Address by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the 2011 Air Review
Sunday, October 16, 2011
As Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF), I am delighted to attend the 2011 Air Review and directly observe the sense of mission you all hold toward your work, as well as your orderly and highly exuberant behavior.
I myself am the son of a member of the SDF. I have seen SDF personnel, training day in and day out in preparation for every possible contingency many a time. I have watched so many SDF personnel make a contribution on the front lines of a great variety of activities. I have always felt that the SDF are the pride of Japan. Watching the slightest details of your every move today, I have firmly renewed my respect for the SDF and my faith in all of you.
The SDF began as the National Police Reserve before becoming the National Safety Force and finally the current organization. Over the years, the SDF have carried out remarkable missions to protect the peace, independence and safety of Japan. The most essential mission among these is that of protecting the lives of the Japanese public. The SDF's true value was called into question when you were asked to respond to the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11.
That true value having been questioned, you responded by making great use of your training up until now, exerting intense effort with courage and sincerity. Coming together in a force of over 100,000, you gave your all to supporting the area affected by the disaster. I am confident that these actions led those in the affected areas and throughout Japan to feel a renewed trust in the SDF.
While the size of the force at that time was 100,000, I believe it was the high fortitude and sincerity of each individual SDF member that really made the operation possible.
When the tsunami struck Japan, threatening the lives of so many, it was the SDF who showed up first to save the public. You rescued more than 19,000 people. You were the ones who achieved this.
And it was you who showed up first for those awaiting rescue in the harsh cold, fearing the possibility of added aftershocks. It was you who supported the public by offering them food, water, blankets and baths. You were the ones who made this warm support possible.
You were the ones who literally risked your lives after the nuclear accident, carrying out the orders given to you by dropping water from helicopters and spraying it from fire trucks. You stood at the front lines for decontamination operations to deal with spreading radiation and for operations to support and guide evacuees.
There is one episode which I shall never forget. A six-year-old boy had gone missing, and his mother asked members of the SDF to search for him. She requested that a complete search be done beneath the remains of her house, which had been washed away in the tsunami. Members of the SDF tried hard to answer this request. They risked their lives searching through the mud around her home, but they could not find her son. However, they did find an Ultraman figurine, the favorite toy of this six-year-old. Handing this figurine to the mother, I have heard that she left the scene wiping the mud off of it over and over, thanking them countless times. I believe that it is actions like these that have communicated the sincerity of the SDF to the people.
There have been many natural disasters aside from the earthquake this year, such as torrential rains. During that disaster as well, you were the first to rescue and support the people of the affected areas. There has never been a time when the public's expectations and trust of the SDF have been higher.
I apologize for saying this from a podium, but I want to say thank you again. You are the pride of Japan. I thank those of you who worked so hard on the front lines and those of you who supported operations from behind the scenes.
Natural disasters are not Japan's only concern. In an emergency, the SDF must resolutely protect our country.
Uncertainty regarding our security situation continues to grow due to the repeated provocative behaviors taunts of North Korea as well as the growing military force and repeated and frequent maritime activities of China in the seas around Japan.
This is the backdrop to the new National Defense Program Guidelines approved at a Cabinet meeting in December of last year. The most urgent issue of these Guidelines is the creation of a dynamic defense force prioritizing rapid and mobile action. To this end, I ask you to exert further efforts.
Of course, while Japan must protect itself by its own power, we must also ceaselessly continue diplomatic efforts.
The Japan-US Alliance is the foundation of Japan's foreign policy and security. Operation Tomodachi and other activities following the earthquake have made us realize this once again. Never before have we so strongly felt the deep bonds that exist between us and the United States.
In order to construct a Japan-US relationship appropriate to the 21st century, it is vital that we strengthen cooperation in the field among the SDF and US forces.
In addition to the assistance from the US, we received support from over 160 countries and 40 international organizations following the Great East Japan Earthquake. At the General Assembly of the United Nations some time ago, I expressed our gratitude and communicated to the world our resolve to return the favors we received.
Part of efforts to do this will be international peace cooperation activities. Among other places, the SDF has accumulated numerous achievements in Haiti, Timor Leste, the Golan Heights, the waters off the Coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. We are now in the final stages of a study into whether we can contribute to the situation in South Sudan. In order to become respected by the international community we must further engage in these kinds of activities.
In closing, I want to bring up one of the classics of Chinese literature,The Methods of Sima. In this tome is the sentence, "Even if the world is at peace, you forget war at your own risk." Even in times of peace, we must not forget the importance of preparing for every contingency. We must take this firmly to heart.
As I said earlier, while you are making preparations to this end, you do so during a time in which the people feel higher expectations and trust toward the SDF than ever before. At a time like this, I feel I must share with you the importance of keeping your guard up and continuing your work to carry out your remarkable missions. I want to conclude my address by expressing my high expectations that you will exert greater effort on a daily basis for the thorough protection of Japan, and its people.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda