Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya

Time & Date:
08:16-08:24 March 15, 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:
I have heard that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) will submit the report which has made on the administrative appeal process related to the withdraw of approval for land reclamation by Okinawa to the Diet this evening. Please tell us if that is true. If you are submitting that report, please tell us why you shifted your policy toward making that public.

Minister
I would like to refrain from answering that at the current moment in time, as it relates to the Diet. In any case, as I have been saying, we will thoroughly explain this matter at an appropriate time. The submission of the report itself is currently being discussed within the Diet. I would like to make a decision on this issue after waiting for the results of that discussion.

Question:
Within the report, it seems there is text suggesting that the MOD has the prospect that improvement work for the poor soil foundations around Henoko will take three years and eight months. Please tell us if that is true.

Minister
As I have said on countless occasions, the results of analyses from boring survey research suggest that it is possible to conduct stable construction using proven and ordinary construction methods. We will offer further, thorough explanations related to the construction period and how long it will take to improve soil foundations at an appropriate time in the future.

Question:
Changing the subject, concerning the deployment of Aegis Ashore, please tell us about the schedule for explanations to local communities, and how you intend to seek understanding from local communities moving forward.

Minister
Research related to radio waves, ground quality research, water quality research and so on has been carried out at both the Araya Training Area and Mutsumi Training Area. We would like to carefully analyze this research, and offer thorough explanations based on our findings. Analysis will take time. We hope to offer explanations at an early date within the new fiscal year.

Question:
In terms of seeking understanding from local communities ? the Government is intending to start operation of the Aegis Ashore system in 2023. If you do not receive the understanding of the local communities on this matter by then, will you postpone the start date for operations, or will you still move forward with the plans for the deployment in order to achieve that start date?

Minister
Of course, we are working on that based on the premise that we will gain the understanding of the people of the local communities. We would like to offer careful explanations that can earn the understanding of these communities, having set the goals that we have set.

Question:
In relation to the issue of Henoko, which you spoke of earlier, you have said that you can improve poor soil foundations using ordinary construction techniques. At the current moment in time, do you think it will be possible to return the land around Futenma by FY2022?

Minister
We are facing the new issue of needing to improve poor soil foundations. Because of that, I think it is frankly hard to say anything about the schedule right now. We will move forward with construction as quickly as possible. We want to work hard to ensure that this work leads toward our final goal of returning the land around Futenma.

Question:
There is some information saying that North Korea is moving to rebuild its missile launch test grounds at Tongchang-ri, or that vehicles and so on are moving to construct missile facilities in the suburbs of Pyongyang. Does the MOD know about that, and how do you interpret that information?

Minister
I am aware of those reports. The MOD is always watching activities by North Korea closely. I cannot predict how this issue will develop in the future. For example, I think that missile launches under the guise of “artificial satellite” launches would be in breach of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions, and we cannot sanction actions like that. We will continue to carefully watch the activities of North Korea in collaboration with the United States and other countries.

Question:
Concerning daily reports on joint training exercises by the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) held overseas with other countries, yesterday, at the Director of the Foreign Affairs Committee, House of Representatives, Diet Member Kokuta of the Japanese Communist Party criticized the fact that documents on a Japanese Communist Party request were submitted two months late. There have been three daily reports submitted on these kinds of training exercises since the establishment of related security legislation in 2015. You have said that you believe there must be some other additional cases. Please tell us the truth of this matter.

Minister
The reason that the submission of documents to Mr. Kokuta was so late was because the department in charge of handling contact and coordination with the Diet was not careful enough, and did not do sufficient follow-up about the documents. I would like to once again apologize for that. The State Minister of Defense also apologized at the Council recently. I would like for the people within the MOD to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again. As for joint training exercises, it seems that daily reports are not normally kept for them, and this is the reason that there are few records and reports. In addition, naturally, joint training exercises are done with our partner countries. For that reason, it may be better to refrain from communicating on the minute details of the exercises.

Question:
I think that the improvement of poor soil foundations will have an impact on the transfer of facilities from Futenma to Henoko. How much do you think this will set the work schedule back, or impact the entire transfer?

Minister
We must actually work out the details of construction for that. I absolutely want to gain the understanding and cooperation from relevant municipalities on this. At the current stage, we cannot say anything definite about the entire work schedule.

Question:
Do you feel that soil foundation improvement work won’t cause any delays then?

Minister
I think there are many ways that we can move forward with work. I think one option is to move forward with soil foundation improvements while also moving forward with other work. I hope to shorten the work period to the extent possible by considering all possible options.