(* This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba

Date: Friday, March 16, 2012, 5:50 p.m.
Place: In front of Ministerial Reception Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks - Situation in North Korea (Announcement by North Korea)
  2. Situation in North Korea (Announcement by North Korea)

1. Opening Remarks - Situation in North Korea (Announcement by North Korea)

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: At noon today, North Korea announced that it would launch a “satellite” (Kwangmyongsong-3) from the western part of North Korea to the south during the period between April 12 and 16. Such a launch by North Korea would violate the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit any launch by North Korea using ballistic missile technology, and would harm the peace and stability of the region. It would be regrettable if North Korea dares to conduct the launch.  We are also concerned that it could undermine the efforts to solve the outstanding issues through dialogue. Japan strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and not to conduct the launch.
The Japanese government will continue to closely work with countries concerned including the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, and watch and address the situation in a calm and appropriate manner.
Upon my order, we have already started contacting the US and the Republic of Korea, both in Tokyo and their capitals, and confirmed we share our basic views. We have also requested for China’s cooperation.

2. Situation in North Korea (Announcement by North Korea)

Noguchi, NTV: Regarding information sharing with countries concerned, could you share with us the current situation, to the extent possible, for example what information are you receiving, or what information are you giving to your counterparts?

Minister Gemba: We are duly in contact with them.  I gave an instruction to contact the U.S. at five past twelve, at a considerably early stage.  We have contacted several persons in the U.S.; Japanese Ambassador in Washington is in contact with the U.S. Department of State, while the Director-General here is in contact with his counterparts.  Also with China, we are communicating in the same manner.  It is the case for the ROK as well.  As for what we are talking about in these contacts, we share with them our basic views which I mentioned earlier.

Noguchi, NTV: When it comes to the U.S. in particular, it is pointed out that this could be in violation of the U.S.-North Korea agreement of last month.  What is the view of Japan and the U.S. on this point?

Minister Gemba: Of course, we have been closely in touch with each other on the point you raised among others.  While closely communicating with each other, since obviously it is about the agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, I doubt it would be appropriate if the Japanese side made any comments about the agreement before the U.S. dose so.  I understand that the U.S. will announce its position on this in due course.

Noguchi, NTV: You mentioned that Japan would urge North Korea to refrain from the launch, but how would you do so without diplomatic relations?

Minister Gemba: For example, as I said earlier, we would cooperate with China too.  Of course we expect China to urge (North Korea) to exercise restraint, for instance.

Noguchi, NTV: Had the Japanese government expected this development?

Minister Gemba: I have been saying recently that, for example, while welcoming the agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, we believed it would be important to ensure North Korea’s concrete actions. Therefore, I think we need to analyze and address the situation in a calm manner regardless of whether we had expected this or not. North Korea has done various things for the past 10 years or so.

Yokota, Mainichi Shimbun: A decision is being made regarding the nutritional assistance through continued consultations between the U.S. and North Korea. Do you think it is appropriate that the assistance to North Korea is to be continued?

Minister Gemba: As I have mentioned earlier, this is a matter regarding the agreement between the U.S. and North Korea; therefore, I think that the U.S. will make its position clear at some time.  I believe what is important is that North Korea takes concrete actions.  Therefore, Japan should pay close attention on that and urge North Korea’s self-restraint, in cooperation with the U.S., the ROK and other members of the Six-Party Talks.

Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: Will there be any cabinet-level meeting on this matter tonight?

Minister Gemba: No, I have not heard of that.  However, I heard that Chief Cabinet Secretary gave instructions to Prime Minister’s Office at around 12:30 today. I think that officials in charge are gathering and discussing various what to do so that they will be able to properly respond to various situations.

Yokota, Mainichi Shimbun: How do you analyze North Korea's intention of announcing the launch of a satellite at some point between April 12 and 16?

Minister Gemba: Of course we can think of various possible intentions and we are already conducting various analyses.  However, it is not important how I describe North Korea's intention at this stage.  What is important is that we need to strongly urge it to exercise restraint.

Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: What do you think this action by North Korea means to Japan?

Minister Gemba: I have already mentioned it at the beginning.

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