Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Saturday, July 29, 2017, 3:45 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Minister Kishida: It seems North Korea launched a ballistic missile in a northeasterly direction from near Mupyong-ni in central North Korea at about 11:42 p.m. yesterday. We are currently analyzing the details but at the present time the launch of one ballistic missile has been confirmed. It is estimated that the missile reached an altitude far exceeding 3,500 kilometers, flew for approximately 45 minutes over a distance of approximately 1,000 kilometers, and fell into the Sea of Japan inside the exclusive economic zone of Japan, approximately 200 kilometers west of Shakotan Peninsula of Hokkaido and approximately 150 kilometers northwest of Okushiri Island of Hokkaido. The new ballistic missile launch is a serious threat to the security of Japan, and a clear violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It is totally unacceptable. Furthermore, landing a missile inside the said body of water without any advance notice is an extremely dangerous act from the perspective of ensuring the safety of aircraft and ships.
In response to the new launch, on the diplomatic front Japan immediately lodged a serious protest to North Korea through the embassy route in Beijing and condemned the launch in the strongest terms.
At the present time we are analyzing the details regarding the type of ballistic missile launched by North Korea this time, but we can say that taking into account the estimates that the ballistic missile launched this time flew for approximately 45 minutes and reached an altitude far exceeding 3,500 kilometers, the maximum range of the missile is estimated to exceed 5,500 kilometers at least, so we think that it was an ICBM-grade ballistic missile. In any case it is necessary to carefully carry out a comprehensive and specialized analysis, so we are analyzing the details at the present time. We are still in the process of confirmation but at the present time we have not confirmed any information regarding reports of damages to aircraft and ships travelling in the vicinity.
Regarding the diplomatic response, North Korea has repeatedly taken provocative actions, disregarding the repeated warnings by the international community, so now it is necessary to apply the maximum pressure on North Korea; it is not the time for dialogue. Based on this view, as Japan's independent measures against North Korea, recently we expanded the list of entities and individuals designated for asset-freezing measures. Furthermore, from early in August the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings will be held in Manila, the Philippines and we hope to make full use of this opportunity to strengthen collaboration toward strengthening pressure on North Korea. Furthermore, I issued instructions for consultations with the concerned countries such as the United States and the Republic of Korea, regarding the responses at the UN Security Council including a request for an emergency meeting. Moreover, Japan will continue to collaborate and cooperate with the United States and the Republic of Korea toward the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution including strict measures, and call on China and Russia to play a constructive role.
Further provocative actions could follow. Japan intends to continue efforts to gather and analyze information on North Korea with intense interest, work closely with the United States and the Republic of Korea, maintain its state of high alert, and take every possible measure to secure the peace and security of Japan.
Reporter: Does the minister plan to hold telephone talks in response to the new launch?
Foreign Minister Kishida: As I said before, Japan must work closely with the United States and the Republic of Korea including at the United Nations and other fora. We must appropriately consider the necessary responses for collaboration. Regarding telephone talks, nothing has been decided at this time, but I want to think about this issue in the context of an appropriate response.
Reporter: The new launch was unusual because it was a night-time launch. What do you think was the intentionbehind this?
Foreign Minister Kishida: I am not in a position to say definitively what North Korea’s intention was regarding the night-time launch, but looking back at past launches, my understanding is that there are records showing that North Korea carried out this kind of night-time launch multiple times in 2014. I am not in a position to definitively state their intention, but we will continue efforts to analyze the situation.
Reporter: The new launch occurred immediately after you were appointed Minister of Defense as well. Were there any problems in particular regarding the response, etc.?
Foreign Minister Kishida: In the press conference today Prime Minister Abe also expressed the view that there must be no gaps in security. That is why I was instructed to also assume the position of Defense Minister. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense are working together to respond to the present situation. As a result, I think there have been no gaps or obstructions occurring. I intend to continue to work with the entire government to put in place a complete structure for protecting the lives and livelihoods of citizens.
Reporter: I think the fact that the estimated flying distance is at least 5,500 kilometers means that the missile qualifies as an ICBM, but at the current stage has the missile be regarded as “ICBM-grade”?
Foreign Minister Kishida: That could be said based on the flying distance, but ICBMs must be equipped with a variety of technologies including re-entry technologies. My understanding is that the expression “ICBM-grade” is being used taking into account those matters too.
Reporter: You stated that there are no gaps, but if it takes you about two and a half hours after the NSC finishes until you enter the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, does this not mean that during this time diplomatic matters are getting reduced attention?
Foreign Minister Kishida: I myself am travelling between the two ministries, but during that time the top officials at both ministries are working closely together. At least I am not aware that there have been any obstructions to information gathering or the state of alert regarding the present matter. I intend to continue responding to the situation with a sense of urgency.
Reporter: I think your policy is to strengthen pressure through cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea, but how are you planning to work on China, which has influence on North Korea?
Foreign Minister Kishida: With respect to China, recently for example we held the Japan-China Summit Meeting on July 8 on the occasion of the G20 Summit. On this occasion, Japan called on China to fulfill a more constructive role and the two countries confirmed that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a common goal for Japan and China, and shared the view that they would work on the issue more closely. I intend to continue to maintain communication between Japan and China at a variety of levels, and Japan will call on China to make a constructive response. We have fully shared this view with the United States as well. I intend to work together with the United States and call on China to fulfil a constructive role.