Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, 3:44 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) Another Alert Regarding News Coverage Activities in Travel Advice and Warnings Level 4 Countries and Regions

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I fist have two announcements.

The first is that another alert has been issued to the members of the press regarding news coverage activities in Travel Advice and Warnings Level 4 countries and regions, which I believe has already been distributed to you as a document this morning. I would like to take this opportunity to explain.

I will read it aloud. MOFA has issued successive alerts to the members of the press regarding news coverage activities in so-called dangerous regions, asking them to postpone travels no matter what to countries and regions that are at Level 4, in other words, countries and regions where evacuation recommendations have been issued. Regrettably, however, there have been some members of the press who have traveled to or attempted to travel to dangerous regions despite these alerts.

As pointed out in the alerts until this day, any unexpected situation could arise in countries and regions where recommendations to evacuate have been issued. In particular, amidst the novel coronavirus crisis since last year, it can be presumed that cases may arise in which it is difficult for Japanese embassies, consulates, and others to sufficiently maintain systems for protecting Japanese nationals depending on the country or region.

Due to such situation, today, we have issued another alert to the members of the press, which I believe you have received as a document. Based on this alert, once again we strongly request every member of the press to refrain from traveling to countries and regions where recommendations to evacuate have already been issued.

In addition, at the same time, from the perspective of making all efforts to ensure safety, we would like to once again request each media outlet to prepare a system to issue necessary instructions, including the arrangement of safety standards and manuals, regarding decisions on travel and safety measures so that decisions on security situations and risk assessments could be conducted responsibly.

There are many Level 4 countries and regions where recommendations to evacuate have been issued. Countries in the Middle East and Africa where its entire area are designated as Level 4 include Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. We would like to again request your cooperation.

(2) Start of the Call for Nominations for the Fifth Japan SDGs Award

Press Secretary Yoshida: Secondly, this is more of an introduction, but as I have stated in my press conference last year, I would like to notify that we have started the call for nominations for the FY2021 Japan SDGs Award.

The call for nominations began today for the FY2021 Japan SDGs Award on the websites of MOFA and the Prime Minister’s Office. Nominations will be accepted until September 24.

The Japan SDGs Award honors excellent initiatives toward the achievement of the SDGs by companies, organizations, and other entities in Japan. The Award was created in 2017, and will be held for the fifth time this year.

So far, the Award has been won not only by large companies, but also various entities such as SMEs, universities, club activities in schools, and NPOs/ NGOs. The Government of Japan would like to further accelerate specific initiatives toward achieving the SDGs in Japan by carrying out the Award this year as well.

As of now, it is presumed that the award ceremony will be held in late December after the necessary evaluation process. I believe that decisions on the format of the ceremony and other matters will be made depending on the conditions inside and outside Japan at the time. That is all from me.

Sentencing of the Canadian Man Detained in China

NTV, Maeno: I would like to confirm something about the Canadian man detained in China. Today, Mr. Michael Spavor who had been charged with espionage, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The Government of Canada has been repeatedly protesting that he is being arbitrarily detained. I believe the Government of Japan also made a reaction. Please tell us if the Government of Japan has any comment regarding this decision.

Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware that the Intermediate People's Court in Liaoning Province sentenced Mr. Michael Spavor, who has been detained in China, to 11 years in prison today, as you have stated in your question. I know that Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Garneau of the Government of Canada issued statements saying that Mr. Spavor has been subjected to “arbitrary detention” and demanding his immediate release.

Japan and Canada have been conducting communication and have come to a mutual understanding most recently during the Japan-Canada Summit Meeting in June regarding the cases of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Michael Kovrig, the former Canadian diplomat who has been detained separately.

Regarding the judgment, I would like to once again state that since this incident occurred, Japan has been monitoring the incident with concern.

Japan believes that it is important that the international community’s universal values of freedom, respect for fundamental human rights, and rule of law are ensured in China as well.

Four-Island Exchange Program

TV Asahi, Sawai: I would like to ask about travel without visas by former islanders of the Northern Territories. The travel to the Northern Territories has been suspended this year as well until August due to novel coronavirus infection situations and concerns over medical care system. If the travel were to be suspended next month as well, it would mean that the travel has been suspended completely for two successive years. As infection situations are still not improving, could you please tell us the future outlook? In addition, the former islanders are requesting that they would be able to carry out the “memorial services at sea” to visit their ancestors’ graves from the waters around the Four Northern Islands. Please tell us the status of negotiations with Russia.

Press Secretary Yoshida: Coordination on the Four-Island Exchange Program in 2021 has been underway between the governments of Japan and Russia and among the implementing bodies of Japan and the Four Northern Islands. As you have stated in your question, the MOFA press release issued on July 13 has announced that the Government of Japan and Japan’s implementing organizations would postpone the program in August following the program from May to July due to the current situation of the novel coronavirus.

On the other hand, the Government of Japan wishes to work towards implementing the program as much as possible. In light of the importance of the Four-Island Exchange Program, while ascertaining the novel coronavirus situation, the governments of Japan and Russia as well as the implementing bodies of both sides have been conducting consultations earnestly, taking the opportunities such as the summit and foreign ministers’ telephone talks. Such consultations are still underway.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that the implementing bodies are considering the possibility of implementing a separate program, including “memorial services at sea” which you have mentioned in your question, based on the wishes of the former islanders and others. I believe the implementing bodies will continue the consideration, and the Government of Japan will continue to provide necessary support.

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