely hard layers of clay. Are you saying that these extremely hard clay layers are not considered poor soil foundations?

Minister:
I don’t know the details related to civil engineering. We have confirmed through tests that the soil below 70 meters in these areas is hard clay. Experts have confirmed that construction down to 70 meters below sea level will be sufficient to ensure safety.

Question:
I understand that there is not much connection then, between the poor soil foundations and the hard layer of clay. In that case, how should we interpret that issue?

Minister:
I cannot answer that without consulting the experts. For the purpose of soil foundation improvements, I understand that it is possible to achieve those improvements without digging that deep given that there is a certain layer of hard clay below the soil being worked on. In terms of the situation this time, there are certain areas with poor soil foundations as deep as 70 meters below sea level. We can firmly improve soil foundations for those areas.