FY2015 New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Nakatani


FY2015 New Year's Greetings by Defense Minister Nakatani

Happy New Year.
First, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to each organization of the MOD/SDF who is serving their duties across the country and overseas with a strong sense of mission despite the cold weather.

We had numerous natural disasters last year.

In response to heavy snow in Saitama, Gunma, and Yamanashi Prefectures in February last year, disaster relief units were dispatched and they rescued many isolated villages.

Some prefectures were hit by torrential rain in August, and 74 people were killed by landslides in Hiroshima Prefecture. It is dreadful to even imagine that hewn trees sliding down along with huge stones and earth in darkness. Disaster relief units were dispatched under the condition which was barely grasped by neither the police nor fire services. In spite of a heavy fall of rain, personnel of the 13th Brigade made their utmost effort till the end to search for missing people.

In September, following the eruption of Mt. Ontake, hikers seeking to enjoy the autumn colors fell victim to a devastating disaster in an instant. The death toll and the missing rose to 63 people. At the summit of Mt Ontake, 3,067 meters in altitude, dispatched personnel carried out search and rescue operations for as long as till the beginning of snowfall, exposing themselves to danger of continual eruptions and strong wind of typhoons. This is a proof that the SDF is an organization with a strong sense of mission, enhanced capabilities and command. The SDF gained trust and high evaluation from the nationals together with sincere appreciation from those involved in these operations. Personnel primarily from the 12th Brigade along with helicopter and aircraft units joined the search and rescue operations. In spite of extremely severe conditions such as suspension of operations by typhoons and toxic volcanic gas, the personnel put themselves at risk and devoted themselves to their missions with their knees buried in ash. Through such disaster relief activities, I believe that the MOD/SDF can be very reassuring to Japanese people and local residents, especially those who are affected by the disasters.

In November, an earthquake with a seismic intensity of a lower six on the Japanese quake scale struck the north of Nagano Prefecture, seriously and completely destroying 142 houses. Personnel of the 12th Brigade undertook public support operations such as supplying water, and gained significant appreciation.

December saw the dispatch of units to Shikoku Region in response to a snowstorm disaster. Despite successive snowfall and cold weather, personnel of the 14th Brigade in Shikoku Region carried out disaster relief operations around the clock at the foot of Mt. Tsurugi including clearing off of the roads to the isolated villages in mountainous areas, transporting personnel and relief supplies, and restoring power supply even without enough equipment for snow.

It was not only disaster relief activities that kept us busy.
Security environment surrounding Japan is growing severe. The number of SDF scrambles against foreign aircraft including Chinese and Russian reached as many as 533 times in the first half of this fiscal year. In response to such situations, personnel are ensuring preparedness with a sense of tension, putting themselves at risk at any time. I would like to extend my deepest respect to those engaging in intelligence and surveillance missions day and night, making day-to-day effort in oil and sweat to maintain SDF's equipment to ensure the safety of personnel in hot and cold days, and carrying out steady warning and surveillance operations all across Japan.

China is constantly moving its naval vessels into the Pacific Ocean as is evident from its naval navigation in December last year around Japan's surrounding waters. In the East China Sea, China has violated Japan's territorial waters by its vessel, locked fire-control radar on SDF vessel, set up East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, and flown its fighter jets abnormally close to the SDF aircraft. China has repeatedly taken such dangerous actions that could lead to contingencies, making the situation extremely perilous.

At the same time, North Korea has been continuing its provocations such as launching of ballistic missiles and indication of nuclear test. We are in the era where we must respond to new types of threats such as possibility of cyber-attacks to defend the country. However, Japan has the SDF personnel who are firmly determined to defend the Japanese territory as well as the safety and lives of Japanese people. They engage in such missions as warning and surveillance day and night with a sense of tension as far as they can. In order to enable such operations, we have logistic support units and other organizations. In addition, we have other personnel who work behind the scenes. With their united effort and minds, the SDF defends our country.

Even in overseas, our personnel are based in Djibouti where daytime temperature reaches as high as 50℃ and carrying out counter-piracy operations in cooperation with relevant countries. With an unconventional code of escort in mind, the personnel protect foreign vessel that fall behind escort ships, politely exhibiting delicate "heart of hospitality" of Japanese people.

Also, our personnel are engaged in Peace Keeping Operation without running water or electricity supply in scorching fields in South Soudan in Africa. The crew of Antarctic research expedition vessel SHIRASE is now working their way to Syowa Base in order to contribute to scientific investigations undertaken in extremely cold weather of the Antarctic. Others are playing active roles at diplomatic establishments abroad and international organizations across the globe as military and civil attaché.

Furthermore, for the purpose of ensuring appropriate operations of the SDF and stable presence of the U.S. forces, there are personnel who are cordially offering explanations and responding to the local residents in the areas where such facilities are located, in order to gain understanding and cooperation of the municipalities. There are personnel who take part in recruiting, public relations and background support at Provincial Cooperation Offices. There are administrative staffs who provide explanation to neighboring residents to gain their understanding on management of field training sites and bases. In addition, there are those who take care of medical and educational affairs as well as research and development. The MOD/SDF has personnel doing their best in their numerous duties.

Although I cannot name each mission that all the 250,000 personnel of the MOD/SDF are engaged in, I am truly grateful for their efforts. I believe that the defense of Japan is based on them thoroughly fulfilling their mission and duties by joining hands at any time with a sense of tension in a situation where one cannot tell what could happen next.

Nobody can tell what is awaiting us this year. I expect all personnel to continuously persevere in work even more actively in a disciplined manner in order to respond to the nationals' mandate and to contribute to peace and stability of our country and the world, giving thoughts to the significance of their mission.

Today, as we embark on the new year, I would like to talk about one goal of the MOD that I as the Defense Minister will work on together with our personnel. That is the development of security legislation to defend Japan in a seamless manner.

Security environment surrounding Japan is growing severe. No country can secure its own peace by itself anymore. The international community expects Japan to play a more proactive role for peace and stability in the world, in a way commensurate with its national capability.
In July last year, a cabinet decision was made by the Government of Japan to develop necessary legislation in light of the current security environment in order to promote further preparedness. It was clearly stated that the use of force permitted under the Constitution is, under international law, based on the right of collective self-defense. Since an armed attack occurring against a foreign country could actually threaten Japan's survival, depending on its purpose, scale, and others, the use of force to the minimum extent necessary should be interpreted to be permitted. Naturally, the purpose of such use of force is not the defense of other countries itself. It is permitted only when they are taken as measures for self-defense which are inevitable to defend Japan.
The mission of the SDF to secure peace and independence of Japan will not change. Duties given to the personnel will remain as dangerous as before, but their mission to ensure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the nationals will not change. The purpose is not triggering a war nor invading other countries. It is to thoroughly defend our country.
We will diligently work to submit a set of related bills to the next ordinary Diet session which will enable seamless response to any situation including gray zone situations, Peace Keeping Operations, and situations related to the right to collective self-defense. On this occasion, we will do our best to prepare a legislation which responds to the nationals' mandate and facilitates the decision-making of units and personnel in the field in a clear manner.

The MOD/SDF celebrated its 60th anniversary of the establishment last year. Thanks to the untiring efforts made by personnel over generations as well as support, cooperation, and understanding of the nationals, the MOD/SDF has become a trusted organization, highly appreciated both domestically and internationally. Over three million Japanese people were killed in the World War II. The SDF was established to ensure that those dead did not die in vain and to secure the safety of Japan. They indeed have been protecting the peace. It is a duty left to us and our responsibility to future generations to continue our effort to build a better country. When pursuing sound development of Japan, we will make effort to ensure that as a stable, peaceful, and sound nation in the international community, Japan will move forward in cooperation with not only neighboring countries but also as many countries as possible.

Lastly, my motto is "Go back to basics". The answer to how the personnel who actually engage in missions can exercise further capabilities lies on the spot. I expect all the MOD/SDF personnel to become united to fulfill their responsibilities in order to surely take care of basic matters and respond to any situation.

I hope that the year of 2015 will be a fruitful and wonderful year for all the personnel and their family. I strongly wish for the well-being of all the personnel, sound development of the SDF units as well as peace and prosperity of our region and nation. Thank you.

January 5, 2015
Defense Minister Gen NAKATANI