Japan has officially ordered its military forces to report sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), more recently referred to as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).
Former Defense Minister Taro Kono issued the order earlier this month prior to the country’s reshuffling of ministerial positions, which saw him replace Ryota Takeda as Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform.
Kono expressed disbelief in UFOs in a press conference in April, but the subject was revisited during a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in late August.
In April, the Pentagon declassified videos of three UFO encounters from Navy pilots, in hopes of clearing up “any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real.”
One of the videos was filmed in 2004, while the subsequent two were recorded in 2015. They were initially leaked in 2005 and 2017.
“There’s a whole fleet of them … My gosh, they’re all going against the wind, the wind is 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing dude!” a pilot exclaimed in one video.
The Pentagon determined that the release of the videos “does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.”
However, the objects captured in them will “remain characterized as ‘unidentified,'” the department said.
Japan’s Defense Ministry confirms that there are no known cases of military personnel spotting UFOs, but claims of extraterrestrial activity in the country have only increased in recent years.
Greg Sullivan, director of the Japan Center for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (JCETI), recalled that there at least six alleged encounters between Japanese pilots and UFOs, all of which should have reported to the ministry.
“There were previously no protocols in place, as the pilot witnesses that I have spoken with have confirmed, so there was no way of officially reporting these sorts of incidents,” Sullivan told DW.
“The reports were filed and the authorities have that data, but they did not previously know what to do with it, so I hope that is going to change now.”
The new protocols require military personnel to ensure that they can see the UFO before taking written and photographic records for full analysis. Additionally, they must also look into reports of sightings from the public.
Still, Kono hopes that the policy would be viewed as a mechanism of information collection instead of an active search for UFOs. He emphasized that such are are “indistinguishable objects, not objects from space,” according to The Diplomat.