Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, December 1, 2021, 3:48 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-U.S. Exchange Project
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I first have one announcement.
I would like to inform you about the Japan-U.S. exchange project utilizing facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan, which I have introduced several times in the past.
Since FY2020, MOFA and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have been jointly implementing an exchange project for local junior high and high school students as well as children of U.S. Forces members in local areas where there are facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan.
This time, it was decided to hold the fourth program of this fiscal year in Misawa City. To give an introduction for your reference, the first program was held on October 2 and 3 in Iwakuni City, the second was held on October 23 and 24 in Sasebo City, and the third was held on November 6 and 7 in Iwakuni City.
The participants in the exchange project will take thorough countermeasures against the novel coronavirus, including wearing masks, completely conducting disinfection, and avoiding closed, crowded, and close-contact settings. They will mainly have exchanges in English with the children of U.S. Forces members, utilizing schools in the facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan.
The recent exchange project in Iwakuni City received major coverage in the local newspaper. We heard voices saying that they had a fun experience while exchanges are decreasing due to the novel coronavirus crisis. They created a mascot character for Japan-U.S. friendship and Japanese children give presentations in English.
MOFA expects that this exchange project will not only contribute to promoting mutual understanding between the U.S. Forces in Japan and the local community but also lead to developing human resources that will be active in the international community in the future. That is all from me for my opening remarks.
Dropping of Fuel Tanks by an Aircraft from the U.S. Air Force’s Misawa Air Base
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to ask about the dropping of fuel tanks by the F-16 from the U.S. Forces’ Misawa Air Base that occurred in Aomori Prefecture last night.
At the senior officials’ meeting of the Ministry of Defense (MOD) this morning, it was announced that Defense Minister Kishi gave instructions to request the U.S. Forces to suspend flights of F-16s. Does MOFA plan to lodge a protest or the like to the U.S. side?
Press Secretary Yoshida: As you stated in your question, I am aware that on November 30 yesterday, an F-16 fighter from the U.S. Air Force’s Misawa Air Base made an emergency landing at Aomori Airport due to midflight trouble, and dropped two fuel tanks in the process to prepare for the landing.
At this point, there is no information on the occurrence of damage. However, items falling from aircraft could lead to serious accidents. MOFA lodged a protest to the U.S. side conveying that this was regrettable and requesting further provision of information on the cause of the incident and measures to prevent a recurrence.
Ensuring the safety of U.S. aircraft aviation is the major premise for the stationing in Japan of the U.S. Forces. We believe that there must not be anything that would be a concern to the local people.
The Government of Japan believes that fully ensuring the safety of U.S. aircraft aviation in Japan is something that should be naturally expected. We have been lodging protests repeatedly through now and will continue to strongly urge the U.S. side given this incident.
Concerning the suspension of aviation which you asked about, I believe that we will decide on what to do by having the ministries and agencies concerned discuss and fully consider the incident as well as our response. We will request the U.S. side for a response if necessary.
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to ask a follow-up question. Today, the head of the Tohoku Defense Bureau went to the affected area and stated that he wanted to give compensation if necessary. I believe that Japan bore about 25% of the cost following the dropping of fuel tanks in the previous incident in 2018, based on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the governments of Japan and the United States. Will Japan also bear some of the cost of compensation this time as well based on the SOFA?
Press Secretary Yoshida: We have not reached a decision or outcome at this point regarding the issue you asked about. I believe we will make a timely, appropriate response after coordinating with the MOD if necessary.
Announcement of the Global Posture Review (GRP) by the U.S. Military
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to change the subject. The United States recently announced its GRP. There is evaluation pointing out a clear shift to the Indo-Pacific region. Please tell us MOFA’s view.
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware that on November 29 U.S. eastern time, or November 30 Japan time, the Government of the United States announced its GRP as you’ve mentioned, that assesses the U.S. military’s posture in areas around the world and indicates guidelines for the future posture of the U.S. military.
We believe that the GRP this time clearly indicates the U.S. posture of even further strengthening the U.S. military’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and contributing to deterring China and North Korea by steadily strengthening the U.S. military’s response and deterrence capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region while closely cooperating with allies and partners.
The Government of Japan appreciates the United States’ policy of further contributing to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. As the security environment surrounding Japan and the region grows increasingly severe, we will continue to closely cooperate with the United States to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.