Sunday’s NHK “Nichiyo Toron” carried one-on-one interviews with several members of the new Abe cabinet, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and Defense Minister Iwaya. Asked about the status of U.S.-Japan relations, Suga said while the two sides had “heated discussions” on trade and other issues during the recent summit in New York, Japan was pleased that a joint statement was adopted in a manner that is satisfactory to it. He emphasized that the two allies will continue to coordinate closely based on strong mutual trust so as to preserve global peace and stability. Asked about the recent election of an anti-base governor in Okinawa, the top government spokesman vowed to move forward with the existing plan to build the FRF off Camp Schwab since it is the only way to close MCAS Futenma, which he explained is the “most dangerous airport in the world.” The politician also explained that some 9,000 of the 28,000 U.S. military personnel in Okinawa will be moved from Okinawa to Guam and other locations abroad when the FRF construction is complete.
Defense Minister Iwaya separately voiced his resolve to implement the present Futenma relocation initiative. On the ministry’s plan to update the National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of this year, the new defense chief noted that the nation’s defense hardware and systems will be upgraded so that the SDF will be able to better deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, China’s aggressive operations at sea, and the ongoing threat of international terrorism and cyberattacks. While admitting that the procurement of extremely expensive equipment, such as F-35s and Aegis warships under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) arrangement with the United States is the main reason for the steady increase in the nation’s defense spending, Iwaya underscored that his ministry will look into various ways to procure the necessary defense equipment in a less costly manner.