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Prime Minister Abe Holds Press Conference about the Bills of Legislature on Security

On May 14, the Abe Cabinet adopted eleven bills regarding security issues, which were subsequently sent to the Japanese Parliament for approval. The bills were intended to create a legal framework for the Cabinet’s decision in July of last year to change the traditional legal interpretation of Article 9 of Constitution in order to allow Japan to exercise a right to collective self-defense. Since it is very difficult to repeal Article 9 of the Constitution, the administration chose to enable Japan to engage in activities of collective self-defense by changing the interpretation of Article 9. The bills were given the name “Peace Security Bills” by the government. Opponents claimed that the name was misleading and instead should be referred to as the “war bills.” That evening, Prime Minister Abe held a press conference and on the next day (May 15), he submitted the bills to the Parliament in the face of staunch resistance from the opposition parties. The bills comprise the first step in a sequence of reforms that would enable the Japanese Self Defense Forces to engage in collective self defense. The bills have to be adopted by Parliament. Abe is aiming for the bills to be passed by the end of the summer.

Following is the transcript of Abe’s speech in the press conference.

Seventy years ago, we made a vow that we must never again experience the aftermath of war. We will keep living up to this vow not to engage in war, and we will protect the lives of citizens, and all those who are peaceful.

With this sense of determination, today we have approved a cabinet decision regarding the the peace and security legislation.

Now, we live in an era when no country can maintain its security on its own.

Over the past two years, Japanese citizens have died in terrorist attacks in Algeria, Syria and Tunisia.

North Korea’s several hundreds ballistic missiles now put most of Japan within range.

The development of nuclear warheads that can be loaded into those ballistic missiles is further and further along.

The number of so-called “scrambles” of Self Defense Force planes responding to unidentified aircraft approaching our country have increased seven times as compared to 10 years ago.

This is our current reality.

We can’t turn away from this harsh reality.

Therefore, we are focused on diplomacy through dialogue with our neighboring countries.

Since I became Prime Minister, I have conducted aggressive diplomacy with a bird’s-eye view of the globe.

“All conflicts should be resolved not by the use of force, but should be resolved peacefully based on international laws.” I have repeated this basic principle over and over to the international community, where I have received a lot of support from many different countries.

Maintain peace through diplomacy.

I will continue to aggressively pursue peaceful diplomacy.

At the same time, we should not be reluctant to prepare for worst case scenarios.

Therefore, I have strived to strengthen the Japan-US alliance, which is essential for the security of our country.

As a result of my previous visit to the US [between April 26 and May 3], the bond between Japan and the US is now stronger than ever.

If Japan were attacked, the US would do everything in its power to protect Japan.

And the US fully carries out its duty codified in the Treaty of 1960 to monitor the waters close to Japan’s territorial seas.

Even if the US were attacked while carrying out its duty to protect Japan, Japan cannot and would not do anything to assist the US. This has been Japan’s traditional stance.

Is it right for us to continue this way?

In instances where US forces are attacked near Japan’s territorial waters, danger can easily reach us as well.

This is not danger faced by someone else, but rather danger faced by us.

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Our lives and our peaceful way of life are facing clear danger.

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And so to remove that danger, there is no other option but to establish our right to collective defense.

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The exercise of our right to collective self defense should not exceed the minimum amount that’s necessary.

I enshrined these three strict conditions in the bill.

In addition, we still need approval of the Parliament.

As a result, I ensured that the right to collective self defense can be exercised only under extremely limited conditions.

But even then, I assume that there may be those who worry that we will be dragged into American wars.

Let me address those anxieties clearly.

Such situations will never arise.

It is also written clearly in the new security agreement between Japan and the US.

Japan uses forces only to protect its citizens.

This is the consensus between Japan and the US.

Also, by spreading the idea that if Japan was endangered, the Japan-US alliance will function perfectly, Japan’s ability to deter threats will increase. Therefore, the possibility of Japan being attacked will decrease.

Therefore, it is completely wrong to label this set of bills as “war bills.”

The bills we submitted are intended to provide kiremenonai sonae. [Kiremenonai sonae means “to prepare without leaving any cuts,” which is a Japanese idiom for preparations that are thorough.] We have imagined many possible worst case scenarios in order to protect Japanese citizens’ lives and our peaceful way of life.

The basic rule forbidding the deployment of the Self Defense Force will not be changed.

I would like to make it clear that there will never be a situation where Self Defense Force will participate in armed conflicts like the Gulf War or the Iraq War.

Meanwhile, the Self Defense Force has engaged in international cooperation activities by participating in minesweeping of the Persian Gulf, which is a major oil shipping route, for more than 20 years.

At this moment, the Self Defense Force is deployed in the scorching heat of Africa supporting South Sudan, which recently became independent.

Cambodia, a country whose reconstruction Japan supported, is also engaging in Peacekeeping Operations in South Sudan.

A Cambodian military official who manages a hospital in South Sudan told a member of the Self Defense Force that Japan’s role in the UN peacekeeping operation in Cambodia still remains vivid in the minds of Cambodians. They say they would like the Japanese people to use this facility more than anybody else. They are willing to open the hospital for 24 hours for Japanese people.
I believe that the activities of the Self Defense Force abroad have undoubtedly contributed to the world peace, and that foreigners are sincerely grateful. I would like to express respect from the bottom of my heart for the sincere effort made by more than 50,000 members of Self Defense Forces. With this wonderful record, we were able to revise the peacekeeping cooperation law and draft a new International Peace Support Law. With these two laws, we will extend the boundaries of our international contributions.

I will work on the revision of laws regarding logistical support for the US military which carries out the activities which contribute to the peace and safety of our country and other foreign militaries.

However, in any case, the Self Defense Force will never use armed force. I will address this clearly.

These activities are not related to the right to collective self-defense.

I will continue to strive to cooperate with the international community in the field of activities in which our country is capable: prevention of armed conflict, humanitarian aid, support of reconstruction assistance, providing fuel and food.

I have decided that we will contribute to international peace and stability more than we did in the past, waving the flag of aggressive pacifism.

After the end of WWII, Japan has walked the path of a pacifist country.

We should be proud of the path we walked.

However, this was not achieved just by citing the word “peace, peace.”

I am convinced that this achievement was due to the creation of the Self Defense Force, the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty (1960), and participation in international peace cooperation activities, which were the result of the efforts made by predecessors.

Whenever one takes action, he or she will face criticism.

When the Japan-US treaty was revised (in 1960) and when the Peace Keeping Operation cooperation law was enacted, there was a lot of criticism.

However, the history up until today proves that these criticisms were completely off the mark.

We have been keeping our vow for 70 years not to engage in war due to our deep regret over the big wars.

There is no doubt that no one among the Japanese citizens wishes war to break out.

We should have confidence in ourselves.

Let’s stop ignoring that history has changed and let’s not stop walking towards the future.

Let’s walk towards the future in order to ensure a peaceful Japan for our children.

I am determined to play a leadership role, to cultivate the new era for Japan and world peace.  That’s it from me.

Questions by reporters start.

Asahi Shimbun (newspaper)

As for the bills of legislature of security, according to the polls by media outlet companies, opinions are divided among citizens, with those holding an opposed opinion strongly represented.

Moreover, the opposition parties oppose the exercise of the right to collective self-defense and in your speech during your visit to the US you mentioned that you are aiming for the bills to be adopted by this summer.

Do you think that it is possible for there to be a revision of the proposed legislation after the Parliament debates the bills?

Prime Minister Abe: As I mentioned previously, it is the most important duty of the government to protect citizens’ lives and their peaceful ways of living. As the security environment our country faces is getting more and more difficult, I firmly believe that that it is important to enact peace and security laws that prepare us for imaginable situations without leaving gaps.

For example, if an armed conflict arises abroad, and then if the US which is an allied nation with the capability to do so, saved a Japanese citizen who is running away from the conflict, and while the US is sending him to Japan, they might be attacked near Japanese waters.

Even in an instance like this, if Japan was not attacked, Japan cannot rescue them.

Japan cannot protect this vessel. The current situation is not adequate to protect citizens’ lives and their peaceful ways of living.

Of course, as I mentioned previously, protecting the lives of citizens and their ways of living – this is the most important duty of the government. In order to carry out this duty, a revision of the laws is necessary.

Of course, I hope things like this will not happen, but I believe that it is our tremendous responsibility to be prepared for such situations. In the Parliamentary debate I would like to explain in detail and in a way that is easy to understand that the creation of  legislative frameworks on security is necessary to prepare for such situations.

Also, as I mentioned  in my speech in the recent joint session in the congress (on April 29) I would like the Peace and Security legislation to be passed by this summer. However, As a president of the Liberal Democratic Party and our party, I have promised since the 2012 election that I will create the legislative frameworks.

Moreover, in my recent speech to the joint session of the US Congress, I mentioned that it is my goal for the bill on peace and security to be passed “ by this summer.”

Since 2012, I have promised as part of my campaign platform to create legal frameworks for security and peace legislation. I make this promise as a president of the Liberal Democratic Party, and on behalf of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Especially during the electoral campaign for the previous election ( December 2014), During the campaign, I promised that I would work swiftly on creating legislation promoting peace and security based on the cabinet decision passed on July 1st, 2014, and the people voiced their support by electing the Liberal Democratic Party.

Therefore, it is completely different from not mentioning it during the campaign, and then after getting into office, suddenly offering this as policy. I think people can understand this.

We have promised this in three elections.

After the cabinet decision in July last year, and in the election ( December 2014 ), we mentioned that we will work on the legislative framework.

And on December 24, in the press conference about formation of the third Abe Cabinet, I assume that everyone remembers it clearly, I clearly stated about my intention to have the peace and security legislature to be enacted in the ordinary session in the Parliament.   I said it to all citizens clearly.

Also, at the plenary session of the Lower House in February of this year, I received questions about the legislation, to which I responded twice by saying “I will try to enact the legislation during this session.” What I said in my speech before the US Congress is consistent with what I have said previously [in Japan].

The bill that we will submit is the result of 25 debates among the coalition parties ( Liberal Democratic Party and Komei Party).

I believe that this bill is the best for us as a country because it is the result of years of debate between top experts in the field.

However, as the parliamentary debate will begin soon, as a government, we would like to refrain from talking about affairs related to Parliament. As the government, we would like to strive so that each member of Parliament will understand that the peace and security legislation needs to be enacted.

TV Asahi

The Prime Minister is aiming to the enact the legislation during this parliamentary session. Do you have any specific activities in mind where you plan on deploying the Self Defense Force once the legislation is passed? For example, are you thinking of expanding the SDF’s activities regarding the Peacekeeping Operation in many regions around the world, based on the revisions to the legislation? Currently, the US is thinking about deploying warships or recon aircraft to a location near the island in the South China Sea where China is constructing a military base against the protests of countries in the region. Is there a possibility of joint Japan US operations?

Let me ask you one question about a specific example, specifically ISIL. Currently military operations against Islamic State are conducted by the Coalition of Willing, including the US. Are you thinking about having the SDF provide logistical support?

Abe: As I explained earlier, these bills are intended to improve situations such as those where Japanese citizens are being transported by a US warship from another country where armed conflicts are taking place. Even if the US warship were attacked, Japan currently cannot offer assistance to protect it. Moreover, our current security threats are from terrorism, nuclear weapons, and missiles, all of which can easily cross territorial borders. We are therefore facing a situation where no single country can protect itself on its own any more.

In this situation, I am convinced that we will protect Japanese citizens’ lives and our peaceful way of life only by protecting Japan and ensuring peace and stability in the region through cooperation with our ally, the US, and the international community.

With regard to peacekeeping operations (PKO), in the event that members of a foreign military were attacked and Japan was asked to rescue them, Japan cannot currently respond to the request. Even if the Japanese Self Defense Force is deployed to transport Japanese citizens, the SDF cannot save those citizens if they will be imminently attacked by terrorists. The bills are intended to change the capacity of the SDF in those instances.

Exactly in this sense, the bills are intended to protect Japanese citizens’ lives and their peaceful way of life. The bills are intended to prepare us for when such situations arise. Therefore, I would like to make clear that the SDF will not suddenly be deployed somewhere right after the bills are adopted.

For example, for the PKO that you gave as an example, the bills are intended to help the SDF participate in PKO more effectively. There may be a situations where NGO workers are assisting with PKO alongside SDF, and in those situations, the likelihood that these workers are Japanese citizens is high. If the bills are adopted, SDF would be able to engage in rescue operations in the event that Japanese NGOs request assistance from the SDF. I would like you to understand that the bills are meant to improve both the SDF’s capacity to save Japanese lives and its role in PKO activities.

The bills are not intended to allow the SDF to do new activities or expand their current activities. I would like you to understand that if the bills were adopted, it would more clearly lead to enhanced protection of the lives of Japanese citizens.

As for the situation in the South China Sea, I have no knowledge of the situation. There is no way for me to make comments about it.

Also, as for operations against ISIL, we will not offer any logistical support. I would like to be clear about this. We have received much gratitude by providing food and medical services to refugees and internally displaced peoples. I believe that the SDF will continue to carry out non-military activities like this.

Fuji TV: I would like to ask you about the concerns of citizens and their anxiety over these issues. Earlier in the speech, you mentioned we should be proud of Japan’s historical pacifism. You also referred to the contributions to world peace by the Self Defense Force.

After the formation of the Self Defense Force, no member of the SDF died in armed conflict and the SDF did not use even a single bullet in armed combat. I think that the SDF gained both domestic support and international support due to this. I think there is concern among citizens that if the peace and security laws are adopted, then peaceful and unarmed activities by the SDF will begin to involve the use of armaments to accomplish its missions, and not just for self-defense. I think there is concern among citizens that the legislation will create more risk.

Prime Minister Abe:

I mentioned this earlier, but  let me elaborate on the importance of Self Defense Force’s practice of Kaketsuke Keigo while they are engaged in PKO activities. [Kaketsuke Keigo is a commonly used phrase that indicates that if the SDF is engaged in PKO activities and foreign military officials or civilians (like NGO workers) are endangered, then the SDF will “kaketsuke” (run fast) to the location and offer “keigo” (armed assistance).]

For example, imagine that there are NGO workers providing medical services for local children, and then they faced a threat and asked the SDF to come to save them. In a situation like this, do you think it is okay that the SDF is not equipped with enough armaments to assist?

SDF members are doing training on a regular basis to protect Japanese citizens’ lives.  Members of the SDF are doing a lot of hard training to carry out these duties. I believe that they will continue to carry out such duties in the same way [after the legislations are enacted].

And, members of the Self Defense Force have assumed dangerous missions. There may be those who think that there has been no member of the SDF who has died in the line of duty. However, since the formation of the SDF, approximately 1,800 servicemembers have died carrying out various missions.

I participated in memorial services for SDF members who died in the line of duty, and I have met bereaved families. I would like to have a situation where no member of the SDF dies fulfilling their duties. I think the fewer casualties, the better. I would like you to understand that even rescue activities after natural disasters include dangerous duties.

However, like I said earlier, when the SDF engages in its missions, it is common sense for us to ensure their safety. In the proposed legislation, we made it clear that even in situations where the SDF conducts logistical support, they should not operate in locations where the safety of service members cannot not guaranteed. If danger should arise in any situation, they should stop their work or evacuate.

Also, Self Defense Force personnel have joined the service voluntarily, and have taken a vow to accomplish their duties in spite of any danger that they may face. They work professionally  with pride.

Yomiuri Shimbun (newspaper): With respect to the need to enact new security legislation, the Prime Minister always says, “day by day, the international situation surrounding Japan is getting more and more challenging.”

What kind of the situation constitutes “the international situation becoming increasingly challenging? “ Why do you think you need to make such thorough preparations?  Do you think that the bills adopted by the Cabinet today contain all factors necessary to make thorough preparations for the future?

Abe: As I mentioned earlier, the security situation surrounding Japan is increasingly becoming challenging. For example, North Korea’s ballistic missiles are putting most of Japanese territory in range, and the current reality is that it is difficult to predict North Korea’s actions.

Moreover, unfortunately many Japanese people are becoming casualties of terrorism. Today, threats cross borders easily, and it is necessary to make preparations “without leaving cuts”.

And then, it is important to make a thorough legal framework covering all imaginable security issues without any leaving out any potential situations. To that end, Japan and the US are connected by the Japan-US Security Treaty. This solid alliance means deterrence, in other words, it undoubtedly helps prevent such situations from happening.

If people think that there are gaps in the Japan-US alliance, then they might think that the cooperation between Japan and the US does not work adequately, that the Japan-US relationship is rocky, that 1 plus 1 does not equal 2. If they think like this, the risk of being attacked will increase. That is to say, this is a possibility due to instability in the region.

We need to work proactively to put down these possibilities in order to protect citizens’ lives and their happy way of life. In this sense, when we work on making a legal framework, we need to create thorough laws that cover all areas of security ranging from allowing the use of the collective right to self-defense under strict conditions and the laws applies to grey zones.

As the result of creation of a thorough legal framework on security, I think that the risk of Japan being involved in armed conflicts, the risk that Japan will be attacked, and the risk of danger to Japanese citizens will all decrease.

TV Tokyo: I would like to ask you about military expenditures. Due to the changes in the security services, military expenditures have increased year by year during the Abe administration. What do you think about the changes in military expenditures that could be brought about due to the creation of security laws? Moreover, what do you think about the increase in military expenditures as you carry out fiscal reconstruction?

Abe: For the last 11 years or so, Japan has decreased its defense expenditures. At the same time, the security environment around Japan has become increasingly challenging. What are military expenditures for? They are used in order to protect the lives of Japanese citizens as well as our happy way of life. Like I said previously, if a country prepares itself thoroughly, then others will be deterred from attacking Japan.

For this reason, my administration has increased defense expenditure for the first time in 11 years. Moreover, even if we say that we have increased the military budget, it is mostly due to the increase in the consumption tax. If we adjust for the effect of the increase in the consumption tax on the military budget, then military expenditure increased by only 0.8%.

At the end of 2013, the cabinet approved a decision on the National Defense Program Guidelines [a ten-year budget] and the Midterm Defense Build-Up Program [a five-year budget]. In the Midterm Defense Build-Up Program, we clearly wrote the total amount of defense expenditures for the next five years, and then approved it as a cabinet. Therefore, I want to make it clear that the defense budget will not increase due to this legislation.

I assume that those of you who are knowledgeable about defense expenditures know this very well. We decide the total amount of defense expenditures for the next five years in the Midterm Defense Build-Up Program. In this budget, we plan to buy the things that we need to protect ourselves. This will not change. It was already decided two years ago.

During my first administration [between September 2006 and August 2007], I promoted the Defense Agency to cabinet-level by creating the the Ministry of Defense. When I did that, the same question was raised: “if you make the Defense Agency a ministry, then the defense expenditures will increase, right?” What was the result? Even after the Ministry of Defense was created, military expenditures continued to decrease. In this way, I think we need to strive to economize on military expenditures, regardless of changes in the defense policy.

( End of the press conference)

(Source: Nippon Channel)

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