Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa

Tuesday, November 30, 2021, 10:48 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(Video) Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Postponement of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12)

Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Good morning. I have one announcement.

I had been planning to visit Geneva to attend MC12 from November 29 to December 1, but I have canceled my visit due to the postponement of the conference.

However, negotiations at the WTO are continuing, and we cannot afford to lose political momentum to promote the reform of the WTO, a core of the multilateral trade system.

I recently sent a letter to Director-General Okonjo-Iweala of the WTO stating that I support her decision made in consideration of the health and safety of the conference participants, and that Japan will continue to actively contribute to the discussions.

Japan will continue to lead discussions in the international community, including the WTO, to advance rule-making to strengthen free and open international economic systems. That is all from me.

Postponement of the MC12

Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: Regarding the suspension of the WTO conference that you just mentioned, I believe that if you had attended, it would have been your first overseas visit. Please tell us again your candid reaction to the suspension.

Minister Hayashi: Yes, it would indeed have been my first overseas visit since assuming my position, but the conference itself was postponed. As I stated before, firstly I support the decision of postponement. As Prime Minister Kishida also stated, I believe that crisis management means presuming the worst-possible situation. Although it is true that the conference will not be held face-to-face, we cannot afford to lose the momentum. I believe it is important to continue to actively contribute to the discussions.

Novel Coronavirus (Effects on Diplomatic Schedule)

Nikkei Shimbun, Miki: About the question just now, the WTO ministerial meeting and the visit to Japan by the President of the European Council have been postponed. As face-to-face diplomacy resumes, what is your take on the effects of the Omicron variant? In addition, how do you analyze the effects on Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to the United States and the Japan-U.S. “2+2,” which you are aiming to coordinate at an early date?

Minister Hayashi: I would like to refrain from answering based on speculation regarding the effects of the recent novel coronavirus situation on specific diplomatic schedules.

If I were to say anything further, it would be that as just stated, I believe it is very important to hold in-person meetings with dignitaries from various countries and have lengthy, thorough discussions on issues faced by the international community and deepen our understanding.

In any event, we will respond appropriately based on the border measures and infection control measures taken by various countries, including Japan.

Expansion of Vaccine Provision through COVAX, Jinbo: A point about the Omicron variant just came up. The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa recently. The WHO has been saying for quite some time that global vaccine inequality and the spread of the novel coronavirus in countries that have low vaccination rate increases the risk of new variants emerging. It is widely being pointed out by experts that the Omicron variant is a manifestation of this phenomenon.

Japan is providing a certain level of support through COVAX. Director-General Tedros of the WHO is saying that vaccines should be firstly provided to developing countries before developed countries give booster shots to their people. Due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, is Japan considering further strengthening support to developing countries? Or is Japan considering strengthening vaccine support for Africa in particular since vaccination rates are extremely low there?

Minister Hayashi: As you just stated, I believe it is essential to work to prevent the global spread of infections because even if the novel coronavirus winds down domestically, there is still a possibility of a resurgence if the virus remains somewhere in the world.

When it comes to vaccines, in particular, I believe that it is important to ensure equitable access to vaccines with assured safety, efficacy, and quality in all countries and regions around the world. Japan also supports the goal of vaccinating 70% of the entire global population by mid-2022, which was recently agreed by the G20. To achieve this goal, I believe it is important to raise vaccine development, production, and transport, as well as holistic vaccination initiatives, including vaccine rollouts, and trust towards vaccines.

In that sense, in addition to our announcement of a total of $1 billion in financial support for the COVAX Facility, Japan has also provided about 30 million vaccine doses until now. We will continue to provide vaccines with a total of 60 million doses as our goal.

In addition, for what is known as “Last One Mile Support,” various aspects such as refrigerators are needed to ultimately deliver vaccines to every person. Japan has decided to provide a total of 13.7 billion yen for such support to 59 countries and regions. We will continue to provide necessary support by utilizing such means.

Novel Coronavirus Border Measures

NHK, Aoki: Yesterday, the Government of Japan announced new preventative border measures. Please tell us where the Government of Japan will place the grounds for making decisions on relaxing, assessing, and changing the measures.

Minister Hayashi: We are responding to the Omicron variant with a strong sense of crisis. We are taking emergency precautionary preventive measures to avoid the worst-possible scenario.

As Prime Minister Kishida has always been stating, the vital point of crisis management is presuming the worst possible scenario. We will quickly and flexibly handle border measures if the situation worsens, particularly if there is a spread of the new variant infection. We will quickly and appropriately respond based on the perspective of preventatively dispelling the concerns of the people of Japan. That is what Prime Minister Kishida stated. It is my understanding that the measures this time are being taken from that perspective.

Novel Coronavirus Border Measures (Effects on Foreign Nationals Coming to Japan)

Radio France, Nishimura: Some Diet members from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan are requesting a measure to suspend re-entry into Japan by foreign nationals with a status of residence in Japan. What are your thoughts on this proposal and request?

Minister Hayashi: As I stated before, we are responding to the Omicron variant with a strong sense of crisis. As an emergency precautionary preventive measure to prevent the worst possible scenario, we are suspending new entry into Japan by foreign nationals from all countries and regions except for those with special exceptional circumstances. Since people re-entering Japan are not people newly entering Japan, I believe the ban on the new entry would not apply to them.

G7 Summit 2023 Hosted by Japan (Location)

Chugoku Shimbun, Higuchi: This afternoon, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture, and the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry plan to hold a press conference to officially announce the bid for the Japan-hosted G7 Summit 2023. I already asked about this at a recent press conference, so excuse me for asking about it again. Please tell us again about the process for selecting the location and about the conditions required for the city to hold the Summit.

Minister Hayashi: I am aware that Hiroshima Prefecture and Hiroshima City will officially announce their bid for the Japan-hosted G7 Summit in 2023. After relevant materials are submitted by the local governments, we will gather information, analyze, and consider the candidate locations, and decide the location to hold the Summit upon completing the required process.

The specific timing of the Summit in Japan is still not fixed at this time. As a Government of Japan, we would like to decide the location of the Summit by the next year’s Summit in Germany.

Chugoku Shimbun, Higuchi: The Mayor of Hiroshima City is saying that especially because the G7 is a framework that also includes nuclear-weapon states, it would be a good opportunity to appeal to the value of peace to the world. What are your thoughts on the attractiveness and advantages of Hiroshima?

Minister Hayashi: I believe that a decision will be made to select a candidate location following comprehensive consideration from all perspectives, including accommodation facilities, conference venues, transportation access, and security.

Situation in Ethiopia

Asahi Shimbun, Sugawara: I would like to ask about the situation in Ethiopia where there is ongoing conflict. Right now, civilian and commercial aircraft are in operation, but it has been pointed out that operation may be affected due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Currently, the Government of Japan has dispatched an information-gathering team to Djibouti. Please tell us your recognition of the local situation and the future response policy, including calls to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) aircraft.

Minister Hayashi: The situation in Ethiopia continues to be very unpredictable. While firstly exerting all efforts to gather information, since November 3 we have been persistently calling on Japanese nationals residing in Ethiopia to quickly leave the country. In addition, on November 26 we raised the travel warning for all of Ethiopia to Level 4: Evacuate and Avoid All Travel. As a result, the number of confirmed Japanese nationals residing in Ethiopia at this point has fallen to about 40 people including people affiliated with international organizations, except for embassy staff. We have not received any information about the harm done to the lives and health of Japanese nationals there.

Furthermore, as you just stated, we have strengthened our information gathering by dispatching an investigation team from MOFA and the Ministry of Defense to Djibouti on November 26. We will continue to work on information gathering and exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals with a sense of crisis.

As you just stated, commercial flights are currently in operation as usual, and we are persistently calling on Japanese nationals residing in Ethiopia to quickly leave the country using commercial flights. We will continue to monitor the local situation, including the situation of the operation of the airports, and have close cooperation among the ministries and agencies concerned. Regarding the dispatching of SDF aircraft, we will appropriately respond depending on how the situation progresses.

Expansion of Vaccine Provision through COVAX, Jinbo: I would like to follow up on my question earlier. You stated that you are responding to the Omicron variant by taking border measures considering the worst possible scenario. In contrast to many instances of past administrations often responding after the situation worsened, Japan’s border measures this time are probably the most severe in the world, at a time when President Biden is saying that we still do not clearly know how much of an actual threat the Omicron variant is.

I believe that this change to a response presuming the worst possible scenario, which was stated by Prime Minister Kishida, is a clear shift from the policies until now. It would mean a change where Japan presumes the worst-possible scenario and firstly takes severe preventative border measures – although it does not have to be just border measures – and then relaxes them if it is found that the variant is not that frightening. Please tell us your thoughts on whether the Government of Japan is doing this intentionally and consciously, or whether it just happens to be this way this time, or whether this response is being taken because of the current low number of cases in Japan.

Minister Hayashi: This is what the Government of Japan has decided as a whole. Although I might be repeating a little of what I stated earlier, I mentioned that Prime Minister Kishida has stated that the vital point of crisis management is presuming the worst possible scenario and that Japan will quickly and flexibly handle border measures if the situation worsens, particularly if there is a spread of the new variant. He also added the perspective that we will preventatively dispel the concerns of the people of Japan. Prime Minister Kishida stated that we will quickly and appropriately respond to this matter based on such policy. It is my understanding that the response this time is being taken based on that way of thinking.

Novel Coronavirus Border Measures (Effects on Foreign Nationals Coming to Japan)

Tribune News, Susilo: Entry into Japan will be suspended for the entire world. What effects will there be on people coming to Japan from foreign countries, and how should this be conveyed?

Minister Hayashi: I am not sure that I precisely understand the meaning of your question. We are taking the response which we have already announced. The Government of Japan will firmly explain the measures.

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