Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister (08:14-08:30 P.M.April 13, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 08:14-08:30 P.M.April 13, 2012
Place: Press Conference 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

I feel that the MOD /SDF have succeeded in fulfilling the mission to protect the lives and property of our people against the forced launch. Just beforehand, we convened a defense council and have decided on the withdrawal of our units. We would like to start contacting the related municipalities as well. I was at the Central Command Post (CCP) from 7:40 to the announcement, and have confirmed the launch, flight, fall and its location, and have made the announcement that it would have no effect on Japan. The MOD /SDF would like to continue its efforts in maintaining its posture of full readiness, and to work toward fulfilling its mission.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
You mentioned just now that "the response was adequate." What do you think is the reason behind the delay of relaying the launch information to the people?

Minister:
As I mentioned previously, we were gathering information at the CCP, and confirming its launch and the location of its fall. Our major point of concern was whether it would have any effect on our country, so we were making confirmations along this line. The MOD had made its announcement while maintaining communications. That was the situation back then.

Question:
It seems that the press reports and such were somewhat late in comparison to the U.S. and ROK. How was the coordination between Japan, U.S. and ROK going?

Minister:
The coordination with the U.S. was very tight and close. I established contact with Ambassador Roos in the afternoon, so I personally feel that the Japan-U.S. coordination was extremely good. Of course, there are geographical considerations that must be taken into account, so it is undeniable that there was a certain amount of lapse in comparison with ROK. However, we have made our best efforts and have made the announcement, so I feel that everything was appropriately conducted.

Question:
Does that also mean that appropriate coordination was taken at the time of the missile launch?

Minister:
Yes, of course.

Question:
The Chief Cabinet Secretary has said that "The initial announcement by the government should have been conducted by the Chief Cabinet Secretary." However, it was you who made the announcement today. Was there some kind of miscommunication involved here, or was this some kind of temporary measure that you acted on?

Minister:
Coordination was being maintained. There were geographical conditions, and there was a cabinet meeting. Therefore, my announcement came slightly earlier. I have already mentioned this to the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Question:
You mentioned just now about "geographical conditions." What exactly does that mean? Summarizing what you said just now, there was something geographical between you and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and so your announcement came first.

Minister:
I was planning to going from the MOD to the cabinet meeting or the Security Council, so I had some leeway in terms of time in that sense.

Question:
Was it coordinated in advance between you and the Prime Minister's Office that you would be making the first announcement? Or did you gain approval after making the first announcement?

Minister:
Information was being shared. During the process, I had conducted a press conference of my own. However, it was the Chief Cabinet Secretary who conducted the main press conference. My understanding is that it was the Chief Cabinet Secretary who conducted the main press conference for the government.

Question:
So you did mention in advance that you would be making the first announcement?

Minister:
Information was being shared.

Question:
Sharing information is not the point. Did you say that you would be making the first announcement?

Minister:
The response was being made under an extremely tense situation. However, information was being shared in making the response.

Question:
What were the conditions for which the MOD was to inform the Prime Minister's Office of the "launch?"

Minister:
We responded in accordance with the rules. Regarding the details, this will be explained on a separate occasion, so I would like to respond in a different press conference.

Question:
The Chief Cabinet Secretary said in the press conference that he received a telephone call from you at 8:03 talking about the first Satellite Early Warning (SEW) and that it (the missile) was not coming to Japan. Do you also acknowledge 8:03 as being the first time you contacted the Chief Cabinet Secretary and/or the Prime Minister's Office?

Minister:
That is indeed the time that I contacted the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Question:
So you never made contact before that?

Minister:
The MOD is responding according to its rules, and that is as things stand for now.

Question:
I am asking whether it was the first contact you made.

Minister:
The government as a whole is currently in the process of sorting out how communication and such were handled, including the issue that you mentioned, so I would like to refrain from mentioning any more on this here.

Question:
The Deputy Director-General of the Cabinet Secretariat has said in the national defense division of the LDP and such that "It was 8:16 when information on the SEW and such had been officially reported from the MOD to the Prime Minister's Office." Can we assume that the official report from the MOD was given at 8:16?

Minister:
The government as a whole is currently in the process of sorting out how communication and such were handled then, so I would like to refrain from mentioning anything here, including issues on the timeframe.

Question:
Does that mean you have no grasp of the situation?

Minister:
We have a grasp of the situation, and are now sorting out the overall situation.

Question:
I have one more point to confirm. Did Japan's radar actually detect this missile from North Korea, or did it fail to detect this?

Minister:
There is the issue of the relationship between Japan and the U.S. to consider, so if a situation comes where I am able to report such issues, I would like to answer that question on a different occasion under my own responsibility. However, I would like to refrain from saying any more on this for today.

Question:
I would like to confirm one thing. From your explanation, it seems that there is some kind of contradiction between the notification of information as perceived by the Prime Minister's Office and that of the MOD. What is the cause of this contradiction? Is it due to human error?

Minister:
I don't feel there were any specific contradictions. As far as I understand things, we have responded in accordance with the rules.

Question:
I would like to confirm the actual time that you confirmed the launch, when you confirmed its fall, and when you actually relayed the information to the Prime Minister's Office. When did you first confirm the launch?

Minister:
I actually made contact. The MOD has done so as well, and there is the mutual relationship that must be considered. As I mentioned beforehand, the government as a whole is sorting things out at the moment, so I think I will be able to report on that on a different occasion.

Question:
You haven't answered my question. It is not about whether it has been reported or not. How are you going to answer the question on when you actually made the confirmation?

Minister:
As I said earlier, the vital issues were confirmed on a case-by-case basis between 7:40 and when the announcement was made. We have responded and made efforts comprehensively and with conviction, and made the announcement.

Question:
At what time did you confirm the fall?

Minister:
As I said earlier, the specific timeframe is being identified. The government as a whole is currently sorting out the details, since this concerns the issue of communication.

Question:
When you are saying that things are being sorted out, do you mean that you have no idea of the situation for now? Even if things are being sorted out, it has been hours since then.

Minister:
No, it doesn't mean that I have no idea of the situation. The responses given by myself and the MOD have all been sorted out. However, we have been communicating mutually and there are many things to consider. Therefore, we are currently sorting everything out at the moment, so I would like to leave it at that for today.

Question:
The Chief Cabinet Minister has said that they were going to "do a double-check." It seems that the launch could not be confirmed through SEW alone, so they decided to go with this policy. What kind of information was double-checked before it was finally confirmed? What kind of information formed the basis in confirming that the launch had actually been conducted?

Minister:
I understand your point. During the timeframe from 7:40 until 8:24 when I made the announcement, I myself and the MOD had been confirming the vital issues that I had mentioned beforehand, and we had been collecting various information in order to make this confirmation. It was then that I made the announcement.

Question:
Concerning the "double-check," some people have pointed out that in 2006 it was said that a quick check will be done, which led to the late announcement of the launch. Reflecting this, it was decided in 2009 that it was to be announced promptly and without delay when the SEW information came in. What is the reasoning and the background behind reverting back to double-checking in this case?

Minister:
I understand that we have responded in accordance with the latest rules.

Question:
This is an opinion, but the municipalities in Okinawa, and Okinawa prefecture have voiced their dissatisfaction -- although not to the extent of mistrust -- regarding the fact that the notification of information has come late this time. This concerns the people of Ishigaki Island, Miyako Island and Okinawa Island. This may not be something under your jurisdiction, but how do you feel about this?

Minister:
I don't think that the notification of information has been made late. I feel that an appropriate response has been taken under the current MOD and posture through maintaining the necessary coordination. However, I do feel that a sense of anxiety was present in the people of Okinawa and in the regions where deployment has been made, and it would be an overstatement to say that the MOD had been able to respond to everything. We would like to take this opportunity to listen to what the people in the region have to say, and to correct what needs to be corrected. That is how the MOD would like to think of this.

Question:
Just after 8 O'clock, which was roughly 20 minutes after the first SEW information was confirmed, the government gave out information on the Em-Net that the Japanese government had not confirmed the launch. What do you think about this response by the government?

Minister:
We have been making efforts to confirm the vital issues that I mentioned beforehand, and we have also been conducting the process of finalizing this. I'm afraid that the information you just mentioned is something that I heard from my staff afterwards.

Question:
You mentioned earlier that you "didn't think the notification of information has been made late." By this, were you referring to the notification to the people by the government through EM-Net, or the announcement that you made at 8:23?

Minister:
The J-ALERT is something that the MOD is deeply involved in, and in a situation of danger or when something flies over our airspace, a notification will certainly be given. However, for this time the MOD had come to a conclusion that this launch would have no effect on Japan. Therefore, no notification was given within Japan. This means that it did not fly over Japan's airspace. With regard to Em-Net, this is something that the MOD is not directly involved in.

Question:
So, you are in effect saying that the announcement you made at 8:23 was not late at all?

Minister:
Yes. I feel that it was an appropriate response.

(End)

-PAGE TOP-