Extra Press Conference by Defense Minister Iwaya

Time & Date:
16:43-16:55 June 1, 2019
Place:
Valley Wing Level 7, Shangri-La Hotel

(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 on the Japan-China Defense MinisterialMeeting. I held a meeting with Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe for 30 minutes from 12:20 today. It was very significant to hold the Japan-China Defense Ministerial Meeting following the one held in October last year. At the meeting, I confirmed with Minister of National Defense Wei that communication at the ministerial level is becoming closer and we shared the recognition that it is important to realize mutual visits between Minister of Defense and Minister of National Defense as soon as possible, which was agreed by the leaders last year. To this end, we agreed that I would visit China as early as possible within the year. I would like to coordinate the schedule from now on. We also agreed on the following points. In light of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)'s arrival at Qingdao in April this year, we will make arrangements for a visit to Japan by Chinese naval vessels. Then, we agreed to promote high-level exchanges, including coordination of mutual visits between the Chief of the Joint Staff and the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Furthermore, based on the visit to Japan by the East Warfare Delegation last year, we agreed to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) delegation to the East Warfare by the end of the year. Lastly, regarding the air and sea communication mechanism, confirming that the technical coordination of the hotline is steadily progressing, we agreed to continue to accelerate coordination toward the early establishment of the hotline. In addition, regarding the situation in North Korea, I stated that we would like to work together towards the denuclearization of North Korea. Based on these results, I intend to continue to promote defense exchanges between Japan and China, and work to foster mutual understanding and trust. Subsequently, an exchange of views was held between the defense ministers of Japan and the ROK. After a luncheon hosted by the Singaporean government, I met with ROK Defense Minister Chung Kyung-doo and had a frank exchange of views on how to overcome the various challenges that have arisen between the two countries. First of all, I stated that Japan's position regarding the radar incident last year was as stated in the Concluding Observations issued in January this year, and requested Minister Chung not to repeat the incident. I also thoroughly explained the appropriateness of the flight of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) aircraft. In addition, we agreed on the need to comply with the Code of Conduct at the CUES and Western Pacific Naval Symposium. Moreover, amid the North Korean nuclear and missile issues, from the perspective that defense cooperation between Japan and the ROK is extremely important in order to maintain a stable environment in the East Asian region, we confirmed that Japan and the ROK will continue to cooperate in order to ensure the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea. At the same time, we confirmed that the two countries will continue to cooperate in international community on cooperation that can be implemented bilaterally in order to address global issues such as anti-piracy measures. In this way, in order to create a stable security environment in the East Asian region, Minister Chung and I agreed to confirm at the ministerial level that the issues between Japan and the ROK should be resolved promptly, and to firmly support each other in working-level consultations for that purpose. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the SDF will continue to make sincere efforts to firmly continue the defense cooperation between Japan and the ROK and between Japan, the U.S., and the ROK.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
If you reach an agreement on your visit to China this year, I would like to ask once again the significance of this visit.  

Minister:
I think Japan-China relations have returned to normal after the exchanges between the leaders last year. In this context, we held the second Defense Ministerial Meeting today, following last year's meeting, and confirmed that I would visit China first. I believe that the meeting was of great significance in terms of promoting mutual trust and confidence building. In addition, I would like to make thorough preparations for the realization of the various items I mentioned at the beginning.  

Question:
Next, I would like to ask about Japan and the ROK. I would like to ask about the specific communication regarding the radar irradiation.  

Minister:
Our view is as summarized in January, and I have informed the ROK side of that again. I have also heard the opinion of the ROK side, but the important thing is that we will never let such an incident happen again in the future. I hope that both sides will take the opportunity to hold talks firmly for the advancement of Japan-ROK relations. In particular, I have confirmed today that it is important for ministers to exchange views thoroughly. I will refrain from providing details, but I will make sure that such an event does not occur again.

Question:
I would like to ask about the Japan-China relations. In the South China Sea and the East China Sea, what kind of exchanges did you have?  

Minister:
I have expressed my concerns about China's activities in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. However, the main objective of today's meeting was to exchange views with the aim of revitalizing Japan-China defense exchanges in the future. I would like to refrain from providing further details. I have conveyed my concern.

Question:
Regarding the matter, how did Chinese side respond to your concern?

Minister:
I will refrain from going into details about this either.

Question:
As for Japan and the ROK, you have said that you would like to hold a Japan-ROK Defense Ministerial Meeting, but the Foreign Ministerial Meeting ended inconclusively over the issue of war time laborers. It is said that the holding of summit meeting at the Group of 20 will be difficult. What is your view on the meaning and significance of holding the Defense Ministerial Meeting this time?

Minister:
I think the foreign ministers will meet and talk when there is a problem. Of course, there are issues and problems between the defense authorities, but for this reason, it was extremely important for the top leaders to meet and have frank discussions. I am glad that we were able to do this. We hope to make the most of these results in the future.

Question:
You mentioned earlier to exchange views on the Japan-ROK meeting. Am I correct in understanding it means to have a short talk at an unofficial meeting?

Minister:
When it comes to short talk, it is a little lighter, but we were sitting and talking, and as a result of making adjustments to the best way to meet, we have reached an agreement that it would be better to talk in this way, that is, not in an official meeting.

Question:
I think it was held after the luncheon, but how much time did you spend?

Minister:
After the luncheon, it was a little over 30 minutes.

Question:
You said that you asked to prevent a recurrence of the radar incident. Am I correct in understanding that the ROK side repeatedly insisted on its position as the ROK?

Minister:
They also insisted. I also made a firm statement. After that, I talked today about what we should do from now on, how we should maintain close contact with each other, and how we should build trust.

Question:
Am I correct in understanding that we have reached a certain point regarding the radar irradiation issue?

Minister:
The truth is that there is only one truth, but I think that the situation is not one in which either side will yield an answer if we continue to talk. Our view remains unchanged, but I would like to take a step forward to build a future-oriented relationship between the defense authorities of Japan and the ROK.

Question:
As for confirming, is it correct that the ROK side replied that it did not use radar?

Minister:
It means that they made a conventional assertion.

Question:
I think the ROK side has prepared its own operational guidelines and notified the Ministry of Defense (MOD). Did you talk about this matter?

Minister:
We have communicated, but this is also about the internal regulations, so I would like to refrain from providing details.

Question:
Is it correct that you requested the withdrawal?

Minister:
It means that we discussed these guidelines as well.

Question:
Yesterday's dinner and today's luncheon looked very friendly. How was the informal meeting?

Minister:
I think it was better than last time.

Question:
I think you were aiming for an official meeting. What problems do you think were caused by the failure to achieve this?

Minister:
I think it means that the environment on various issues did not come to a solution by just having only one meeting. That is why I think it made a lot of sense for us to meet and talk and listen to each other's opinions.