"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2015 Fleet Review of the Japan Self-Defense Forces

[Date] October 18, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

As the Commander-in-Chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF), I am deeply reassured and impressed with the magnificent fleets, the orderly soaring of aircraft, and the valor of the highly-skilled members of the SDF at today's Fleet Review.

Japan is surrounded by seas, lives for the seas, and considers the safety of the seas as its own safety. We bear a responsibility as "a country that protects the free and peaceful seas." You are performing this noble duty admirably.

I am struck by the valiant posture of the "defenders of the seas," who are undaunted by the large waves and have unparalleled accuracy, in the middle of these vast seas.

All of you have continually contributed to protecting the peace of Japan, without fearing the rough seas, by overcoming turbulence, and with single-mindedness, even when caked in mud. You all chose to pursue this challenging duty at your own will and to become SDF personnel, and you are the pride of Japan.

This summer, August 15 marked the 70th anniversary since the end of World War II.

Over the past 70 years, Japan has persistently followed the path of a peace-loving nation. This would not have been possible without the SDF. In the face of a changing international situation, our forebears established the SDF to secure peace, out of love for peace.

Regrettably, your senior colleagues were subject to many heartless criticisms. There was even a debate about the SDF's existence being unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, your senior colleagues withstood these criticisms, and steadfastly performed their duties to ensure Japan's survival and protect its people. The peace we enjoy today was secured through their untiring efforts.

You were always there at the scene of successive natural disasters.

When heavy rain struck the Kanto and Tohoku areas last month, helicopter units carried out rescue operations in earnest. Regardless of the dangers, SDF personnel jumped into turbid waters to rescue those who failed to escape in time. These scenes are vividly etched into the minds of many Japanese people.

The SDF has been dispatched for disaster relief nearly 40,000 times in response to heavy snowfall, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

As a result, the people of Japan today have unwavering trust in the SDF. With the confidence of the people in you, I ask that you continue to commit yourself to a range of duties.

There is another August 15 that we must not forget.


16 years ago on August 15, the sound of the scramble siren rang out, breaking the pre-dawn silence at Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Lt. Col. Akihiro Kinja and Maj. Masatsune Moriyama scrambled F-4 fighters to intercept a foreign unidentified aircraft that was approaching Japanese airspace.

Despite being high in the sky, close to the aircraft's climbing limits and amidst crashing thunderstorms, they felt no fear.

"Target found." With the strong determination not to permit intrusions into Japanese airspace, the two pilots expertly drove this unidentified aircraft away from Japanese airspace and protected the sovereignty of Japan.

However, immediately afterwards, communication was suddenly lost. The two never returned to the base.

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

Adhering word for word to their oath of service, Lt. Col. Kinja and Maj. Moriyama demonstrated to us their powerful sense of mission and responsibility as SDF personnel, at the risk of their own lives.

Your firm presence in the Asia-Pacific region, along with the United States and other democratic nations that share the same values, brought victory in the Cold War and secured peace in Japan. The facts of history attest to this.

Every time I stand before you, these words come to my mind: "Pine trees remain green, even in the snow." Even as snow falls and starts to pile up, pine trees retain their green leaves and stand up tall, impervious to the cold. This saying gives praise to those who face up to whatever difficulties they encounter with strong conviction.

Just simply, persisting to serve the people of Japan, SDF personnel perform their duties 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of whatever large risks they may face. I once again express my deep respect to you for your noble determination.

I hope that you will remain undeterred by any hardship, that you will continue to endure any rigorous duty with the same perseverance as a pine tree, and that you will always stand with the people and give them a sense of security and courage.

The coast of Somalia in Africa is a great distance away. The Gulf of Aden, a major artery of the sea, used to be very dangerous waters where pirate attacks occurred over 200 times a year. A Japanese captain of a ship transiting these waters said to his crew and their families who were concerned about pirates: "We are safe because the Maritime SDF will protect us. We have nothing to worry about." This year, the number of pirate attacks finally reached zero. This is the result of your dedicated efforts and is a major achievement for which you can stand proudly before the world.

In addition, for the first time in postwar history, a member of the SDF has become commander of a multinational force. This is, above all, a testament to the fact that the SDF's operations to date have earned international praise and trust.

President Aquino III of the Philippines delivered a speech at the Diet when he visited Japan recently, and stated as follows: "The battleship Ise once journeyed to our waters to participate in the largest naval battle of the modern era; [in the aftermath of a typhoon two years ago], a ship bearing the same name brought relief, compassion, and solidarity to a people devastated by natural disaster."

The international cooperation provided thus far by the SDF has made, unmistakably, a significant contribution to the peace and stability of the world. It is deeply appreciated. The world is depending on your abilities.

I hope that you will take much pride in this fact and embrace an even greater role.

Taking part in today's Fleet Review are vessels from Australia, France, India, the Republic of Korea and the United States. I would like to thank all crew members for coming all this way to participate.

In addition, today, U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan made an appearance during its participation in a Japan-U.S. joint exercise. USS Ronald Reagan is our "Tomodachi" (friend) that rushed to the devastated areas in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Starting this month, the carrier will once again protect Japan, based at its home port in Yokosuka. Thank you, and welcome to Japan. We welcome you from our hearts.

Japan, hand in hand with your home countries and the international community, is fully committed to protecting the "free and peaceful seas." Japan is determined to make an even greater contribution to global peace and prosperity, hoisting high the banner of "Proactive Contribution to Peace."

Peace is not something that is given to us by others; peace is won with our own hands.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reflected on how Europe ended up entering into World War II, despite making a number of easy appeasements through the Munich Conference and other opportunities. He writes, "At first when all was easy and later when things were harder." He regretted that "There never was a war more easy to stop."

We must always do our best to never again repeat the tragedy of war. We must pay close attention to the changes in the international situation and assess what measures are necessary for self-defense. We must increase deterrence perpetually and make even more certain our pledge never to wage war.

This is the large responsibility that we must bear.

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming ever more severe. Threats will easily transcend national borders, whether we like it or not. We live in a time in which no single nation can address these issues alone.

Even in such times, I will resolutely secure the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the Japanese people. The recently passed Legislation for Peace and Security will serve as the legal foundation for this. Additionally, I will further strengthen Japan's proactive peace diplomacy.

I ask that you perform additional duties in order to pass on a peaceful Japan that is free of war to our children and to their children. I stand here, determined to make every effort together with all of you.

As Commander-in-Chief, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the families, for sending your precious loved ones, children and family members to serve as SDF personnel. It is because they have your support that they can give their all to secure the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the Japanese people. I would like to extend to you my heartfelt gratitude. I pledge once again to take all possible means to enable them to execute their duties with care.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone concerned, including those of you here today, for your day to day understanding and cooperation with the SDF.

Without a doubt, raging seas will continue to await you. However, standing right behind you are the Japanese people who will always trust and rely on you.

The people of Japan and I stand as one with the 250,000 members of the SDF nationwide. I hope that this serves as a source of pride and confidence for you, and that you fulfill your duties as SDF personnel in your respective capacities. I have great faith in you all.

October 18, 2015

Shinzo Abe

Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Forces

Prime Minister of Japan