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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces 60th Anniversary Air Review

Sunday, October 26, 2014

[Provisional translation]


Today, on the occasion of this Air Review commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), I feel reassured and confident, as the reviewer and as the Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Forces, to witness the valor of the highly-skilled members of the SDF.

Two years after Japan’s sovereignty was restored, when people throughout the country were passionate to reconstruct the nation, the Japan Defense Agency and the SDF came into being.  On the day they were founded, Minister Tokutaro Kimura, the first State Minister for Defense, conveyed this thought to your predecessors: “The Self-Defense Forces, who serve the Japanese people.”

Sixty years have passed since then.  Japan has earnestly built up a peaceful and democratic nation.  And all throughout that time, the SDF has always been together with the Japanese people.

The SDF defends the skies over Japan 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from Miyakojima in the south, 2,000 km distant, to Wakkanai in the north, where temperatures drop down to as low as minus 10 degrees in winter.  Moreover, at this very moment, SDF personnel are high up in the deep blue skies, continuing with their warning and surveillance activities and engaging in scramble missions.

Far off on the sea, undaunted by raging waves, we have SDF members defending the vast waters of Japan.

The SDF has been dispatched for disaster relief more than 30,000 times.  Regardless of the dangers, SDF personnel strenuously conducted rescue operations, covered with mud in Hiroshima and buried in ash up to their knees on Mt. Ontake.  Their figures are vividly seared into the minds of the Japanese people.

“The Self-Defense Forces, who serve the Japanese people.”  Over these 60 years, Minister Kimura’s wish has become what the SDF is today.  That is not my personal feeling; it is what the Japanese people feel.

It also represents proof of the people’s strong support for the SDF that the Japan Defense Agency transitioned to the Ministry of Defense with the approval of over 90 per cent of Diet members.

As Commander-in-Chief, I would like to express my profound respect for the untiring efforts made by you and your predecessors over these 60 years.

I also would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the distinguished guests in attendance today and all the others who support the activities of the Ministry of Defense and the SDF.

Reflecting on these 60 years, we find that the SDF has responded to changes in the times and expanded its role flexibly, acting hand in hand with the international community.

Participating in the removal operations of underwater mines from Persian Gulf, our minesweeping units showed their high morale and capabilities to the world for the first time in the postwar period.

In response to increasing regional conflicts after the Cold War, a total of 50,000 SDF personnel have dedicated themselves to international peace activities on the front lines, starting first in Cambodia, then in the Golan Heights, Timor-Leste, Haiti, South Sudan, and so on.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Japan became engaged in the “fight against terrorism” together with the international community, for which the SDF conducted humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq.  In the Gulf of Aden, a major sea artery, the SDF has demonstrated a high degree of competence in counter-piracy, and now ships from around the world rely on the SDF.

Even as the international environment changes dramatically, the unwavering sense of mission and dedicated efforts of you, the members of the SDF, have kept the peace of Japan and contributed to world peace.  There is no doubt about that at all.

At the same time, however, the world refuses to stand still. This is another undeniable fact.

The world faces the threats of weapons of mass destruction such as ballistic missiles, and cyber terrorism.  Whether we wish it or not, the international situation is continually undergoing drastic changes.

That is precisely why I am now standing at the vanguard to work on a further reshaping of the security landscape.

The National Security Council, which was established as the control tower for this, is supported by your advanced knowledge and rich experiences.

Last year, Japan formulated its first National Security Strategy under which the new National Defense Program Guidelines was approved by the Cabinet.  The three services of the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces must work together to meet what the Japanese people need us for.

In order to enhance the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements, we are promoting the revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and extensive cooperation in various fields, including joint exercises.  We will at the same time devote our utmost efforts to mitigating the impact of military bases on local communities in Okinawa and elsewhere.

Moreover, we will develop seamless, new security legislation that covers situations ranging from so-called “gray zone” matters to those concerning the exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

All of these measures are for the purpose of securing the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people.  That is the only purpose for doing them.

“In case of emergency, I would strive to complete duties, which might put myself in danger, as entrusted by the nation.”

Engraving the importance of your oath of service in my mind, as Commander-in-Chief, I am determined to continue to defend together with you under any circumstances the lives and property of the Japanese people and our territorial land, sea, and airspace.

The path as a peace-loving nation that Japan has followed over 60 years since World War II will never, ever change.  The principle of a peace-loving nation set forth in the Constitution of Japan is something we should be proud of within the international community.

However, this must not be an inward-focused “one-country pacifism.”  The interdependence of the world is becoming deeper still, and we face an increasing risk that a regional crisis turns out affecting the entire world.

In this era, a country concentrating only on its own issues cannot be regarded as a country which is truly pursuing peace.

Now is the time for Japan to hoist the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” and play an even greater role in fostering world peace and stability. I firmly believe that therein lies a path that is more suited to the principle of a peace-loving nation set forth in the Constitution of Japan.

Moreover, this “Proactive Contribution to Peace” cannot be executed without the presence of you, the members of the SDF, who receive the world’s respect for your high degree of morale and capabilities.

We hold great expectations for your further contributions.

Currently we have nine female SDF personnel in the peacekeeping operation in South Sudan. Female power has become a new source of energy for the SDF. This is a great change from 60 years ago.

Last year Japan saw the appointment of our first female commanding naval officers.  There must also surely be many family members eagerly awaiting their return from their long voyages.

And yet, I hear that the first person to congratulate Commander Otani upon her becoming the commanding officer of the JS Shimayuki was her nine-year-old daughter.

I strongly believe that the SDF is not complete without the support of their families.

There is no question that it is precisely because of the kind support of family members that the SDF personnel here today are able to carry out their duties commendably and perform to the very best of their abilities.

Many family members are also here with us today.

I, as Commander-in-Chief, would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for sending off your beloved spouses, children and family members as SDF members. Thank you so much.

I hereby pledge once more that we will engage in all possible means to ensure that the SDF members are able to execute their duties properly.

Three Maritime Self-Defense Force ships including the JS Setoyuki, commanded by the other first-ever female commanding naval officer, Commander Azuma, returned to Tokyo’s Harumi port the day before yesterday, completing a five-month high-sea voyage.

During this mission, the ships visited the Solomon Islands to bring back the remains of Japanese people who lost their lives there during World War II.  There are still a number of remains far away in foreign lands.  I wish from the bottom of my heart for their return to their homeland at the earliest opportunity.  Living in this time, that is our duty.

Recently, in Papua New Guinea, I myself had the opportunity to visit Wewak, the site of a fierce World War II battle, where I joined my hands in prayer for the souls of more than 120,000 Japanese soldiers who perished there.

The peace we enjoy today rests atop the ultimate sacrifice of those who lost their lives in foreign lands far away, thinking of their homeland and wishing for their families’ happiness.  Giving thought to this, I felt once again determined.

We, living in the present day, have a tremendous responsibility to hand this precious peace down to future generations and we must continue to make our utmost efforts to do so.

Japanese has an expression, “You should continue to polish a gem even after it’s flawless.”

For the sake of the nation and the Japanese people, we must continue our efforts unceasingly, aiming at greater heights.  I want you to make your utmost efforts in performing all types of duties, while staying conscious of your own mission and maintaining high degree of discipline and vigilance.

As I conclude my address, I would like to envisage the Japan of 60 years into the future.

It is a Japan that is peaceful and filled with the smiles of children. 

And it is a Japan that contributes to world peace and receives the respect of countries around the world.

I truly believe that our posterity will also be carving out a new age through their own efforts.

And I am convinced that you, the members of the SDF, will always stay together with the Japanese people at that time as well.

“The Self-Defense Forces, who serve the Japanese people.” 

And furthermore, “The Self-Defense Forces, who put the policy of a peace-loving nation into practice around the world.”

All the people of Japan, and the international community, place their trust in you and rely on you greatly.

I ask you to take a powerful step forward towards the next 60 years to come, taking pride in that fact.

I will conclude my address with my sincere hope that today’s 60th Anniversary Air Review serves as a new starting point for that step.

Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan

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