Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Thursday, March 26, 2020, 12:22 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting has just ended. I participated in the meeting that was held for a little over four hours beginning at 8 p.m. last night, meaning that it took place over two days in terms of Japan time. This was the first time the meeting was held in a teleconference format. Based on the G7 Summit Meeting discussions, we firstly spent a considerable amount of time discussing the response to the novel coronavirus, an urgent issue faced by the international community, and confirmed cooperation at the Foreign Minister level. While explaining Japan’s efforts and experiences, I stated that there are five points that are important for the G7 and international community. The first point is to share lessons learned and expertise of the G7 and the international community. The second point is cooperation among related countries on border enforcement measures. The third point is strengthening private and public sector initiatives as well as international cooperation on medication and vaccine development. The fourth point is ensuring the safety of each countries’ nationals who are in foreign countries, as well as discussions to ensure the minimum transport methods necessary for movement of people and things. The fifth point is demonstrating G7 initiatives to support developing countries for which there are concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus going forward. The G7 Foreign Ministers also made statements similar to these points, and we established a common recognition. In addition, we actually spent about an hour discussing the novel coronavirus issue, but we also deepened discussions regarding regional situations including the situations in Asia as well as the Middle East. I led the discussions regarding North Korea, one of the top priority issues of the G7. In particular, we agreed on the recognition that the international community cannot accept North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches. I reconfirmed that the G7 countries will closely cooperate to support the United States’ efforts toward complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of all of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missiles of all ranges, as well as for complete implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. I also discussed the issue of China during the discussion on the situation in Asia. We reconfirmed the G7 countries’ recognition of the importance of close cooperation by the G7 to urge China to play a constructive role and take more responsibility in the international system based on free and open rules. As the entire international community has the shared issue of responding to the novel coronavirus, and as the international community faces various other issues, I believe it was extremely significant that I could reconfirm solidarity and cooperation among the G7 Foreign Ministers. I will continue to take various diplomatic opportunities to work for cooperation with the international community, including the G7. Lastly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the United States, the country that held the meeting, stated that this was an excellent opportunity and that he would like to consider doing it again, even though the meeting was held over two days in terms of Japan time. That is all from me.
Reporter: You mentioned various countries sharing their lessons learned and expertise in regard to measures against the novel coronavirus. What initiatives did you introduce during today’s meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: As I said before, I stated that border enforcement measures implemented for a fixed period are effective, but cooperation among countries is important for this. Moreover, in particular I discussed initiatives for drug development, including the specific drugs that Japan is working on.
I also discussed focusing on international joint development of drugs going forward. In regard to various repatriation operations, which Japan has also carried out until now, I encouraged cooperation on the issue of repatriation of citizens of other G7 countries in Japan as well as Japanese nationals in other G7 countries.
Reporter: What kind of exchange of views was held in regard to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to the Tokyo Olympic Games, I explained that yesterday, or perhaps the day before yesterday, Prime Minister Abe told International Olympic Committee President Bach during a telephone call that he would like to postpone the Games in order to hold them during a period when they can be held in their complete form as proof that mankind defeated the novel coronavirus, and received 100% support from President Bach. I stated that we would like to receive the understanding of the G7 countries, and I received their support.
Reporter:The meeting today was conducted in a teleconference format. Can you please tell us the differences, advantages, and disadvantages between a teleconference and the Foreign Ministers meeting in person as has been done until now, and if there were any other difficulties with communication? Please tell us your impressions.
Minister MOTEGI: The meeting was held for the first time in a teleconference format due to restrictions caused by the issues of the novel coronavirus. I think that the system started well and the discussions proceeded relatively smoothly. Of course, I think that opportunities such as meeting in person as well as holding bilateral meetings have more advantages, but I believe that the teleconference format yielded sufficient results.
The Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was also held in a teleconference format last week. While using certain opportunities during this time when mobility is restricted, I will continue to communicate with various countries keeping the door of diplomacy fully open.
Reporter: Was the situation in the Middle East a discussion topic? If so, what did you discuss?
Minister MOTEGI: The situation in the Middle East was of course a discussion topic. We discussed various issues including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Particularly in relation to the issues of Iran, I explained Japan’s position until now including the results of my recent talk with Foreign Minister Zarif.
Reporter: Excuse me. Regarding regional situations, did you discuss the Korean Peninsula?
Minister MOTEGI: As I said before, I took the lead on the Korean Peninsula issue, and requested the Foreign Ministers including Secretary of State Pompeo to give statements. I reconfirmed that it is extremely important for the international community to firmly request CVID of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and all ballistic missiles, and that the international community ensure complete implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
Reporter: What kind of exchange of views did you have during today’s meeting regarding various countries’ border enforcement measures in relation to the novel coronavirus?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated before, although respective border enforcement measures for a fixed period are necessary, there are also economic issues. As I said before, there is also the issue of repatriation of citizens. Amidst this, we discussed the necessity of working-level discussions regarding how to ensure the minimum transport methods necessary.
Reporter: Excuse me for asking a question on a different matter. The Warning Level has been raised to Level 2 for the entire world. Once again, do you have any requests for the people of Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: The Warning Level, which is different from a Warning on Infectious Disease, was raised to Level 2 for the entire world last night. We have been raising the Warnings on Infectious Disease Levels until now while monitoring the infection situations in various regions. However, if we look at the world now, even in regions where there have not necessarily been major infections, measures are being taken including mobility restrictions, airport closures, and flight operation suspensions. The Warning Level was raised for the entire world in order to warn travelers about concerns that, for example, if they go to such countries, they might not be able to return back to Japan because of mobility restrictions.
The people of Japan can see MOFA’s general Warning Levels as well as Warnings on Infectious Diseases on MOFA’s website and other sources. If there are any people who are considering traveling, I would like them to firmly understand that information and reconsider their travel if possible. MOFA will continue to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals living and traveling overseas.