Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Monday, February 10, 2020, 10:00 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Opening Remarks - Response to the Novel Coronavirus
(1) Condolences for the Patient Who Passed Away from Pneumonia in Wuhan City
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: A total of 763 people from Hubei Province, including Wuhan City, have been brought back to Japan aboard chartered flights thus far. Amidst this, as has already been announced, a Japanese man in his 60s passed away after being hospitalized for severe pneumonia in Wuhan City in the early morning of Saturday, February 8, Japan time. I would like to express my prayers for him as well as my heartfelt condolences to his family.
Since the Japanese man was hospitalized, support has been provided in a careful manner at the local embassy while the medical officer and consul personnel were in close contact with the family. For example, they requested the Chinese government authorities and Chinese medical institution to ensure the man received appropriate medical care, and due to this, medical specialists were additionally dispatched by the Government of China for his treatment. We will continue to provide maximum support while consulting with his family.
(2) Response to the Cruise Ship
Minister MOTEGI: There are currently many non-Japanese crew members and passengers aboard the Diamond Princess, which is moored in Yokohama Bay. MOFA is in close contact with embassies and others from the countries concerned, and is providing support to respond to cases such as emergency needs for medical supplies from foreign crew members and passengers. We will continue to exert all efforts as much as possible to provide necessary support for the foreign passengers and crew members while closely cooperating with the Japanese government ministries and agencies concerned, including the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), as well as the embassies and others from the countries concerned.
(3) The Number of Infected People in Japan and the Number of Infected People aboard the Cruise Ship
Minister MOTEGI: It is important to convey information based on accurate facts when implementing measures for the novel coronavirus. In relation to this, last week, the Government of Japan sent a report to the WHO secretariat that differentiated between the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus within Japan and the number of infected people aboard the cruise ship who had not yet come ashore to Japan. Due to this, the WHO’s report now also has an accurate record that differentiates between these two numbers.
Based on the policy of the WHO secretariat, it would be appreciated if all of you at news companies would also issue more accurate facts by differentiating between the number of infected people in Japan and the number of infected people who have not come ashore to Japan.
As exerting all efforts to prevent the spread of infection, the Government of Japan is continuing to issue timely, appropriate information regarding comprehensive work to halt the spread of infection, safety, and other matters in Japan.
Novel Coronavirus (Possibility of Operation of a Fifth Chartered Flight)
Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: In regard to the novel coronavirus, at your press conference last week, you stated that coordination would be conducted with China to enable repatriation of all Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan. Can you please tell us the latest situation, such as about the possible operation of a fifth flight and the current number of people who wish to return to Japan, including Chinese people with some sort of connection to Japanese nationals, such as spouses?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, a total of 763 people, including Japanese nationals, their spouses of other nationalities, parents, and children, have returned to Japan aboard the four chartered flights dispatched thus far. The breakdown of the people is 684 Japanese people and 79 people of other nationalities. Frankly speaking, the number of people who wish to return to Japan changes daily. It depends on the person. The number of people who wish to return changes because their wishes can change, but it is my understanding that there is still a certain number of Japanese nationals and their family members in Hubei Province who wish to return to Japan. However, when I say “certain number,” it is probably not a number for which we need to send several planes.
The Government of Japan will continue to closely cooperate with the Government of China and the ministries and agencies concerned to enable repatriation of all people who wish to return to Japan. Although nothing specific has been decided regarding dispatching chartered planes going forward, the Government will work to enable repatriation of all people who wish to return to Japan by pursuing various methods.
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to the question just now, in that case, considering the capacity of the chartered planes thus far, rather than having them all board one plane, at what timing do you expect to dispatch another flight, such as at the same time as local embassy personnel are brought back to Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to the people who went to Wuhan from the Embassy of Japan in Beijing as well as the people who went to Wuhan aboard the first chartered flight to provide support for repatriation of Japanese nationals, they have returned to Japan aboard the fourth chartered flight. Seven MOFA personnel rode the fourth chartered flight to Wuhan to take their place, and are now conducting various coordination in the area and maintaining contact with Japanese nationals. I believe that coordination will probably be conducted going forward about when the next chartered flight will be dispatched. I assume that the personnel who have entered the area will return to Japan aboard that flight as well as Japanese nationals and their relatives who wish to return to Japan.
President Xi Jinping’s Visit to Japan
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: In relation to this, regarding the visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping of China, although coordination had been conducted for the visit to Japan this month by Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi, there are reports that it might be postponed. Can you please tell us about the status of coordination for President Xi’s visit to Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: It has been decided that Dr. Yang will come this month, and it is not true that his visit has been postponed. I would first like to state that.
Firstly, in regard to the novel coronavirus, the entire Government of Japan has taken various measures related to points of entry to the country including strengthening quarantines for people trying to enter Japan thus far, and we will continue to exert every effort going forward as well. China is also united in earnestly tackling prevention of the spread of the novel coronavirus, and the Government of Japan will exert all efforts to cooperate in all ways possible toward resolving the situation as quickly as possible.
Also, at present, the visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping will proceed as planned, and preparation will be diligently advanced for that.
Munich Security Conference (Meetings with Russia, Etc.)
NHK, WATANABE: The Munich Security Conference will be held this weekend. At present, what bilateral meetings and multilateral meetings are being coordinated or are planned to be held? Also, I believe that a meeting with negotiations between Japan and Russia will be held, so what would you like the negotiations to mainly address and how do you position them?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, coordination is being conducted for me to attend the Munich Security Conference this weekend if various circumstances permit it. I believe that I will probably participate as a panelist in some sort of important session at the conference.
Furthermore, in terms of bilateral and multilateral meetings and a meeting with Russia, during the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in December 2019, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I agreed to hold a meeting if we both attend the Munich Security Conference, and the specific timing for the meeting is currently being coordinated through diplomatic channels. At our meeting in Moscow at the end of last year, I held an in-depth discussion over plenty of time with Foreign Minister Lavrov regarding the peace treaty negotiations, and was able to enter full-fledged consultations. I would like to have opportunities to deepen various administrative discussions and further advance consultations.
Also, although I believe it will depend on the foreign ministers and others who come to the conference, such as from the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and Iran, coordination will be conducted to hold meetings and more as appropriate during the limited amount of time.
Novel Coronavirus (Number of People who have Returned to Japan)
Mainichi Shimbun, NARUSAWA: You explained before in relation to the novel coronavirus that 684 Japanese people and 79 people of other nationalities have returned to Japan aboard the chartered flights. However, it seems that the number reported by the MHLW for the people of other nationalities who were on the fourth chartered flight is slightly different. The MHLW has said that it coordinated with MOFA. Can you please comment on this?
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, how are they different?
Mainichi Shimbun, NARUSAWA: The MHLW explained that there were 118 Japanese people.
Minister MOTEGI: That was just the fourth flight, right?
Mainichi Shimbun, NARUSAWA: Yes, the fourth flight.
Minister MOTEGI: What I stated earlier was the breakdown of the total of 763 people.
Mainichi Shimbun, NARUSAWA: In that case, it would be 119 people. The number in the initial explanation was 684 people.
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, but I do not have the numbers for the fourth flight on hand. Please ask an official.
Mainichi Shimbun, NARUSAWA: I understand.
Munich Security Conference (Meetings with Russia, Etc.)
NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask about the Munich Security Conference in Germany. You mentioned that coordination is being conducted to hold a meeting with Russia. What would you like to discuss about the Summit Meeting? I also have another question. In general, can you please tell us if you plan to have discussions about strengthening cooperation in relation to the novel coronavirus with any countries?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting, I believe that consideration is currently being made for Prime Minister Abe to attend the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany that will be held on May 9 in Moscow.
Also, although I do not know if the novel coronavirus will be discussed during meetings such as the meeting with the Foreign Minister of Iran, and although I believe that the possibility of it being brought up is not that high, if it is a case of a meeting with a foreign minister from a country where novel coronavirus infections have been confirmed, there is a possibility that there will be discussions on topics such as prevention measures at points of entry to the country and how to approach international cooperation.
Cost Burden for the U.S. Forces Japan
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I apologize for asking about a topic from last week, but during his State of the Union address, President Trump stated regarding diplomacy and security, “We are also getting our allies, finally, to help pay their fair share.” I believe this indicates his intention to again request allies of the United States to increase their share of costs. What is your reaction to President Trump’s address? How will you approach the negotiations on the new Special Measures Agreement concerning stationing costs planned for this year?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that President Trump did not specifically mention Japan in the part of his State of the Union address that you mentioned. Moreover, amidst the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan, the Japan-U.S. Alliance that is upheld by the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements is an indispensable presence for not only the defense of Japan but also the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
Moreover, as I stated recently, the scope of security is rapidly broadening to new areas of cyberspace and outer space. As threats are expanding, I believe that the roles played by both Japan and the United States have been growing.
In addition, in regard to the stationing cost for the U.S. Forces Japan, as the stationing of the U.S. military is a core component of the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements, I believe that our share of the costs has been playing an important role for ensuring the smooth and efficient activities by the U.S. Forces Japan. During the next negotiations, I will respond appropriately based on the increasingly severe regional security environment, Japan’s severe financial situation, and other matters.