November 30(Tuesday)

No.4[Crisis Management]:North Korea Shelling Incident..Actions Taken by the Prime Minister's Office

 

"What were the first actions taken by the Prime Minister's Office upon receiving a report of the incident?" To answer this question, this story provides a succinct and chronological review of the facts surrounding the day of the incident and Japan's current posture.

 

 

1. First actions taken

 

Narration: At 2:34 pm on November 23, North Korea began firing
artillery shells onto Yeonpyeong Island in the Republic of Korea
(ROK). Shortly after 3:10 pm, upon learning of the incident, the
Government of Japan began gathering information in ROK, China, the
U.S., and Russia. By 3:20 pm, an Information Liaison Office was
established at the Prime Minister's Office. Around 3:30 pm, when
the information was deemed accurate to a reasonable degree, an aide
notified Prime Minister Kan, who was then at the Prime Minister's
Official Residence.

 

Narration: The Prime Minister's Residence which is on the same site
as the Prime Minister's Office, serves as an office. There, the
Prime Minister received reports while he carried out his other
tasks. At the same time, at the adjacent Prime Minister's Office,
the crisis management officers on duty who received instructions
from the Prime Minister, as well as members from relevant
departments, rushed to their posts and responded to the incident.
 

 

Narration: Due to the extremely complicated and non-transparent
nature of the situation in North Korea, it was naturally unwise for
Japan to decide on its policy or announce its position based on
inaccurate information. It was decided that a meeting with all
relevant officials would commence approximately an hour later at
4:45 pm, upon obtaining sufficient information  from the ROK.
 

 

Narration: However, the nature of the job of Prime Minister is such
that his other works cannot simply be abandoned in the meantime.
Finding time in between, the Prime Minister continued to gather
information, in parallel with conducting his scheduled activities,
including meetings with Diet members.
 

 

2. Instruction and announcement

 

Narration: At 4:45 pm, as scheduled, Prime Minister Kan headed over
to the Prime Minister's Office -- a one-minute walk from the
Residence. Senior officials, including Chief Cabinet Secretary
Sengoku and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Furukawa, were also
present at the meeting. After receiving a comprehensive briefing of
the situation from the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis
Management, members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the
Ministry of Defense, among others, Prime Minister Kan formally
directed that "efforts be fully devoted to information gathering"
and "that appropriate measures be taken in preparation for
contingencies."
 

 

Narration: Immediately after the meeting concluded, the Prime
Minister answered reporters' questions from around 5:10 pm and
explained to the people what instructions he had given. Prime
Minister Kan was the first leader of governments to speak on the
matter.
 

 

Narration: Afterwards, the Prime Minister attended the Harvest
Festival, an important court function the prime minister attends
every year. Arrangements were made to ensure that the Prime
Minister at all times would be able to receive information and give
out necessary instructions through his aide who accompanied him.
 

 

Narration: In the meantime, senior officials assembled at the Prime
Minister's Office, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku and
three of the deputy chief cabinet secretaries. The analysis
continued, with a wide range of government officials including the
Minister of Defense entering and exiting the Prime Minister's
Office. By 7:10 pm, the ROK Ambassador was invited to the Prime
Minister's Office, and about an hour later, the Japanese Ambassador
to the ROK met with the ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
in Seoul. Around the same time in Washington, information was being
collected from the White House and the Department of State. Japan
was thus in close contact with the ROK and the U.S.
 

 

3. The position of the Government

 

Narration: At 8:30 pm, the Prime Minister returned to the Prime
Minister's Office from the Imperial Palace. Fifteen minutes later,
the Prime Minister held a ministerial meeting at the Prime
Minister's Office and agreed on the position of the Government.
At the meeting, the Prime Minister instructed the ministers to:
1) undertake information gathering concerning future movements by
North Korea; 2) address the situation through close coordination
with the ROK, the U.S., and others; and 3) undertake all possible
measures to ensure the safety and the peace of mind of the Japanese
people, including by preparing for contingencies.
 

 

Narration: At 9:48 pm, Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku announced
the Government's stance.
 

 

Chief Cabinet Secretary:
"Japan strongly condemns North Korea."
"Japan supports the position of the Government of the ROK."
"Japan demands an immediate cessation of all such acts."
"Japan will respond in close coordination with relevant countries."

 

Narration: On the next day, November 24, Prime Minister Kan spoke
by telephone to the ROK President for 20 minutes. During the
conversation, President Lee Myung-bak expressed his "appreciation
for Japan's swift and decisive response." Additionally, Minister
for Foreign Affairs Maehara spoke by telephone to the ROK Foreign
and Trade Minister on the 24th, followed by U.S. Secretary of State
Clinton on the 25th, and others. Secretary of State Clinton stated
that she "highly commends the response of the Japanese Government".
It was confirmed that Japan, the U.S., and the ROK will continue to
address future developments in close coordination with each other.
 

 

Narration: At the same time, in Japan, Prime Minister Kan
established the Headquarters for Response to the Shelling Incident
by North Korea comprised of all Cabinet members.
 

 

Prime Minister: "North Korea's artillery attack against the ROK is
a belligerent act and cannot be tolerated."

 

Narration: Over the coming days, the Government will continue to
hold information sharing meetings, ministerial meetings, and other
relevant meetings on a daily basis. Furthermore, until the U.S.-ROK
joint military exercise in the Yellow Sea ends on December 1, all
Cabinet ministers will in principle stay in Tokyo in preparation
for contingencies. The Government will continue to take appropriate
measures.
 

 



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