Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Monday, December 21, 2020, 1:52 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel (Effects of the New Strain of the Novel Coronavirus)
TV Asahi, Saito: A mutation of the novel coronavirus that is up to 70% more infectious than those thus far has been discovered in the United Kingdom. Various countries are placing restrictions on new entry by people arriving from the United Kingdom. In Japan, entry into the country has become possible under certain conditions for people arriving from countries around the world. Please tell us your thoughts on the ideal state of cross-border travel going forward.
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On December 19, Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom announced that the rapid spread of novel coronavirus infections in the United Kingdom might be caused by a mutation. He stated that although there was no proof whether the mutation increased the risk of serious illness or death, it is possibly up to 70% more infectious. In regard to cross-border travel between Japan and the United Kingdom, Japan has designated the United Kingdom as one of the countries subject to denial of permission to enter the country through now. Unless there are special circumstances, new entry into Japan from the United Kingdom is prohibited in principle.
In regard to entry into Japan from the United Kingdom, we will continue to carefully respond to the situation as we are currently doing while monitoring the infection conditions.
Host Nation Support (HNS) for the U.S. Forces Japan
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: I believe that the Ministry of Defense budget decided by the Cabinet today includes 201.7 billion yen for HNS for the U.S. Forces Japan. On the other hand, it is my understanding that the negotiations have still not been concluded. Can you please tell us the current status of the negotiations, including whether they will be concluded within the year?
Minister Motegi: The negotiations between Japan and the United States on HNS for the U.S. Forces Japan are still ongoing. Having said that, based on the importance of the HNS for the U.S. Forces Japan and the fact that it is necessary to swiftly execute the next Special Measures Agreement (SMA) after it enters into force and implement the budget, Japan has allocated 201.7 billion yen in the FY2021 government draft budget for the necessary expenses in accordance with the current SMA.
We will appropriately respond to the negotiations going forward based on the regional security situation that is increasing in severity and Japan’s severe financial situation, as well as in consideration of the administration transition in the United States.
In regard to when the negotiations will be concluded, if we knew that then they would not be negotiations. We will continue to work to be able to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible.
Diplomatic Recognition of Palestine
Pan Orient News, Azhari: I'm asking about the Middle East. There have been a lot of events recently, such as the normalized relations between Arab countries and Israel. But on the Palestinian front and other Arab countries, it's still reaching a dead end. Do you think Japan would be able to continue supporting the Palestinians as it’s the biggest supporter, and do you think the Palestinian state might push the peace process forward, and maybe that the issue of the Middle East peace might prevail?
Minister Motegi: In regard to peace in the Middle East, Japan continues to support a two-state solution whereby Israel and a future independent Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security. Japan understands the wish of the Palestinians to establish an independent state, and supports Palestine’s efforts toward that.
Now, for example, what can we do? If Japan recognizes Palestine as an independent state, that “card” of diplomatic recognition could be played only once. Japan will continue to conduct consideration on matters such as diplomatic recognition at a future appropriate timing from the perspective of whether we can greatly contribute to progress in the peace process by most effectively utilizing our unique position we have built in the Middle East.