Japan Minister’s ‘Ask the Balloon’ Remark in 2020 Causes Stir

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Taro Kono speaks at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

A comment made by then Defense Minister Taro Kono at a press conference in June 2020 has created controversy in the Diet. When Kono was asked in 2020 about where a balloon-like flying object had gone after being spotted in Miyagi Prefecture, he responded with, “Ask the balloon.”

“I should have said, ‘I’ll refrain from commenting,’” said Kono, now the digital minister, at a press conference on Friday. “But I thought that would have been too standoffish, so I said, ‘Ask the balloon.’”

Kono also stated in 2020 that the balloon had “no impact on security.”

However, the government said Tuesday that the balloons, including the one seen in Miyagi Prefecture, “are strongly suspected to have been unmanned Chinese reconnaissance balloons.”

Kono was also criticized for his answer when he served as foreign minister in 2018. When asked about Japan-Russia relations in the Diet, he repeated the same answer, “I refrain from stating the government’s position.”

The opposition strongly criticized his response.