Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary ONO Hikariko

Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Balloons Issue

Mainichi Shimbun, Aoki:I would like to ask about the balloon-shaped objects that were confirmed and observed within Japanese airspace. Yesterday, MOFA, through its diplomatic channels, submitted a request the Government of China for confirmation of the facts regarding the balloons that have been spotted and confirmed in Japan since 2019. Japan also lodged various other protests. Has China responded to this yet?

In addition, if it is concluded that these were Chinese balloons, please tell us how Japan will respond. Will Japan lodge a protest?

Ms. ONO Hikariko, Press Secretary: As a result of further analysis by the Government of Japan regarding the specified balloon-shaped flying objects confirmed within Japanese airspace in the past, we have come to the strong presumption that the balloons concerned were unmanned surveillance balloons launched by China.

Due to this, Japan used diplomatic channels to convey to the Government of China that we strongly presume that the objects of the past cases were unmanned surveillance balloons launched by China, to request the facts of the matter, and to strongly demand that such a situation does not occur again in the future. Japan also lodged a protest that airspace violations by other countries’ unmanned surveillance balloons and other such objects are absolutely unacceptable.

I would like to refrain from answering with any further details as this is a matter of diplomatic communication. The Government of Japan will make even more efforts to gather information, conduct surveillance, and monitor the situation while closely cooperating with our allies and like-minded countries, with regard to unmanned surveillance balloons belonging to foreign governments.

As for your second question, because it is a speculative question, I would like to refrain from answering at this point.

Jiji Press, Kondo: I would like to ask related questions. The Government of Japan has indicated its policy to review the criteria for the use of weapons in relation to the response to the balloons. Is the perspective of cooperation with the United States in the backdrop of this review? Furthermore, some people have the opinion that this will heighten tensions as it will send a message that Japan will shoot down objects. What is your view on the effects this will have on diplomacy, including with China?

Press Secretary Ono:With regard to the point you mentioned, I know that it is being considered, mainly in the Ministry of Defense. In any case, I would like to refrain from replying based on speculation to your question at this point.

Furthermore, Japan has been cooperating closely and communicating in various forms with the United States. However, I would like to refrain from answering about the details as this is a matter of relations with another country.

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