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Home >  News >  Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister >  October 2016 >  Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2016 Troop Review for the Anniversary of the Establishment of the Self-Defense Forces

Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2016 Troop Review for the Anniversary of the Establishment of the Self-Defense Forces

October 23, 2016

[Provisional Translation]

We are gathering here today, just like three years ago. I am very pleased to have another opportunity to conduct the Troop Review here in Asaka and interact with valiant members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). In the face of exceptionally reliable members of the SDF, I would like to buckle up and renew my determination as your Commander-in-Chief.

To begin, I would like to share with you one message.

“We could never be more thankful for the member of SDF.”

This is what the mayor of the town hit by Typhoon No.10 told me, when I visited Hokkaido last month.

As the typhoon damaged the water systems and the water supply remained cut off, local residents were struggling with difficult living conditions at the peak of fatigue. It is amidst these circumstances that the SDF began to provide water and bathing facilities. Smiles returned to the faces of the townspeople as they took a warm bath. “More than anything else, we really wish to convey our feeling of gratitude to SDF members.” This is what all the townspeople told the mayor.

At the scene of natural disasters such as the Kumamoto Earthquake and a series of heavy rains, you, as members of the SDF, are always there. I believe you indeed brought a ray of hope for those who were affected by the disaster and perturbed about uncertainties.

Many SDF members were also afflicted by the Kumamoto Earthquake, and some of their family members were forced to stay at evacuation centers. Even in such times, you immediately came to the affected areas, sparing no effort all for the sake of the Japanese people. Confronting danger, you labored through the night performing intense search and rescue activities. You gave reassurance to insecure disaster victims, and directed your utmost efforts to supporting their daily lives.

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

This is what I stated at this same stage three years ago; and today, I am very pleased with our SDF members who have truly lived up to and carried out this wonderful ideal that has been firmly maintained since the establishment of the SDF.

I am genuinely proud of you for earning the unwavering trust of the Japanese people.

The world is also relying on and has high expectations of the SDF. The history of international contributions by the SDF goes back more than 20 years, starting with the Cambodia Peacekeeping Operation (PKO).

Right now, SDF members are serving in scorching-hot Africa, 11,000 kilometers away from Japan, to support South Sudan’s independence. More than 60 countries from around the world, including those from Africa, Europe, and North and South America, as well as island countries in the South Pacific, are participating in United Nations PKO activities together with Japan’s SDF.

In Juba, South Sudan’s capital, Cambodian troops are working with the SDF, too. I heard a story about a young female member of the Cambodian troops. She talked to an SDF member.

“Japan supported our country about 20 years ago.”

This troop member was just a little girl in the early 1990s when Cambodia started moving along the path to peace under a UN PKO mission after struggling with a civil war. She continued,

“We are now proudly giving forward to the people of South Sudan what Japan once gave to us. I am pleased that we can show the Japanese people that Cambodia grew up so much to join in an African PKO mission today.”

The “seeds of peace” that Japan’s SDF planted in the Cambodian soil 20 years ago have borne fruit, and the next “seeds of peace” are being sowed in the distant soil of Africa.

South Sudan, the newborn, world’s youngest country, is the 193rd and newest member of the United Nations.

Local children always gather around SDF members working to build roads near Juba. These children watch the SDF activities and wave with the brightest smiles on their faces. They will undoubtedly become the driving force for blazing a trail toward a peaceful future in South Sudan. I hope that someday they will work for the cause of global peace and prosperity, just like the young girl from Cambodia.

I would like to express my heartfelt respect to our SDF members. With a strongly determined will to plant the “seeds of peace,” they are impressively carrying out precarious missions around the world that can only be accomplished by the SDF. I hope that you will continue to hold high the banner of “proactive contribution to peace” and play an active role on the global stage. I have high hopes for you.

Japan has wholeheartedly pursued the path of a peaceful nation since the end of the World War II, and it will firmly hold this course.

Japan needs to cooperate with the international community to reinforce the path it has taken as a peaceful nation, in this age of dramatic changes in international situations. Japan’s legislation for peace and security mirrors our resolve to that end.

North Korea has conducted nuclear tests and launched a series of ballistic missiles. In the security environment surrounding Japan, we have witnessed fast-paced changes over the past year.

The legislation for peace and security enables Japan to work more closely with the US in order to protect Japan, especially in light of these situations. The bonds of our alliance have been further reinforced.

President Barack Obama of the United States articulated, “Japan and the United States can now work together even more closely.”

The new legislation has been welcomed not only by the United States. Others from around the world have expressed their support and high praise for Japan’s legislation for peace and security. Japan has received strong support from the Philippines and Southeast Asian countries, which were battlegrounds in the last world war, Australia, India, European countries, ASEAN, and the EU.

Support from other countries attests to the nature of the new legislation, designed to protect Japan’s peace and security, and also contribute to global peace, security, and prosperity.

This legislation assigns new roles to you. These roles are aimed at ensuring this precious peace is maintained and passed along to the next generation.

I hope that you will always keep in mind such a responsibility of yours, and build a robust SDF as a guardian of this invaluable peace.

At this very moment, SDF members stationed at nationwide radar sites are directing their unblinking stares to the skies. There are pilots who are fully prepared to soar up to the stratosphere without any hesitation at the time of scrambles in order to track planes of unknown origin.

Members of the FAST-Force, a front-line force, hold their readiness posture at any time to immediately head to the location of Japanese citizens in need of help.

On the seas, our Aegis vessels are constantly on the alert at the forefront. Our crew members endure the rough waves of the Sea of Japan and extremely tense circumstances while maintaining top-level readiness to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles.

What a mission on the seas means to crews is many months that they have to spend away from one’s family. Some members on missions had to leave behind pregnant wives, and pray for the wellbeing of their families and the growth and health of their still unseen child.

The SDF is always active – 24 hours a day and 365 days a year – and does not sleep. It resolutely protects Japan’s territorial land, seas, and airspace. I would like to take this occasion to express my heartfelt appreciation to our SDF members for steadfastly performing these difficult missions with strong resolve in a harsh security environment.

Five days ago, a Maritime SDF member ended his 31-year service for SDF. During the entirety of his career, he served on Aegis ships.

His son, a second year high-school student, once rebelled against his father. He said: “My dad was almost never home. When he was around, I just found him to be a couch-potato.”

His shipmates invited the son to a farewell gathering they held this month. The son saw pictures of his father in uniform from his younger days, deeply engaged in his work with a serious expression on his face, which his son had never seen at home. He also heard numerous stories from his father’s shipmates about the important role his father played on the frontline of missile defense and the respect he garnered from many younger members.

At the end of the farewell party, the son held the microphone and made the following comment. “I have never felt as proud of my father as I do today.” He also added, “I would like to become a venerable SDF member like my father.”

Many families of SDF members are with us here today. Please cherish this very moment to feel a great sense of pride in these SDF members.

It is for their presence that Japan now enjoys peace and prosperity. It is undoubtedly their devoted efforts that underpin the lives and peaceful daily lives of the Japanese people. SDF members carry out this noble mission with an awareness of their duty as well as responsibility, and make the Japanese people proud.

To all of the families of SDF members, as Commander-in-Chief, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for letting your precious loved ones, children, and family members serve in the SDF. Only with your support can the SDF members dedicate their utmost efforts to protect the Japanese people and their peaceful daily lives. Thank you very much. I would like to renew a promise to expend our every possible effort so that the SDF members can put all their efforts into performing their missions.

Members of the SDF,

The Japanese people and I will always stand united with you and all 250,000 members of the SDF nationwide. Please carry out your roles as SDF members in your respective posts with pride and confidence.

To conclude, I would like to extend my sincere hope that you will always take note of the importance of your duties, and work with ever greater diligence, to secure the peace and stability in Japan and the world. Thank you.

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