Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 5:45 p.m. Central Entrance Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Governments of Japan and the United States agreed today on the revision of the “Guidelines Regarding Off-Base U.S. Military Aircraft Accidents in Japan.” I have answered questions numerous times regarding this matter in the Diet, have given strong instructions, and appealed for discussions with the United States in various settings, including the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”) in April, so there have been discussions between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the U.S. side. Through this revision, in particular, there has been clarification on expeditious early entry into the inner cordon. Of course, it goes without saying that it is of the utmost importance that accidents do not occur, but I believe that it is significant in the way that responses will be further improved in many aspects in case of an accident by a U.S. military aircraft. This is an agreement between the Governments of both Japan and the United States, and it will be implemented accordingly. This revision of the Guidelines is the result of repeated earnest consultations between both Japan and the United States under the two countries’ strong relationship of trust. In the same way as this revision, the Government of Japan will resolve each issue concerning operations of U.S. forces and the Status of Forces Agreement, and advance forward in order to firmly respond to the concerns of local people including those in Okinawa, and continue to exert all efforts toward reducing the burden on local areas. That is all from me.
Reporter: Entry will be expedited into the inner cordon of accident sites, but how exactly will it be expedited, and does that lead to trust building?
Minister Kono: The Governments of Japan and the United States agreed that people necessary for accident investigations from both countries will be able to immediately enter the inner cordon, so the access issues that were repeatedly pointed out before will no longer happen. In addition, there was clarification on quick provision of environment-related information, as well as sharing of various kinds of information through the Joint Committee framework. We thus believe that it will be possible to quickly share information to the local area.
Reporter: Until now, there was a continued situation where the Japanese side is able to enter after the aircraft in the accident was recovered. Now, for example, is it presumed that the Japanese side will be able to enter while the aircraft involved in the accident still remains?
Minister Kono: Of course, it has been clarified that it will be possible to quickly enter the site. In addition, there has been agreement on various aspects including information provision to asset owners including land owners. An official will give a detailed briefing of the content later, but I believe that it firmly responds to the concerns of the local areas.
Reporter: Just to confirm, how will the efficacy be ensured?
Minister Kono: This is an agreement between the Governments of Japan and the United States, so it will be carried out in accordance with the agreement.
Reporter: It was possible to enter the site six days after an accident occurred in 2017. Under this policy, will a situation of waiting six days no longer occur?
Minister Kono: That is so.
Reporter: Specifically, how many days afterwards would it be?
Minister Kono: The understanding would be that it will be possible for both sides to immediately, swiftly enter the site.
Reporter: I would like to ask a question on a different matter than the Guidelines. There are reports that North Korea launched flying objects today. How will you cooperate with related countries, including the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK)?
Minister Kono: Discussions are already taking place with the United States and the ROK at the director-general level. I believe the Ministry of Defense (MOD) is currently conducting a detailed analysis, and I would like to firmly cooperate in the form of Japan, United States, and the ROK.
Reporter: In relation to that, the ROK military issued an analysis that one of the objects flew quite a long distance of 690 kilometers, which was more than the previous launch in May. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Kono: The MOD is currently conducting an analysis.