Press Conferences

Press Conference by Defense Minister Inada (09:53-10:04 A.M. March 7, 2017)

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date: 09:53-10:04 A.M. March 7, 2017
Place: Press Government Waiting Room, Ministry of Defense (MOD)

(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purposes only.)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements
Today, I talked by phone with each of U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis and Minister of National Defense Han Minkoo of the Republic of Korea (ROK) following North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles yesterday. In the teleconference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis, I stated that North Korea's repeated acts of provocation are absolutely intolerable and that close cooperation between Japan and the United States is essential. Secretary Mattis expressed a similar stance-he indicated a firm commitment to the defense of Japan, including extended deterrence. We also reaffirmed that the Alliance Coordination Mechanism will be used to promote the sharing of information between Japan and the United States, that close cooperation will be maintained in future responses and that the alliance's deterrence and response capabilities will be further strengthened. Moreover, Secretary Mattis and I reaffirmed that cooperation between Japan, the United States and the ROK will be strengthened. In the teleconference with ROK Defense Minister Han, I stated that North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles is absolutely intolerable and expressed hopes to further strengthen cooperation and collaboration with the ROK. Minister Han responded by stating that North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles is a serious act of provocation that threatens the stability and peace of this region and the international community and that coordinated efforts by the international community to deal with this are important. I also agreed with Minister Han that close cooperation between Japan and the ROK and between Japan, the United States and the ROK will be maintained. Concerning the response to North Korea, including in this case, I believe that it is important to maintain close cooperation between Japan and the United States, between Japan and the ROK, and between Japan, the United States and the ROK and make a coordinated response. We will continue to use various opportunities to promote defense cooperation with the United States and the ROK.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
I will ask you about the North Korean missiles. What is the status of your analysis of the purpose of the launch?

Minister:
We are still analyzing the details of North Korea's latest launch of ballistic missiles. Having said that, this was the first time for four ballistic missiles to be launched almost simultaneously. While further analysis is necessary concerning the missile type and other matters, it is unlikely that they were ICBMs in light of their flight distance. In any case, we are now analyzing the details. The MOD will devote full efforts to the information gathering and analysis necessary for ensuring the peace and security of Japan using various information media while continuing to closely cooperate with the United States and the ROK, among other countries. I would like to refrain from saying anything definite about the purpose and objective, but it is possible that this was a reaction to the U.S.-ROK joint exercise, as North Korea has been protesting against it. Last year, seven ballistic missiles were launched during the same exercise, so the possibility cannot be denied that a further act of provocation will be committed.

Question:
Concerning the simultaneous launch of four missiles, what is your view of the possibility that the threat has risen to a higher level?

Minister:
Since last year, there have been the launch of three missiles which landed in almost the same area and a launch from a submarine, and the number of missiles launched has exceeded 20. In addition, two nuclear tests were conducted in the same year for the first time. Therefore, my understanding was that the threat was entering a new level, and that has become clear following the first simultaneous launch of four missiles.

Question:
The Korean Central News Agency has announced that this was an exercise targeted at the U.S. Forces stationed in Japan. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
I am aware of that media report. However, I am not in a position to say anything definite about that.

Question:
Concerning the latest missiles, there is the view that the number of missiles was not four but five and the launch of one of them failed. What is your analysis?

Minister:
I am aware of that view, but we are still analyzing the details.

Question:
As for the missile type, is it possible that the four missiles included two or more types?

Minister:
We are now conducting analysis without ruling out various possibilities.

Question:
What is the status of recovering the fallen objects?

Minister:
Yesterday, SDF aircraft conducted search activity in the sea area where the ballistic missiles are presumed to have fallen. I would like to refrain from commenting on the specifics of the search activity, but the presence of objects that may be judged to be the ballistic missiles or their parts has not until now been confirmed. Today, SDF vessels and aircraft are conducting search activity in the sea area again.

Question:
Earlier, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump reaffirmed that the "2+2" Meeting will be held at an early time. Could you tell us about the prospects for holding the "2+2" Meeting and by when you would like to hold it?

Minister:
I believe that the sooner, the better. However, the Diet is now in session, and the U.S. side's convenience must be taken into consideration. We will continue scheduling adjustments so that the meeting can be held as early as possible.

Question:
Concerning the media report that the exercise was targeted at the U.S. Forces stationed in Japan, this can be considered to be effectively an official announcement by North Korea because the report was made by the country's state-run broadcaster. I assume that this is the first time that the objective was announced. Could you share your comments on that?

Minister:
I believe it has become clear that the threat is entering a new stage, so we will conduct information gathering and surveillance activities with a sense of alertness and develop full preparedness.

Question:
Changing the subject, I would like a clarification on what was mentioned in the Diet yesterday. Am I correct in understanding that you have not been involved with Tsukamoto Kindergarten or Moritomo Gakuen through activities as an attorney or legal adviser?

Minister:
No, there has not been any such involvement.

Question:
Also, I understand that your husband is a lawyer, and he was acting as your attorney. Has your husband been involved with Tsukamoto Kindergarten or Moritomo Gakuen through activities as an attorney or legal adviser?

Minister:
My husband is a legally separate person from me, and he is practicing law in Osaka as a private citizen. Therefore, I am not in a position to talk about the specifics of his work or his activities as a lawyer in principle. I also believe that I should not talk about the specifics of my husband's activities as a lawyer.

Question:
I am asking you about your husband's involvement because your husband was acting as an attorney in the lawsuit in which you were involved.

Minister:
It is true that my husband was acting and is still acting as my attorney. However, I should not talk about, or am not in a position to talk about, the specifics of the activities of my husband, who is a private citizen and a legally separate person from me, and who is also conducting activity as a lawyer bound by the duty of confidentiality.

Question:
Let me ask you about that once again. I think that if there has been no involvement, you might just as well say so, as this affair has become a popular subject of conversation. May I take it that you would not comment on that?

Minister:
Concerning this case, I have heard that there has been no involvement at all.

Question:
I would like a clarification concerning an earlier question. You said that you are aware of the view that North Korea launched five missiles. Does that mean you are aware that that is how the U.S. side views this?

Minister:
That is not correct. What I said is that I am aware of that view.

Question:
When did today's teleconferences start and how long did they last?

Minister:
First, the teleconference with Secretary Mattis were held from 7:45 a.m. for 15 minutes. The teleconference with Minister Han Minkoo was held from 9:10 for 20 minutes.

Question:
Do all three countries recognize that the threat from North Korea has entered a new stage?

Minister:
Neither the secretary nor the minister used the wording "entered a new phase," but all three of us share the recognition that North Korea's series of missiles launches are absolutely intolerable.

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