News


Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan
Press Conference by the Press Secretary
1 September, 1998


  1. The United States of America's military action against terrorist-related facilities in the Islamic State of Afghanistan and the Republic of the Sudan
  2. The first meeting of the Conference on Urgent Actions for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament held in Tokyo, 30-31 August
  3. The test ballistic missile launch by North Korea
  4. Japan's position on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization Agreement
  5. Impact of the test missile launch on Japan-North Korea bilateral relations
  6. Discussion of the test ballistic missile launch at the 1 September Cabinet Meeting
  7. Comment by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka on the test missile launch
  8. Japan's self-defense arrangements
  9. Channels of communication with North Korea
  10. Questions regarding test missile range

  1. The United States of America's military action against terrorist-related facilities in the Islamic State of Afghanistan and the Republic of the Sudan

  2. The first meeting of the Conference on Urgent Actions for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament held in Tokyo, 30-31 August

  3. The test ballistic missile launch by North Korea

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: My third item is on this event which has been keeping us busy since yesterday -- that is, the ballistic missile launch by North Korea, apparently a sort of test launch which took place yesterday.

    I will give you the gist of the comment by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka which was issued last night. An overall analysis of all the information available at the moment, that is, as of late last night, indicates the possibility that a ballistic missile launched from the northeastern part of North Korea shortly after noon on 31 August, that is, yesterday, landed in the high seas off the Sanriku coast of Japan. Shortly after the reported firing of the missile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka made clear Japan's position, that this missile launch was extremely regrettable. Now, since then, the information subsequently available indicated the possibility that the missile landed in the high seas off the Sanriku coast of Japan. In light of this, Japan really deplores the launching of the missile, from the viewpoint of Japan's security and the peace and stability of Northeast Asia, as well as from the viewpoint of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka reiterated this stance of Japan and lodged a strong protest against North Korea. Moreover Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka also stated that he considered it extremely dangerous that the launching should have been conducted, with no prior notice, into the seas around Japan where many Japanese vessels, airplanes and so forth are operating. He also stated that Japan conveyed its protest over this test launch directly to North Korea through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In fact, it was done in New York, from somebody in our permanent mission to the United Nations to one of the North Korean representatives to the United Nations.

    Q: I would like to know if there is any new information you could give us about the missile -- can you go beyond saying that it is a possibility that the missile landed in the Pacific?

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: Unless you actually happen to be floating in the sea around the area where the missile lands, it is basically difficult to be 100% certain that the missile has landed at such and such a place. We are in the process of verifying this, and for that purpose, the Defense Agency has dispatched three Maritime Self-Defense Force escort vessels and one aircraft which is a P3C to this area of the high seas off the coast of Sanriku. The Ministry of Transport has dispatched two patrol vessels and one aircraft to the Sea of Japan side because of this reported -- can you describe it as "landing in the sea," it is not a stretch of the nautical metaphor? -- landing in the Sea of Japan and also two patrol vessels and two aircraft to the Pacific side to investigate the situation. I think we still need to ascertain the facts.

    Q: Are you able to tell us when those vessels got to the area of the suspected landing -- if they have yet arrived? And secondly, the reports in the papers this morning, I think, from the Russian News Agency, that the missile may have malfunctioned in flight -- do you have any more information about that?

    Mr. Numata: I cannot give you the precise time, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka stated this morning that these escort vessels and aircraft are carrying out the investigations. I suppose that they are there. With respect to your second question, I think it is still early to tell.

    Q: As part of this investigation, does Japan plan to try to salvage the missile, assuming it can be found?

    Mr. Numata: That goes beyond my brief at this point in time and perhaps it goes beyond my imagination as well.

    Q: Until this news came from the American military, the Japanese were unaware that this had happened?

    Mr. Numata: Yes, I think you are correct.

    Q: Can you explain why there was a long delay before the information came out?

    Mr. Numata: The need to corroborate the information that was coming from various sources. In things like this, it is very difficult to arrive at a sort of hard and fast set of facts set in concrete and the bits and pieces of information coming in were being analyzed and sorted out. It was only after that process that Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka released this statement last night.

    Q: I just want to make clear, did you say that Japan did not know about this independently, aside from being informed by the United States military sources? Is that what you are saying?

    Mr. Numata: That is what I understand to be the case.

    Q: Even in this day of heightened awareness about the potential for a North Korean launch?

    Mr. Numata: I do not want to turn this press conference into a lecture on national technical means. You do need to have national technical means to verify the launching of missiles and so forth.

  4. Japan's position on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization Agreement

    Q: Could you describe Japan's position on the KEDO Agreement in the light of this missile test?

    Mr. Numata: As you know, on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), to which we attach a great deal of importance as a way of dissuading North Korea from following the path of nuclear weapons development, we have been working very closely with other partners such as the United States and the Republic of Korea and the European Union. We have had a number of ambassadorial meetings on the question of the sharing of costs for the light water reactor. After intensive rounds of meetings, we were very close to wrapping up that package, as it were, and that package was for the Republic of Korea to bear about 70% of the cost -- the total cost being about US$4.6 billion, I think that was the head figure -- Japan to bear US$1 billion, which would be in excess of 20%, and the European Union, I cannot remember the exact figure they are chipping in, and the United States working very hard for the heavy fuel portion of it. Now, we were very close to finalizing this agreement, but just as we were going to finalize this agreement, this missile launch took place and in the light of this, we are in the process of consulting with our partners, such as the United States and the Republic of Korea, to try to work out what we might be doing in the light of these new circumstances. So it is pending at the moment.

  5. Impact of the test missile launch on Japan-North Korea bilateral relations

    Q: Could you tell us what Japan thinks this incident will do, in terms of bilateral relations and how concerned is Japan with this incident?

    Mr. Numata: Firstly, our concern about this launch stems from the fact that missile development by North Korea is a matter that affects our security directly. It also affects the situation in this part of the world -- Northeast Asia -- in terms of peace and stability. Thirdly, if affects the international community as a whole because it does pose a challenge to the non-proliferation regime of the international community. For these reasons, we are very much concerned and we have been conveying our concern in this regard to North Korea when we have opportunities to do that through our informal consultations that we have with North Korea and so forth. Now, the launching has taken place, as I said, without prior notification and into an area of the seas around Japan where our vessels and aircraft move around. That is why we have lodged a strong protest. Given all this, I think it is fair to say that it will affect our bilateral relations with North Korea. Our relations with North Korea will be placed in a somewhat more challenging environment. Beyond that, exactly how it might affect our relations and so forth, I think we still have to figure it out.

    Q: What is the status of the program to allow Japanese nationals to return from North Korea to visit with their families in Japan?

    Mr. Numata: There were two groups which came, I cannot quite recall exactly when, but you are talking about the Japanese spouses in North Korea. There are two groups which came and then there was talk about a third group coming, but earlier in the year, the North Koreans said unilaterally that they were no longer contemplating these trips and that is where it is.

    Q: You cannot shut that since it is already shut off. Are there other steps you could take to register your displeasure with North Korea in a more concrete way than the visit in New York?

    Mr. Numata: If we are to talk about channels where we might have contacts with North Korea, New York is one. Beijing is another possibility in that they have their embassy and we have our embassy there. There might be contacts there. We might also be looking at the possibility of making our concern known in multilateral fora. We have not quite yet decided exactly how we might do that. So, I think those are the possibilities that we will be looking at.

    Q: There is a fair amount of trade between Japan and North Korea, I mean in North Korean terms. And there is also ferry service between Niigata and North Korea. Why not look at those activities and see whether you should curtail some of them?

    Mr. Numata: If your question is whether we are contemplating economic sanctions to North Korea, firstly we have not had economic sanctions via-B-vis North Korea. In that sense we are different from the Government of the United States and we do have trade relations -- that is purely non-governmental -- with North Korea. At this moment in time, we feel that we do need to keep our channels of communication open with North Korea and for that reason if your question is whether we are going ahead to institute sanctions against North Korea, the answer is no, at this moment.

    Q: What about contemplating sanctions?

    Mr. Numata: I am saying we are not contemplating economic sanctions against North Korea at this particular point in time.

    Q: Is there any pending food aid?

    Mr. Numata: The question of food aid has been pending for quite some time, but we did make the shipment earlier in the year. The question of additional food aid has been pending for quite some time. This recent development, if anything, has made the possible extension of additional food aid to North Korea more difficult. It has certainly not made it any easier.

  6. Discussion of the test ballistic missile launch at the 1 September Cabinet Meeting

    Q: What came out of this morning's meeting when Prime Minister Obuchi convened the Security Session?

    Mr. Numata: Well, this morning -- as you know, on Tuesday mornings, there is a Cabinet Meeting. There was a meeting of several Cabinet Ministers concerned, and then there was a Cabinet Meeting, and then there was a sort of informal meeting of the members of our Security Council. Foreign Minister Koumura reported on what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has done, for example the fact that we have lodged this strong protest and that we have been in touch with the North Koreans in New York. He also reported on what I told you about KEDO. Director-General of the Defense Agency Fukushiro Nukaga, the Minister who is in charge of the Defense Agency, reported about the investigation that is going on, for example the dispatching of the escort vessels and P3C. And the Minister of Transport Jiro Kawasaki reported about the dispatching of the patrol vessels and aircraft to the Sea of Japan and to the Pacific. And Prime Minister Obuchi, on his part, referred to the concern on the part of the Japanese people in general, in light of the fact that this missile flew over our heads as it were, and instructed the Ministers concerned to continue to work hard on this question. So that was the general thrust of the discussions that took place this morning.

  7. Comment by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka on the test missile launch

    Q: In his statement, the Chief Cabinet Secretary deplored the fact that this launch was carried out with no prior notice and he spoke of the risk to vessels and airplanes in the target area, but yesterday Mr. Obuchi admitted that he knew that this might be happening before it did happen. Why did he not give notice if he knew of the danger?

    Mr. Numata: Who did not give their notice?

    Q: The Prime Minister. The Prime Minister suggested that he had an idea that something like this was going to happen. Given that information, and given the danger which the Chief Cabinet Secretary spoke of, why did not the Prime Minister or the Japanese Government give warning to ships and airplanes and so on?

    Mr. Numata: Firstly, when you talk about being vigilant, we have been vigilant in the sense that there was some information, the sources of which I cannot go into detail and when I say that, I think you can gather what sort of information that I am talking about. You may use a different English word for that -- starting with "I" also. There are reasons for us to be vigilant in general. That is why we have been saying to the North Koreans, that should they conduct a test launch, for example, that would be seen very seriously as something that affects not only our security, but the peace and stability of the region as such. We have been saying to them that such an action would not only be highly undesirable, but also very dangerous and so forth. Now that is one thing. To be able to go beyond that and to be able to say exactly when and at which point in time and where they might actually conduct the launch and so forth, that is quite another story. It is not as if you could tell all our aircraft and vessels to stay away from all these wide stretches of sea because we are in a state of vigilance.

  8. Japan's self-defense arrangements

    Q: Could you tell us whether this morning's meeting discussed the possibility of bolstering Japan's defense arrangements and in particular, I noticed the Defense Agency Director-General said this morning that Japan intends to discreetly consider a defense system based on ballistic missiles. Mr. Nonaka said afterwards that this was not a reference to the joint development of a missile defense system. Does this mean that Japan is considering buying Patriot Missiles?

    Mr. Numata: You seem to have answered your own question or most of it. Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka in his press conference this morning said that we need to look at the question of ballistic missile defense. But that, at this point, does not mean that we have made a decision about this joint research or whatever, with the United States in the form of putting forward a request for the budget for the next fiscal year.

    Q: Given that North Korea has demonstrated that it could put a chemical weapon almost anywhere in Japan at a moment's notice, is the SDF on any kind of alert? Are any new preparations under way to guard against this thing happening again?

    Mr. Numata: At the moment, what I understand to be the case is that the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), together with the Maritime Safety Agency, are conducting their investigation to ascertain the facts. If your question is whether we are in a sort of war footing or high state of alert, I do not think that is the case.

    Q: Nevertheless, an agency official last night was saying that it is taking precautionary measures, but he did not go into detail about what that meant. Could you explain which precautionary measures?

    Mr. Numata: I wonder -- you are from Australia?

    Q: That is right.

    Mr. Numata: I wonder if something like this happens, whether the Australian Defense Department would go into the details of the precautionary measures that it is taking. Being watchful is one thing, but beyond that, by the nature of things -- I am not suggesting that something is afoot -- when we talk about precautionary measures, I do not think we have the habit of detailing these precautionary measures from A to Z.

    Q: Mr. Yoshiro Mori of the Liberal Democratic Party said that this launching of the missile, if intentional, could easily have led to war. Do think that is a fair assessment of the situation?

    Mr. Numata: We first have to ascertain the facts and I do not think, in my position, I should be venturing into hypothetical scenarios at this point in time.

    Q: To clarify another point, was Mr. Obuchi aware that preparations for the launch of a missile were being made in North Korea before the missile was launched yesterday?

    Mr. Numata: As I was saying, there seems to have been some indication that the North Koreans might be planning something like the launch of a missile. I do not know how detailed that information was. There were some grounds for us to be at least vigilant against that sort of possibility and that is why in the past few weeks, when we had the occasion to do that, we were pointing out to the North Koreans that such an action should not be taken.

    Q: Has any thought been given to possible military action against North Korea to defend Japan's security?

    Mr. Numata: I am not aware of that.

    Q: Are the United States forces grounded in Japan participating in these precautionary measures?

    Mr. Numata: I do not know at this point. When it comes to the detection of the launch, we have been in close touch with the United States Military. The first news which indicated that at least a part of the missile may have landed in the Sea of Japan, I believe came from the United States Military sources as a part of the regular sort of information exchange.

  9. Channels of communication with North Korea

    Q: Through what channels were those concerns conveyed to the North Koreans?

    Mr. Numata: For example, in August, there was an opportunity for one of our officials to discuss our bilateral relations with North Korea. It was either around the middle or latter part of August -- a very informal consultation with North Korea, at a sort of desk office, director-level consultation.

    Q: Where did that take place?

    Mr. Numata: It took place in late August in Beijing.

    Q: And the possibility of missile attacks was raised at that meeting, was it?

    Mr. Numata: What we said was that should North Korea conduct something like a launch test, it would seriously affect the situation in Northeast Asia, and adversely affect the relations between Japan and North Korea. For that reason, Japan really wished that North Korea would not engage in actions which might impair the stability and peace of the region.

    Q: Was there any response to that?

    Mr. Numata: I am enjoined from giving you this response nor do I know the response.

  10. Questions regarding test missile range

    Q: Two factual points. Can you give us an estimated distance that the missile flew? And also, does the Government of Japan have any information that would indicate that Middle Eastern or South Asian observers witnessed this test?

    Mr. Numata: To take your second point first, we have been hearing some reports to that effect, but I do not think that we have, at this point, enough information to verify that. With respect to your first point, I forgot to measure the distance on the globe before I came here, but I think we cannot with 100% certainty verify exactly which kind of missile was launched, but I think we have seen enough references in the media reports, in your paper and other papers, and through other media about the range of this missile which is reported to have been fired, which is a Taepodong Missile, and from that I think you can make an educated guess. I am not saying this in the sense of giving an authoritative number, but one of the Japanese press reports says that this missile, which for example, the Korean conference suspects that North Korea may have fired, has a range of 1,700 to 2,200 kilometers.

    Q: This question may also be beyond your brief, but do you know what kind of height this missile flies at? I mean would it have been at any point visible from Japan?

    Mr. Numata: I do not think so. I have never seen it fly for one thing. In fact, I may have that somewhere, if you can be patient for a little while. Again, I say this not in the sense of verifying any kind of information, but as a general proposition, when you talk about how ballistic missiles fly, the short answer is that they fly very high indeed. Experts say that if it is a medium range missile with a range of about 1,000 kilometers, they fly as high as 200 kilometers from the ground -- more than 200 kilometers from the ground. You have to have extremely good eyesight to be able to see it.

    Q: Was the missile tracked by the Japanese, either by the military or by air traffic control as it flew over Japan? Or did you just rely on the United States?

    Mr. Numata: If the missile is flying that high, I do not think air traffic controllers could see it. You may be able to see it from a satellite, but we are not normally engaged in watching these things from a satellite, as you know.

    Q: What about P3s?

    Mr. Numata: I do not think PC3s fly as high as 200 kilometers.

    Q: It does seem to be beyond their territory.

    Mr. Numata: Well, P3Cs are normally engaged in anti-submarine warfare, are they not? I think they are more interested in, not subterranean, but things that happen deep down in the sea, I suppose.

    Q: There was no ability to track this missile given the Japanese Government's existing capabilities?

    Mr. Numata: I do not think we can track it from the space as it were. The first information came from the United States sources, perhaps they have their own way of checking it.

    Q: So the Japanese government was informed that a missile was flying towards Japan by the American government. They had to be told that.

    Mr. Numata: Not that a missile was flying towards Japan because -- I do not know why I am turning myself into a very shaky missile expert, but it takes about six minutes for this thing to fly, I heard.

    Q: To reach the Japanese--

    Mr. Numata: To go the full range. As I understand it, the first information that we received yesterday in the afternoon was that there had --that is from the Unites States sources -- apparently been a missile launch from the Eastern part of North Korea to the Sea of Japan. I think that was the first news.

    Q: You said that based on the background information you have there that it takes about six minutes. That the flight of this missile is about six minutes. Is that from its launch point in North Korea to the landing of the second stage in the Pacific Ocean?

    Mr. Numata: It is launching to landing.

    Q: So in that case, it is fair to say that Japan is six minutes or less away from a North Korean missile attack?

    Mr. Numata: Yes, that is what ballistic missiles are about.