Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, February 7, 2020, 10:47 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Response to the Novel Coronavirus

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The fourth chartered flight arrived at Haneda Airport just a little while ago at 10:12 a.m. With this chartered flight, we have achieved the repatriation of the majority of Japanese nationals living in Hubei Province who wished to return to Japan.

The 198 passengers aboard today’s chartered flight were Japanese nationals as well as spouses, parents, and children related to Japanese nationals who lived in Hubei Province. The details of the people who returned to Japan will be conclusively verified during immigration inspection, but according to the information from when the flight departed from China, the breakdown for nationality and region was 119 people from Japan, 77 people from mainland China, and two people from Taiwan.

Additionally, we were able to repatriate people not only from within Wuhan City but also from all areas of Hubei Province. In terms of area, the flight had 80 passengers who were residents of Wuhan City and 118 residents from areas within Hubei Province besides Wuhan City. There are slight changes each day in the number of people who wish to return to Japan and those who decline, but at present, the number of people who wish to return to Japan in the affected area is at a level of just a few people. We will continue to closely cooperate with the Government of China, related ministries and agencies, and others so that all Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan can do so.

Novel Coronavirus (Return to Japan by Japanese Nationals and Their Families)

Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: Chinese spouses of Japanese nationals were also able to return to Japan on this flight. Can you please tell us the main factor for why this was possible, and your evaluation of the response by the Government of China in allowing people besides Japanese nationals to return to Japan?

Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, the Government of Japan highly appreciates the cooperation on all aspects received from the Government of China including for allowing the chartered flights, as the Government of China itself exerts all efforts for countermeasures against the novel coronavirus. Moreover, in terms of the passengers aboard the chartered flights, although only Japanese nationals were repatriated previously in various ways, we were able to bring spouses, parents, and children related to Japanese nationals on the fourth flight to Japan by providing an explanation to the Government of China that included humanitarian reasons and receiving the Government’s understanding.

Situation in Syria

Pan Orient News, Azhari: I would like to ask about Syria. There has recently been rapprochement between Syria and some Arab countries including Saudi Arabia. UAE reopened its embassy last year. So I am wondering about Japan’s position on this issue. Are you planning to reopen your embassy in Syria and resume Official Development Assistance (ODA), especially in the energy sector where there is a big need for energy products, and Japan has been very effectively providing big help to Syria in this energy sector in the past decade?

Minister MOTEGI: It is certainly true that we can see improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria, and I would like to welcome this progress. On the other hand, I know that there are various issues such as power shortages on the ground. It is Japan’s basic stance that the Syrian crisis is not an issue that can be resolved through military means, but rather political solutions must be pursued. We are therefore persistently urging all the people concerned, including the Government of Syria, to suspend military measures and to constructively contribute to advancing the political process.

We have strong concerns about the continuing violent conflict in the Idlib Governorate and the worsening humanitarian situation. In addition, Japan is implementing humanitarian support for Syrian people facing difficulties, regardless of the source of their difficulties, and has provided support totaling over $2.7 billion since 2012 for Syria and neighboring countries. Japan has now decided to provide new additional support of about $130 million, including support for use within Syria of about $47 million.

Furthermore, although the Embassy of Japan in Syria is currently temporarily closed, this is primarily because of the deterioration of public order in the area. We will make a decision while monitoring the local situation about resuming work at the embassy in the Damascus Governorate.

Novel Coronavirus (People Remaining in the Affected Area Who Would Like to Be Repatriated)

Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: In regard to the number of people remaining in the affected area who would like to be repatriated, to the extent possible, I would like to know about their nationalities, the areas where they are located, and the reasons they could not be repatriated this time.

Minister MOTEGI: The number changes every day. Each person has his or her reasons, and I would like to refrain from mentioning anything that may lead to the revealing of the identities of individual people.

Novel Coronavirus (Wishes of People Other than Japanese Nationals Following Their Entry into Japan)

Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: I have another question which is quite specific. The fourth flight was the first to have passengers who were family members who were not themselves Japanese nationals, namely those from mainland China and Taiwan. Do you know whether they intend to stay in Japan following the immigration inspection, or to go to another region such as Taiwan?

Minister MOTEGI: I do not know the details, but I believe that people besides Japanese nationals were brought to Japan on the fourth flight in consideration of the fact that they want to be with their families.

Novel Coronavirus (Cost Burden for the Chartered Flights)

Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: In regard to the people who have been repatriated thus far, the Government of Japan has indicated that it will pay the costs for the chartered flights. Will the Government respond in the same way for the people who are not Japanese nationals who came to Japan on the fourth flight?

Minister MOTEGI: That has not been officially decided yet, but I would like for consideration to be made in that direction.

Novel Coronavirus (Fifth Chartered Flight, Details of the Parents and Children, Japanese Nationals in China with Serious Illnesses)

NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask three related questions. There are several people still in China who want to return to Japan, so is specific consideration being conducted for dispatching a fifth chartered plane? Also, although this is quite specific, when you mentioned parents and children related to Japanese nationals, did this meaning include the children of Japanese nationals, or the mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law, in other words people like grandmothers, of Japanese nationals? Lastly, I believe that there are people with serious illnesses and people sick in other ways. Are any such people among the people remaining in the affected area who would like to be repatriated?

Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, regarding your first question, I would like to achieve repatriation of all people who wish to return to Japan by pursuing various means including dispatching chartered planes. In regard to the details of your second question, I would like you to ask the administrative staff. In regard to your third question, do you mean people with serious illnesses as those in Wuhan?


Minister MOTEGI: At least at the present stage, I am not aware of any such people who want to return to Japan.

Novel Coronavirus (Chinese Woman with Permanent Residency in Japan)

Independent Web Journal, HAMAMOTO: I have one question. There was newspaper coverage yesterday of a Chinese woman living in Japan with permanent residency as well as her child who were denied permission to board the chartered flight in Wuhan. Is this true?

Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, can you please say that again?

Independent Web Journal, HAMAMOTO: There was newspaper coverage yesterday of a Chinese woman living in Japan with permanent residency as well as her child who were denied permission to board the chartered flight in Wuhan. If the coverage is true, can you please tell us the current situation of the woman?

Minister MOTEGI: I do not know if it is true.

Novel Coronavirus (Cruise Ship)

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Lenin: I would like to ask a question about the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 41 people aboard the ship were newly confirmed to have been infected with novel coronavirus today. Are any of the infected people Russian?

Minister MOTEGI: The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) as well as the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) have jurisdiction over the matter of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, so please ask them for information. As has been stated, there were many people of many different nationalities aboard the Diamond Princess. From 3:30 p.m. the day before yesterday at MOFA, officials from MHLW and MLIT provided an explanation regarding the situation concerning the quarantine and other such matters to 105 people from international organizations from 76 countries, including members of the diplomatic corps of the countries where the crew and passengers aboard the ship are from. Going forward, I will continue to work to provide careful explanations publicly.

Novel Coronavirus (People Who Were Not Allowed to Board the Third Chartered Flight)

TV Asahi, OISHI: I would like to return to the matter of the chartered flights. I believe that there were seven people who were not allowed to board the third chartered flight due to inspection by China. Is it correct to understand that these people were able to board the fourth chartered flight?

Minister MOTEGI: Please wait. I believe that they were able to board the flight. Yes, they were.

Novel Coronavirus (Cruise Ship)

TV Asahi, OISHI: I have another question in relation to the cruise ship. I believe that there is a considerable number of foreign people aboard the ship. For example, have various foreign governments sent any sort of requests concerning these foreign people?

Minister MOTEGI: If any requests or the like are sent by foreign governments, we will listen to them individually and respond as much as possible. As I stated before, I would like you to ask MLIT and MHLW about the cruise ship. In any event, if such a request is sent from abroad, then we will listen carefully.

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