Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Sunday, January 26, 2020, 9:44 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Just now, from 9 p.m., I held a telephone talk with State Councilor Wang Yi of China regarding responses to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus infection in China. According to State Councilor Wang, I am the first Foreign Minister whom he held a telephone talk with concerning this matter. State Councilor Wang stated that the Government of China is currently making every effort to take infection control measures, and is striving to provide information to the international community as much as possible. I conveyed to State Councilor Wang that the Government of Japan stands ready to offer full support if there is anything we can cooperate to prevent the spread of infection, and requested China to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals and support the repatriation of all Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan. In response, State Councilor Wang expressed appreciation for Japan’s offer of cooperation. He also expressed understanding of Japan’s intentions regarding ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals and the early repatriation of Japanese nationals. We agreed that the two Governments will continue to coordinate with each other on various levels. We intend to continue to coordinate with the Government of China at the working level as well. As of today, January 26, over 2,000 cases of infection with the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in countries including China, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the United States, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, France, and Japan, and infection is spreading. We are working earnestly to confirm the safety of Japanese nationals who have submitted Overseas Residential Registration and registered on Overseas Travel Registration (Tabi-Regi) in Hubei Province. As of January 26, we are aware that there are approximately 430 Japanese nationals in Hubei Province. We will continue to provide information and alert Japanese nationals in China. We are also working earnestly to confirm the safety of registrants with whom we have not been able to make contact. In Wuhan City, one Japanese national developed a severe case of pneumonia and is hospitalized. Through our Embassy in China, we are in contact with local health authorities and the family of the Japanese national, and we intend to continue to provide necessary support. Regarding the repatriation of Japanese nationals, we are pursuing all possible means, including dispatching chartered planes. As part of this, we have asked Japanese nationals to provide information necessary for evacuation through various channels, including consul emails. The Government will further accelerate its coordination on all fronts and preparations to allow for the early repatriation of all Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan.
Reporter: Regarding arrangements for the chartered planes, when do you expect to dispatch them? Will it be tomorrow at the earliest?
Minister MOTEGI: They will be dispatched as soon as preparations are complete. We hope to dispatch them as quickly as possible.
Reporter: Since last week, there has been information that a Japanese man in his 60s has a severe case of pneumonia in Wuhan City. Is he infected with the novel coronavirus?
Minister MOTEGI: As of now, it has not been verified. As I mentioned earlier, we are in contact with local health authorities and his family. We will continue to provide necessary support.
Reporter: So that means the Government has not been informed that he is not infected?
Minister MOTEGI: No.
Reporter: I would like to confirm a number of points with you. During your talk with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, you requested China’s cooperation for the repatriation of Japanese nationals, and Mr. Wang expressed understanding. Is that correct?
Minister MOTEGI: Yes, he expressed understanding of Japan’s intentions.
Reporter: Do you expect to receive China’s cooperation?
Minister MOTEGI: We will be finalizing the details going forward. That is what we discussed.
Reporter: You stated that the Government is aware of 430 Japanese nationals in Hubei Province. The other day the count was 710 Japanese nationals.
Minister MOTEGI: As far as we are aware, there are 710 Japanese nationals registered in Wuhan City in Hubei Province. Of those people, we were able to reach by telephone and other methods and confirm that approximately 430 Japanese nationals are actually there. The majority is in Wuhan City.
Reporter: I believe Japan, as of now, is asking visitors from China to self-declare any symptoms. For example, is there any possibility that the Government will refuse entry of visitors from Wuhan City?
Minister MOTEGI: The Government is taking a variety of border control measures. We will work closely with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in reviewing what measures will be effective.
Reporter: While I realize that entry restrictions are not imposed at present, what about in the future?
Minister MOTEGI: Could you please inquire about entry restrictions to MHLW rather than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)?
Reporter: Will any entry restrictions be imposed on Chinese people waiting for reentry visas who are currently in China and plan to return to Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: We will coordinate closely with MHLW and other relevant ministries and agencies regarding such matters.
Reporter: Is it only people in Wuhan City who will be evacuated by chartered planes, or will all Japanese nationals in Hubei Province be evacuated? Also, will the chartered planes be flown to Wuhan Airport?
Minister MOTEGI: The details will be finalized going forward. There are areas where roads have been closed and railway service suspended, mainly in Wuhan City, and we will make every effort to ensure that all Japanese nationals in such areas who wish to return to Japan may do so.
Reporter: Will the evacuation be conducted by Japan alone? Or could Japan be cooperating with other countries that are considering similar measures, such as the United States and the ROK, in sharing any vacant seats for example?
Minister MOTEGI: We are still in the process of making preparations for the chartered planes and other details, and we have not yet discussed with the United States or other countries regarding what type of cooperation is feasible.
Reporter: Minister, I apologize for asking repeatedly, but I believe that reentry visas are under the jurisdiction of MOFA. What are MOFA’s plans with regard to reentry visa regulations?
Minister MOTEGI: While visas themselves are under MOFA’s jurisdiction, please understand that we need to consult carefully with relevant ministries and agencies as infections require border control measures to prevent further infection.
Reporter: I believe that practically China’s group travel ban will be imposed from the 27th. Will the chartered planes depart on the 27th?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, we hope to dispatch them as soon as possible right after preparations and arrangements are complete.
Reporter: Does that mean the evacuation could take place even after the travel ban from Wuhan City is imposed?<.p>
Minister MOTEGI: Sorry, I do not understand the purpose of your question.
Reporter: Is it possible that the chartered planes will be dispatched after a period of time from when the travel ban from Wuhan City to Japan is imposed?
Minister MOTEGI: Since the planes are chartered, they will naturally be flown in from Japan.
Reporter: You mentioned earlier that the Government is aware of 430 Japanese nationals’ stay and that the majority are in Wuhan City. Do you know how many are in Wuhan City?
Minister MOTEGI: While I will not go into exact numbers, I believe that nearly all of them are in Wuhan City.
Reporter: Was the government plane not considered as an option for picking up the Japanese nationals?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, we intend to pursue all possible means, including chartering planes.