Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya

Time & Date:
09:37-09:52 June 4, 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

I would like to report about the F-35A crash. With regard to the crash of the F-35A fighter that belonged to the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) Misawa Air Base on April 9, search, salvage and salvage operations have been thoroughly conducted to investigate the cause of the accident in the area where parts of the F-35A have been confirmed to be scattered by underwater sonar and underwater cameras, and the salvage operations have been completed on June 3. As a result, in addition to parts of the flight data recorder, parts and debris of the F-35A, including parts of the engine and parts of the main wing, were recovered and salvaged. However, for the flight data recorder, no memory for recording flight data has been identified. On the other hand, the F-35A is equipped with a data link "MADL (Multifunction Advanced Data Link)" that enable various types of information to be shared between its consort aircraft, the aircraft flying with it. The information that can be obtained from the consort aircraft, track records of ground radar, and communications records with pilots are being collected. As for the investigation of the cause of the accident, the analysis based on these information is progressing in addition to the collection of materials, and the accident investigation is making further progress.avigation and overflight must be ensured. We confirmed that all disputes should be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with the principles of international law. On that basis, the ministers agreed to strengthen security cooperation among the three countries for the sake of regional peace and stability, including information sharing, high-level policy consultations, and joint training. Through this meeting, we were able to exchange frank opinions on the North Korean issue. I believe that we were able to reaffirm the importance of close cooperation among Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea, and I believe that this was very meaningful. Based on these results, I intend to further strengthen and promote defense cooperation among the three countries.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
What are your thoughts on the current causes of the accident and the prospects for resuming flight of the F-35A fighter jet?

Minister:
As for the cause of the accident, we are analyzing the data of MADL as I mentioned, and we are not at the point to identify it. The main premise for resuming flight is to ensure the safety of the flight, so we will make a decision on resuming flight after investigating the cause, identifying it, and taking appropriate measures.

Question:
Do you have any specific measures in mind?

Minister:
If the cause is not narrowed down, we will not be able to come up with proper countermeasures, so we will further investigate and identify the cause of the accident.

Question:
You have a meeting with Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan today. What kind of things are you talking about and what kind of things do you hope to reach an agreement on?

Minister:
This is my fourth meeting with Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan. We have met at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue and we have also had talks on the trilateral talks among Japan, the United States, Australia, and Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea. We have already discussed a considerable amount of issues. I would like to confirm the consistency of the strategic documents of the two countries this time, and concretize the direction of strengthening the alliance based on these. Based on the results of the recent "2 + 2", I would like to discuss in more detail what kind of cooperation will be undertaken in new areas such as space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic spectrum. Needless to say, I would like to reaffirm the unity of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

Question:
Regarding Japan, the United States and the ROK, there is a slight gap between Mr. Trump and the Prime Minister over the analytical response to North Korea's short-range ballistic missile launches. What kind of meeting are you going to have with Mr. Shanahan on the North Korean ballistic missile issue?

Minister:
We discussed the issue at the recent meeting with Japan, the United States, and South Korea. Of course, there are subtle nuances, but the three countries have come to share a common understanding that the UNSC resolutions must be implemented properly. Today, rather than discussing the details of North Korea's missiles, I think the focus will be on how to cooperate between Japan and the United States or Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea, and the international community to resolve the problem.

Question:
Regarding F -35, there is also a problem that a considerable number of parts are still scattered in the area. The missing person has not been found yet. Why did you decide to stop the search in this situation?

Minister:
Not all search operations are cancelled. We identified the sea area where the most parts were scattered and conducted a thorough investigation, but we judged that there would be no more material from there that would lead to an investigation into the cause of the accident. However, we will expand the searching area further, and in light of the situation that the personnel are still missing as you have just mentioned, we will continue to conduct confirmation work using underwater cameras.

Question:
At this point, has there been any analysis showing the failure of the machinery of the aircraft?

Minister:
No, not at this point.

Question:
As for the timing of the resumption of flight, I think it will be a little while before the accident investigation report is finalized. What kind of environment should be prepared to make a decision on the resumption of flight?

Minister:
Formal accident investigation reports, like all other cases, take three months or so. However, if we can identify the cause of the accident, we will be able to take appropriate measures. If we can ensure safety through such measures, we will resume flight.

Question:
At the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan delivered a speech that was quite critical of China, and the Indo-Pacific Strategy was announced with an awareness of the encircling net against China in mind. How will Japan and the United States cooperate in formulating policies toward China?

Minister:
I heard Mr. Shanahan's speech in front, but I don't think he was aggressive. I think he has clearly stated that a free and open Indo-Pacific is not something that opposes or excludes any particular country, including China. On the other hand, he made it clear that the U.S.-China relationship is basically cooperative, and although there are some competitive aspects, it should not be regarded as a conflict. I thought that was absolutely right during the speech.

Question:
Returning to the case of F-35, you said that if the cause of the accident could be identified, the flight would be resumed. It will soon be 2 months after the occurrence of the accident, and in your remarks, you stated that the investigation into the cause of the accident is making further progress. In that context, how long do you think do you think will take to be able to resume flight? Within this week or next week?

Minister:
We haven't decided yet. I think it is important to have a firm grasp on the investigation and analysis, but as I mentioned earlier, we have carried out the investigation of the cause of the accident in parallel with the searching operations. I think we will be able to narrow it down soon.

Question:
I would like to ask you about the ground-based Aegis. Yesterday, Governor Satake of Akita Prefecture expressed his view that he would like to make a decision on whether to deploy it next year at the earliest. I think it will affect the future schedule and budget, but please share me your thoughts again.

Minister:
I am aware of what the Governor of Akita Satake and the Mayor of Akita Hozumi said at the regular press conference. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) intends to thoroughly explain the results of the investigation and consideration at the assembly or at the briefing session for local residents, and will strive to provide concrete and easy-to-understand explanations so that local residents can understand the results. In addition, the mayor of Akita requested to give him some time for reviewing the explanations by the MOD. We will discuss the future schedule with Akita City, and we will make adjustments.

Question:
I have two questions regarding the Shangri-La Dialogue. First, you had an unofficial defense ministerial meeting with the ROK. You were briefed to the Prime Minister yesterday. Was there any discussion on the defense ministerial meeting with the ROK at the Prime Minister’s Office?

Minister:
Yesterday, I made a report to the Prime Minister along with Minister for Foreign Affairs Kono on Japan-Russia “2 + 2" meeting. In the Shangri-La, there were Japan-China and Japan Australia meetings. Also, we had quite a number of meetings including Japan-the United States-Australia as well as Japan-the United States-the Republic of Korea meetings. I would like to report on these meetings all together.

Question:
At the Shangri-La Dialogue, there was a discussion regarding conflict between the United States and China. President Trump is trying to eliminate the security risks of Huawei. What is your view on the need for information security in Japan's defense industry?

Minister:
As you know, information management and information security are extremely important issues for the MOD. As you know, in December of last year, related ministries and agencies agreed to strengthen their response to supply chain risks. Based on this agreement, the MOD can seek advice on necessary measures to be taken from the National Center of Incident readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC). In the future procurement of equipment, the MOD will consult with the NISC and respond accordingly. Needless to say, this agreement is not intended to prevent the entry of specific companies or products, but we will fully consult with NISC and respond appropriately.

Question:
I would like to ask about the Japan-ROK Defense Ministerial Meeting in Shangri-La Dialogue. Regarding the issue of radar lock-on incident, although there was no consensus, you said you could take a step forward in defense exchanges. There is a view that this message was sent to the Republic of Korea and the international community that despite the fact that there was a serious issue of radar incident, defense exchanges would be resumed without seeing a solution. Do you have such a view?

Minister:
I don't think so at all. The meeting between Japan and the Republic of Korea was unofficial, but I reiterated the views of the Government of Japan. I have also strongly called for the prevention of recurrence. Unfortunately, we did not reach a consensus on this point, but after the meeting, Minister Jeong of the ROK held a press conference and stated that he would like to prevent such an incident from occurring. Given the highly volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula, security cooperation between Japan and the ROK, as well as among Japan, the United States, and the ROK, is extremely important, and I believe that it has reached an increasingly important stage. I believe that we have been able to take a step forward, if not completely, to improve the environment.