Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 24 March 2011

  1. Current situation after the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake
  2. Telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Matsumoto and Secretary Clinton
  3. Libya
  4. Question concerning the Fukushima nuclear power station
  5. Questions concerning the closing of embassies in Tokyo

  1. Current situation after the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I have several topics to share with you today.

    Mr. Sobashima: First, the current situation after the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake. We have distributed the papers on the overall situation and the measures taken, the activities of the teams from overseas, and assistance from the international community, as well as the message from Prime Minister Naoto Kan regarding assistance received from overseas. As you may already be aware, we have uploaded these pieces of information on our website in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean, updating them every day. In addition, our embassies overseas are providing related information on their websites in the languages spoken there. Also, the government is organizing briefings for foreign media every day, including holidays, in the Prime Minister's office, by the officials of the relevant ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is conducting daily briefings for foreign embassies and missions in Japan. These foreign media briefings, as well as related press conferences, including this one, are uploaded either as a transcript or a video on the material entitled Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website.

    Now I will come to the papers distributed. First is the paper entitled Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake. This is the English version of the overall view. On the third page we have the current situation and the Government of Japan's response. The first section is "Outlines," an overview of the earthquake disaster. The second section entitled "Damages" explains the damages. The third section is the sympathies received from overseas. Fourth is the emergency assistance received from overseas. Fifth is "Confirming safety of foreign nationals in Japan." The sixth section is "Ensuring safety of nuclear power stations." I refrain from explaining the contents of these sections but we have separately distributed two papers on the assistance from overseas. One is entitled "Schedule of Acceptance of Rescue Teams, etc..." This is the table of activities of rescue and other teams from overseas. We have listed the country, territory or organization, in the order of their arrival. The Republic of Korea (ROK), Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, the United States of America, China, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), Mexico, Australia, France, Taiwan, Russia, Mongolia, Italy, Indonesia, South Africa, IAEA and Turkey. The countries or territories marked with an asterisk are those who have already terminated their activities. I will explain the countries or organizations without an asterisk. The first is on the first page, UNDAC. Currently they consist of six people and are coordinating their activities based in the JICA office in Tokyo. This is UNDAC. And on the second page, first France. 134 rescue workers arrived, including 11 Monaco nationals, and they were doing their activities in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. However they moved to Misawa on 17 March. Next, 11 rescue workers from Indonesia and four administration and medical personnel are conducting humanitarian assistance activities at evacuation centers in Kesennuma, Shiogama, Ishinomaki and other places. Their activities include confirming the safety of Indonesian nationals. The South African team: 46 rescue workers are doing their activities in Iwanuma and Natori of Miyagi Prefecture. The IAEA team is doing their activities around Tokyo and also in and around Fukushima Prefecture. Rescue teams from Turkey of 32 people are doing their activities in several places in Miyagi Prefecture. These are about rescue and other teams.

    We have distributed another paper entitled "Assistance in Kind from the International Community." This is as of yesterday, 23 March. Again, basically in order of arrival, the United States, China, Taiwan, Mongolia, India, Canada, Thailand, Ukraine, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, France, Singapore, the ROK, Russia and Uzbekistan. The second batch of assistance goods arrived from India yesterday, also. I will skip the details but just mention what sorts of assistance goods were provided by them. Tents, blankets, handy emergency lights, power generators, clothing, sleeping bags, “survival kits,” so to speak, and from ITU, they lent the affected areas satellite mobile communication terminals, among others. Also water, emergency meals, mattresses, plastic containers. These are the kinds of goods provided and the destinations included Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Tochigi, Yamagata, and Saitama Prefectures. In addition to these goods we received financial assistance from overseas, but we have not listed the financial contributions here. We have a map showing the locations of activities by rescue teams from foreign countries, territories and international organizations.

    We have distributed the text of the message from Prime Minister Naoto Kan, regarding assistance received from overseas. The message was delivered, particularly in view of the assistance we have received, in terms of rescue teams or emergency goods, from overseas, as I have just explained. Last Tuesday, 22 March, two days ago, Prime Minister Naoto Kan delivered his message of appreciation for such assistance, among others. He said "I would like to express my most sincere appreciation for the condolences and assistance Japan has received from approximately 130 countries, more than 30 international organizations, and people all around the world in response to the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake." In the second paragraph he mentioned "a friend in need is a friend indeed." In the third paragraph he says "Japan faces an unprecedented crisis," but he said that he firmly believes that "receiving such cooperation from the members of the international community, the Japanese people will mobilize their wisdom to recover from these challenging circumstance through their collective efforts and thereby successfully overcome this trying time.

    On behalf of the Japanese people, I would like once again to express my deepest appreciation upon having received this truly tremendous outpouring of cordial assistance from around the world."

    This is the message from the Prime Minister. These are about the activities after the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake.

    Schedule of Operations of Rescue Teams from Foreign Countries, Regions and International Organizations (as of March 22, 2011) [PDF]
    List of Relief Goods from Overseas (as of March 22, 2011) [PDF]
    Map Indicating Locations of Activities by Rescue Teams from Foreign Countries/Territories International Organizations, etc. (as of March 23, 2011) [PDF]

  3. Telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Matsumoto and Secretary Clinton
  4. Mr. Sobashima: The second topic I would like to explain is the telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Matsumoto and Secretary Clinton of the United States. We have distributed the provisional translation of the press release in Japanese we issued yesterday. Yesterday evening, 23 March, for about 30 minutes from 8:30 in the evening, Mr. Takeaki Matsumoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs, held a telephone conversation with the Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States. The outline of the discussion is as follows: In regard to the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake, first of all, Foreign Minister Matsumoto expressed his deep gratitude for the tremendous support from the United States as an ally, including that by the US forces in Japan, such as transportation and provision of relief goods and dispatching nuclear power experts. He also expressed his deepest condolences to Ms. Taylor Anderson, an American JET participant who lost her life in the earthquake. In addition, he explained the current situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, among others. In response, Secretary Clinton stated that the United States stood ready to provide all kinds of support, including technical and expert cooperation, and expressed the confidence of President Obama and herself, that Japan will overcome its current challenges, and will achieve successful reconstruction. The two ministers agreed that Japan and the United States would continuously and closely cooperate with each other. They also exchanged their views on the situation in Libya, the Japan-China-ROK trilateral foreign ministerial meeting, and Japan-US relations. So this is the second topic.

  5. Libya
  6. Mr. Sobashima: Thirdly we have distributed materials on Libya. The first is the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan on military action against Libya under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The date of this statement should be 19 March instead of 20 March. "The Government of Japan has repeatedly called for the Libyan authorities to immediately cease the violence against the people of Libya in accordance with the United Nations Resolutions 1970 and 1973. The Government of Japan strongly condemns the violence by the Libyan authorities against its people, which is continuing despite these calls of the international community as the emergency summit meeting held in Paris confirmed. The Government of Japan strongly urges the Libyan authorities, including Leader of Revolution Muammar Al Qadhafi, to listen to the calls from the people of Libya and the international community and to immediately make the right decision.

    From the standpoint of urging the Libyan authorities to stop the violence immediately, the Government of Japan affirms that Member States of the United Nations take measures according to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya.

    At the same time, the Government of Japan believes that all diplomatic efforts should be exerted for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and hopes that the efforts by Mr. Abdel-Elah Al-Khatib, Special Envoy of Secretary General of the United Nations and the African Union will bear fruits. In addition, the Government of Japan attaches importance to the role of the Arab League for peace and stability in the region."

    This is the statement by Foreign Minister Matsumoto, and we have also distributed the press release entitled "Measures to freeze the assets of Leader Muammar Al Qadhafi, and his related entities in Libya and to prohibit the importation of weapons from Libya," dated 8 March. The measures Japan adopted then to freeze the assets of Leader Al Qadhafi and his related entities took the form of payment restriction, and also restriction on capital transactions. Also we prohibited the importation of weapons from Libya. As the new United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 added the entities for sanctions, adding five organizations and seven individuals, the Government of Japan decided to add, in addition to the leader and his sons and daughters, those five organizations and seven individuals, as shown on the paper we have distributed entitled "Additions." For organizations we added Central Bank of Libya, Libyan Investment Authority, Libyan Foreign Bank, Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio and Libyan National Oil Corporation, and for individuals, those seven people listed there. The additions have become effective today by the designation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Notice, based on the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act. These are the topics that I would like to share with you. Now I invite your questions.

  7. Question concerning the Fukushima nuclear power station
  8. Q: I have one question regarding the Fukushima nuclear station accident. There were several reports posted by the Japanese media and foreign media which say that some countries are raising concern about how the Government of Japan is handling the situation and are questioning if the Japanese Government is providing enough information to foreign countries. My question is how do you react to these reports?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you for your question. We understand the concern because of the troubles that the nuclear power station has in respect of its several reactors. However we would like to reiterate the points already made, for example, by the Prime Minister in his message delivered on 15 March. He explains that all possible efforts are being made by government officials as well as Tokyo Electric Power Company. Also radiation levels are monitored continuously. As a result, we have advised residents living close to the nuclear power stations to evacuate beyond a 20km radius from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and 10km away from Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station. For those staying beyond a 20km radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station but within a 30km radius should remain indoors. This is the advice the government has provided. Of course, if necessary, the government will provide additional advice and information. As for other matters like food, vegetables, water, etc. advice is being given by the authorities concerned. These pieces of advice including that of 20km and 30km the government has given, are given on the basis of scientific consideration. The Prime Minister himself requested the Japanese people to act calmly and I would like to appeal through you, the vital information lifeline of the media, that foreigners also monitor the situation calmly. In order to provide information on a continuous basis, as I explained at the outset, we are organizing daily briefings, not only for embassies, but also for foreign journalists, every day. By so doing, we are doing our best to provide information and provide advice. Again, by so doing, we hope that foreigners will monitor the situation calmly. Thank you very much.

  9. Questions concerning the closing of embassies in Tokyo
  10. Q: More than 20 countries are temporarily closing their embassies in Tokyo. Why is that?

    Mr. Sobashima: For the purpose of efficient conduct of their activities they may have considered that, perhaps for the time being, it is advisable to close their embassies in Tokyo temporarily. Some embassies are doing their business from other parts of Japan. The other embassies are closed and not doing their business in Japan. However we understand that these are temporary measures. As these are temporary measures, we hope that a time will come soon when they will be able to resume their operations as usual.

    Q: Yesterday the Tokyo Metropolitan Government advised that the tap water in some parts of the Tokyo is contaminated with radioactive materials and they advised that infants not drink tap water. Do you think this has had any impact on the closure of the embassies in Tokyo?

    Mr. Sobashima: I would like to refrain from predicting what the embassies and what other foreigners are thinking. In any event I would like to repeat that the government is doing its very best to contain the situation and solve the situation. We would like to solve the situation soon. In the meantime, it is up to the foreigners to decide what to do. However, we, the government, would like foreigners also, not only the Japanese people, to monitor the situation calmly. I would like to refrain from commenting on what they should do, but again, we hope that they will act calmly. In any event, we are making our best efforts to contain and solve the situation, particularly vis-à-vis the nuclear power station problems.

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

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