Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 17 March 2011

  1. Outcomes of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of G8 countries
  2. The current situation following the Tohoku - Pacific Ocean Earthquake
  3. Other recent current topics
  4. Questions concerning the Tohoku – Pacific Ocean Earthquake

  1. Outcomes of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of G8 countries
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today I would like to mainly explain to you the outcomes of the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting, and also the current situation in the wake of the Tohoku - Pacific Ocean Earthquake, among others.

    Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed the paper: the Chairman's Summary of the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of G8 countries. The G8 Foreign Ministers discussed various issues including Libya, the broader Middle East and North Africa, the Middle East Peace Process, Africa, Afghanistan, Haiti, and non-proliferation and disarmament, including the problems of the DPRK and Iran. These are the main topics. As explained in the first paragraph of the Chairman's Summary, G8 Ministers thanked Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, for his briefing on the latest development of the situation after the earthquake. The G8 Ministers expressed their full confidence in the ability of the Japanese Government to solve the crisis, and paid tribute to the courage and dignity shown by the people of Japan. G8 countries intend to continue to monitor the situation closely and remain ready to act in support of Japan, as stated in the Chairman's Summary. In fact, Minister Matsumoto explained the situation, and as written in the Chairman's Summary, the G8 colleagues appreciated Minister Matsumoto's explanation. 

    Just one point I would like to highlight is on Page 5 in the non-proliferation and disarmament part, the second paragraph. The Chairman's Summary says that the "Ministers condemned the DPRK's recently disclosed uranium enrichment activities in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. They urged the DPRK to comply with its international obligations and commitments and to promptly address international humanitarian concerns, such as the abduction issue". For your information, Minister Matsumoto effectively led the discussion on this part. He explained the Japanese position clearly, and, as a result, the importance of addressing not only the nuclear and missile issues but also the abduction and humanitarian issues was mentioned. He also explained Japan's contribution to the Tokyo International Conference for International Development (TICAD), among other things.

  3. The current situation following the Tohoku - Pacific Ocean Earthquake
  4. Mr. Sobashima: Next, I would like to explain about the current situation after the earthquake and tsunami. We have distributed the paper entitled "Tohoku district – off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake".

    After the 11 March massive earthquakes with the magnitude of 9.0, the government is making various efforts. As shown in sub-paragraph 5 of "Outlines", the first paragraph, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, has been undertaking, among others, coordination with respect to the acceptance of foreign rescue teams, communication with the diplomatic corps and the foreign press corps, and confirmation of the safety of foreign nationals. On the second page, is a gist of the damages as of 13 March. According to the National Police Agency the number of those deceased, unaccounted for and injured was approximately 5,300. Of course we have to update the numbers. Those isolated were more than 8,000, and the number of those evacuated was more than 370,000. Mainly in Tohoku district, the lifelines, including electricity and gas, roads, railways, and airports, were severely damaged. In many areas electricity, gas and water are disconnected, and transportation systems remain paralyzed. 

    In the next section, "Sympathies from the world", many sympathies, as well as expressions of solidarity, are offered by many governments and peoples of the world. The next section, "Emergency assistance from overseas", in the first sub-paragraph it says so far 114 countries and territories as well as 24 international organizations have expressed their intentions to extend assistance, as of 9 a.m., 16 March. Again, the numbers should be updated, but by the morning of 14 March, the rescue teams from the Republic of Korea, the United States, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, China, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Taiwan, and the Russia Federation have arrived or were heading for Japan. Also U.S. Forces in Japan have dispatched their aircraft carrier, "Ronald Reagan", and others, to the sea area off Tohoku district, and are extending assistance. It is also providing, among others, support for the acceptance of foreign rescue teams to Yokota Airfield or Misawa Airfield.

    Next is "Confirming the safety of foreign visitors in Japan". The members of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo, including not only embassies but also international organizations, are safe. We have confirmed the safety of all those members of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo. And in Sendai there is a Consulate General office of the Republic of Korea, and this is the only foreign mission in the four prefectures of the Tohoku district. The safety of the members of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea was confirmed. The safety of trainees of JICA programs and the visitors under the programs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan Foundation has also been confirmed. Information regarding the safety of foreign nationals living in the Tohoku district is being gathered in liaison with related Ministries and organizations, respective agencies in Tokyo, travel agencies, and others. The Japan Red Cross and the International Committee for the Red Cross have established websites to confirm the safety of foreigners living in Japan.

    As for "Ensuring safety of nuclear power plants", various efforts are being done by the ministries and agencies concerned of the Government of Japan and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), and the radiation levels are measured continuously. The government advised the residents who live near Fukushima Daiichi (no. 1) Nuclear Power Station and Fukushima Daini (no. 2) Nuclear Power Station. As for those residents who live close to the no. 1 Nuclear Power Station, the government advised to evacuate beyond a 20km radius from the station. And as for the residents living close to the no. 2 Nuclear Power Station, the government advised to evacuate beyond a 10km radius around the power station. And for those residents who are living outside of a 20km radius of the Fukushima no. 1 Nuclear Power Station but who are within a 30km radius, the government has recommended them to stay inside – or inside a house, or inside a building.

    We have distributed the message from the Prime Minister delivered on 15 March at 11:00 a.m., so two days ago. This is a message to the Japanese people. The third paragraph is about the evacuation advice which I already explained. He said that "Most residents have already evacuated beyond a 20km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi (no. 1) Nuclear Power Station. Let me reiterate the need for everyone living within that radius to evacuate to places outside thereof. Moreover, in view of the developing situation, those who are outside the 20km radius but still within the 30km radius should remain indoors in their house, office, or other structure, and not go outside. Further, with regard to the Fukushima Daini (no. 2) Nuclear Power Station, most people have already evacuated beyond a 10km radius, but we are calling for everyone who remains within that radius to fully evacuate to a point beyond it." He then said that "At present we are doing everything possible to prevent further explosions or leakage of radioactive materials. At this moment, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) workers in particular are taking great personal risks in their tireless efforts to supply water to the reactors. I realize that the people in Japan are greatly concerned about the situation but I sincerely urge everyone to act in a calm manner, bearing in mind the tremendous efforts underway to prevent further radiation leaks."

    I would like to explain to foreign countries, through you, the international media, that every possible effort is being made by the government and TEPCO to cope with the problems of nuclear reactors in Fukushima prefecture. We hope that foreigners will also act in a calm manner, understanding the situation. Another thing that I would particularly like to request of the journalists is this: Please treat the victims who have deceased or are injured with dignity. This is our request. That is all for the earthquake and tsunami.

  5. Other recent current topics
  6. Mr. Sobashima: We have also distributed the papers on the 1st Japan-China-ROK Counter-Terrorism Consultations, which will be held in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, on 17 March, that is today, and 18 March, tomorrow, and also the Statement by the Press Secretary on the recent situation of the Middle East Peace Process, expressing the concern about the approval of a plan to build housing units in the West Bank.

    I will stop here, and I would like to invite your questions.

  7. Questions concerning the Tohoku – Pacific Ocean Earthquake
  8. Q: I have several questions. The first question is regarding the embassies in Tokyo. There have been talks of several embassies moving their functions outside of Tokyo. Can you confirm which embassies have contacted the Japanese Foreign Ministry to say that they are moving their functions outside of Tokyo, and how many there are currently? And also, how does the Foreign Ministry view this situation that they are moving out?

    Mr. Sobashima: Sorry, I have to check whether I have the material at hand or not. Yes, we are aware that some embassies in Tokyo have decided to relocate or temporarily close their missions. The embassies of Panama, Kosovo, Angola, Iraq, Bahrain, Liberia, and Croatia have officially informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the relocation of their missions, or their places for work. For the purpose of efficient functioning of their work, those embassies have informed us of the temporary relocation or closure of their place for work in Tokyo. 

    Q: Would you like to comment on this situation that they are moving out of Tokyo? Do you think that this is creating some unnecessary concern among the people?

    Mr. Sobashima: I am not in a position to comment on the relocation or moving. However I understand that for the purpose of the work, among other reasons, they consider that they should do it. We understand that sort of consideration, but further than that I would like to refrain from commenting. 

    Q: Do you have the current number of foreigners living in Japan that are unaccounted for by the embassies? I think yesterday the ministry announced that there were about 400 people.

    Mr. Sobashima: I am sorry, we may have, but I don't have the numbers with me right now. But as I said, those embassy officials and perhaps the families of the officials of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo, and also the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Sendai, have been confirmed, and also we said that those guests visiting on official programs of JICA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Japan Foundation, were confirmed. But further than that I am sorry I don't have the figures at hand with me. 

    Q: Yesterday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Japanese Government was going to prepare to accept medical teams from abroad. Has the coordination made progress? Have there been countries that have agreed to send their medical teams to Japan yet?

    Mr. Sobashima: I understand the consultation and coordination is underway. Of course, of those intending to send the medical teams, and also with the ministries and agencies concerned of the Government of Japan. So coordination is underway, and as you pointed out, we are preparing for the arrival and also the activities of those teams. 

    Q: But you cannot mention the names of any specific countries yet?

    Mr. Sobashima: At some point in time we may be able to do it, but the coordination is underway. If the coordination is completed and if there is a decision we may be able to announce it. 

    If you have no further questions, thank you very much for coming.

Back to Index