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The Defense Agency will create media officer posts in fiscal 2005 to handle increasing public interest in the agency and the Self-Defense Forces.

“Since the end of the Cold War, the operations of both the agency and the Self-Defense Forces have been receiving increased public attention,” the vice defense chief, Takemasa Moriya, told a news conference Thursday.

“We felt the need to respond more appropriately and in a timely manner to this rising public interest.”

Under the plan, the Ground, Maritime, Air and Joint staff offices and Defense Agency, which represents defense policymakers, would each have a media officer.

The five officers would handle all aspects of media relations, including giving interviews and emergency briefings on major defense developments. The heads of relevant divisions currently handle such duties alongside their regular work.

The agency will make budget requests when it compiles its plan later this year, Moriya said. The new system would be ready to begin operations in fiscal 2005.

He said Hironori Kanazawa, an agency defense councilor, and the heads of the public relations offices of the SDF’s three branches will act as de facto press officers until then.

But while agency officials say the move is to improve information dissemination, it is also seen as an attempt to ease criticism that the agency has begun regulating media exposure to defense matters.

Since the beginning of the year, the agency has requested various media restraints regarding coverage of the deployment of the GSDF to Iraq, citing security concerns.

Its announcement in January that it would halt weekly news conferences by the chiefs of the three branches of the SDF was met with especially strong opposition from the media. The idea was put on hold and will probably be discussed by representatives of the media and the agency in coming weeks.