Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-U.S. Exchange Project
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: At the outset, I have one announcement. I would like to follow-up on the Japan-U.S. exchange project utilizing facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan, which I have introduced during my press conference on September 30.
Since FY2020, MOFA and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have been jointly implementing an exchange project for local junior high and high school students as well as children of U.S. Forces members in municipalities where there are facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan. The exchange program aims to strengthen English language education and exchange between local people and U.S. Forces members. It utilizes facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces.
The first program for this fiscal year was recently carried out in Iwakuni City on October 2 and 3. I have introduced this project in my press conference on September 30. It was covered by various media outlets. Thank you very much.
The second program will be held in Sasebo City on October 23 and 24. Thorough countermeasures against the novel coronavirus will of course be taken, including having the participants wear masks, completely conduct disinfection, and avoid closed, crowded, and close-contact settings. The participants will utilize schools in facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan and will communicate in English.
We expect that this exchange project will promote mutual understanding between the U.S. Forces in Japan and the local community, and lead to developing young human resources who will be active in the international community in the future. That is all for me.
Missile Launch by North Korea
Kyodo News, Nakata: I would like to ask about yesterday’s missile launch by North Korea. It is being suggested that the missile was a submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). Just like last month, it shows that North Korea’s weapons development has been progressing. A Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Director-General Level Talk was held. Please tell us again how Japan, as well as how Japan-U.S.-ROK intends to deal with this issue.
Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe this was already announced by the Cabinet. As a result of comprehensive study of various information obtained up to now, we have confirmed that North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the east from the vicinity of Sinpo in the eastern part of the Korean Peninsula yesterday on October 19 at around 10:15 a.m.
We estimate that one of the two missiles achieved a maximum altitude of about 50 km and flew about 600 km on an irregular trajectory before falling into the Sea of Japan. We estimate that the missile fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In addition, the North Korean media has announced today that a ballistic missile test launch was conducted. We believe it is a new type of SLBM propelled by solid fuel. As for details on the other missile, the Ministry of Defense and other agencies are currently conducting analysis.
North Korea has been repeatedly conducting launches recently, including yesterday’s ballistic missile launch. Our analysis shows that one of the ballistic missiles launched yesterday flew on an irregular trajectory. As I have stated before, it seems that the missile was characterized by its solid fuel propulsion method and the fact that it was launched from a submarine.
Based on these recent events, it seems that recently North Korea’s missile-related technology is making a considerable progress. We believe this is extremely regrettable and something that cannot be overlooked from the standpoint of Japan’s security as well as the security of the region.
As you have mentioned in your question, a Japan-U.S.-ROK Director-General Level Talk on North Korea was held today, October 19, in Washington D.C. from 9 a.m. U.S. time for about 90 minutes. The meeting was attended by Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Funakoshi from MOFA, as well as U.S. Special Representative for the DPRK Sung Kim and Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh Kyu-duk of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK.
They exchanged views regarding the recent overall situation of North Korea, including the ballistic missile launch yesterday. As I have stated before, North Korea’s recent missile activities and ongoing nuclear development are continuing, and the three countries again shared concerns.
During today’s meeting, the three countries made detailed coordination on the future policy. The recent ballistic missile launches clearly violate the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Furthermore, the three countries confirmed close Japan-U.S., Japan-ROK, and Japan-U.S.-ROK trilateral cooperation toward realizing the complete denuclearization of North Korea in accordance with the Security Council Resolutions.
Today’s meeting was not necessarily held to address the recent missile launches. A Japan-U.S.-ROK Director-General Level Talk on North Korea was also held in September in Tokyo. The talks have been held as part of close communication from peace times among the Japanese, U.S., and ROK representatives in the Six-Party Talks.
Based on the trilateral cooperation, we will continue to urge North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile activities, and we will support the holding of dialogue between the United States and North Korea.
I am also aware that the United Nations Security Council is currently considering the possibility of discussing North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches. Although Japan is not a member of the United Nations Security Council, we will closely cooperate with relevant countries in the international community including the United States and the ROK, and we would like to deepen cooperation to strongly urge North Korea to fulfill its obligations under the Security Council Resolutions.
The entire government of course needs to be completely prepared against the threat posed by North Korea. As you might be well aware, the National Security Council meeting was held yesterday and ministers discussed Japan’s response policy.
It was confirmed that we will strengthen information-gathering, monitoring, and surveillance to be prepared for further ballistic missile launches. Prime Minister Kishida also instructed the ministers on information-gathering and analysis toward ensuring the safety and security of the people of Japan, thorough monitoring and surveillance, and cooperation with the international community including the United States.
Japan-U.S.-ROK Director-General Level Talk on North Korea
Kyodo News, Nakata: In relation to this issue, you have just stated that the Japan-U.S.-ROK Talk is held as part of communication from peace times. On the other hand, the reality is that North Korea has conducted two missile launches when the representatives of Japan, the United States, and the ROK were meeting, including in September. Please tell us MOFA’s view on the timing of the missile launches and North Korea’s intention, including whether the timing of missile launch is related to the Talks.
Press Secretary Yoshida: It is true that North Korea again launched ballistic missile at the timing of the Japan-U.S.-ROK Director-General Level Talk on North Korea held in Washington D.C. Japan, the United States, and the ROK exchanged views and coordinated our recognition, and also shared our analyses. I would like to refrain from commenting officially on North Korea’s intention, including on whether or not they planned to conduct a missile launch in line with Japan-U.S.-ROK talks, since it is related to our future response. However, we are currently conducting various analyses on North Korea’s intention, and are fully aware that there are various aspects.
Prime Minister Kishida’s Attendance at COP26
TV Asahi, Sawai: I would like to ask about Prime Minister Kishida’s attendance at COP26 at the beginning of next month. He stated that he was considering attending, including virtual participation, since the House of Representatives election is on October 31. There has still not been an announcement on this. COP26 is an important opportunity to explain the initiatives related to climate change. In addition, President Biden recently stated that he will attend the meeting, and it would be an opportunity to meet many leaders for the first time. What preparation is underway by MOFA, and when will a decision on Prime Minister Kishida’s attendance be made while the date is approaching?
Press Secretary Yoshida: COP26 will be convened from November 1 in Glasgow in the United Kingdom. As you have stated in your question, Prime Minister Kishida stated that he is considering which participation method, including online, would be appropriate, in relation to various political schedules in Japan. Consideration is underway on which participation method would be the best taking into account various aspects, including our domestic schedule, the participation of various countries, and how many bilateral meetings could be held given the fact that many countries will participate in a short period of time.
As you pointed out, we believe that COP26 is an extremely important opportunity and meeting to convey our initiatives on global warming countermeasures towards meeting the goal stipulated by the Paris Agreement to the international community. The Government of Japan has already officially announced our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and we will conduct various initiatives to achieve this target and lead discussions in the international community. At this point, we are engaging in various forms of information gathering and consideration on what I have just stated. Of course, we are unsure about what decision Prime Minister Kishida will make, but I hope you will understand that MOFA and the Ministry of the Environment are diligently making preparation so that we can respond to whatever instructions are given.
In terms of when a decision will have to be made, we must consider when we can gather the information required to make a decision on various aspects I have just mentioned. Also, I believe the decision will be made at an appropriate timing in relation to various forms of preparation that needs to be done if Prime Minister Kishida attends.
Japan-France Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting (“2+2”)
Kyodo News, Nakata: I would like to ask about the Japan-France “2+2.” There are reports saying that the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs announced its plan to hold a Japan-France Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting within this year. Please tell us about the status of coordination between the Government of Japan and the Government of France.
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware of the reports stating that the Director-General for Political and Security Affairs of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs stated that a Japan-France “2+2” will be held within this year. Coordination has been underway to hold a Japan-France “2+2” at an early stage. However, a decision on the specific timing has not been made yet, including whether it will be held within this year. It is necessary to take into consideration various other international conferences and diplomatic events, so at this point the date has not been decided yet.
Missile Launch by North Korea
Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: I would like to return to the issue of North Korea’s missiles. At the National Security Council meeting and the following press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Kishida mentioned about consideration on Japan’s strike capability against enemy bases. Given that the recent missile is considered to have been an SLBM, it is possible that having strike capability against enemy bases might be meaningless. Please tell us your thoughts on the Government of Japan’s view regarding a dialogue with North Korea.
Press Secretary Yoshida: Japan’s response on North Korea’s missile activities is as I mentioned earlier. Moreover, there were various discussions during the National Security Council meeting. We have also announced that the Government of Japan as a whole will engage in deliberation on a new National Security Strategy, National Defense Program Guidelines, and Medium-Term Defense Program.
On the other hand, in regard to a dialogue with North Korea which you have asked about, despite the current situation, there is no change to the Government of Japan’s consistent position on having a meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un without preconditions in order to resolve various pending issues.