Japan’s New Defense Chief Kihara Visits Kumamoto, Emphasizing Importance of Kyushu, Okinawa

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara addresses members of Camp Kengun in Kumamoto on Saturday.

KUMAMOTO — Defense Minister Minoru Kihara on Saturday visited Camp Kengun in Kumamoto for his first inspection of Self-Defense Forces units after taking office, indicating the importance he places on the security of Kyushu and Okinawa Prefecture.

“The Western Army based at the camp is a headquarters for Kyushu and Okinawa, which are extremely important regions,” Kihara said at a press conference after the inspection. “I wanted to visit this place as soon as possible.”

After paying respects to the 10 members of the camp who died in a helicopter crash off Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture, in April, Kihara addressed about 780 members of the camp, asking them to work hard on their duties with a strong sense of mission.

“We must urgently strengthen the defense system in the Nansei region, including Okinawa. Camp Kengun has an even heavier responsibility,” he said in the address.

Kihara also visited the Ground Self-Defense Forces’ Vice-Camp Takayubaru in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, where the crashed UH-60JA multipurpose helicopter was stationed, and GSDF Camp Kita-Kumamoto. Lt. Gen. Yuichi Sakamoto, who died in the accident, served as the division commander of the GSDF’s 8th Division that is headquartered at Camp Kita-Kumamoto.