The Japanese military have been given instructions to record and report sightings of unidentified aerial objects which could pose a potential threat to the country’s security.
Taro Kono, the country’s minister for defence, issues the instruction following the US department of defence founding its Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.
While the popular imagination has been excited by UFOs, the military takes UAPs – as they are formally known – very seriously.
The risk for security officials is that the spotted aircraft are something which an untrained observer is unable to identify, but which could be a foreign incursion into domestic airspace.
But sometimes the UAPs appear to be even more mysterious.
Earlier this year the Pentagon declassified three videos of strange elliptical objects racing across the sky.
The black and white videos were recorded by Navy pilots – one in November 2004 and two in January 2015, according to the US Department of Defence.
One of the clips shows a dark circular object flying in front of a jet, another shows a small object speeding over land and the third shows a circular object racing and then appearing to slow down as it approaches the camera.
Mr Kono cited these videos and explained that while the Japanese defence force pilots are not believed to have ever encountered a UAP, his intention wast to develop a procedure in case such an encounter ever took place.
It is not the first time that members of the Japanese government have broached the topic.
The defence ministry previously stated in 2015 that it had never encountered alien spacecraft although the country’s then chief cabinet secretary, Nobutaka Machimura, said: “Personally, I absolutely believe they exist.”
Then-defence minister Shigeru Ishiba added that in his personal opinion there were “no grounds” to deny that there are UFOs controlled by alien life-forms, although this was not the official government position.
Celebrities fascinated by UFOs include rock star Tom DeLonge, who spoke to Sky News about his work on the subject earlier this month, saying he would not have put music on the backburner just “to chase monsters and ghosts”.
Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the lunar module pilot for Apollo 14, publicly stated he was personally 90% sure that many reports of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, “belong to visitors from other planets”.
He suggested that he had met officials from foreign countries who had personal encounters with alien beings, and suggested that governments were covering up such contacts.
That said, he always maintained that he had never seen a UFO, and that he had never been threatened regarding those claims. He also said that UFOs being covered up was his own personal speculation.