Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato

Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 4:33 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Novel Coronavirus (Response to the Cruise Ship)

Yomiuri Shimbun, GOTO: In regard to the response by the Government of Japan to the Diamond Princess, at his press conference this morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated that as the ship is in Japanese waters where Japan has sovereignty, the situation is being handled under Japanese law. However, I believe it is also being discussed whether it is fine for the United Kingdom, the country of registration of the Diamond Princess, to do nothing. Do you believe that it is necessary to conclude an international agreement going forward regarding whether the country of registration of the ship has responsibility, or if the country where the ship is anchored has responsibility, in cases in which there is an outbreak of large-scale infections on a large passenger ship, as has occurred in this case?

Mr. OHTAKA Masato, Press Secretary: Although I am probably repeating a part of what Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga already stated, the response to the cruise ship is being conducted based on Japanese law due to the necessity of prevention from an epidemic because the ship is in Japanese waters in Yokohama Bay, where Japan has sovereignty. In general, under international law, no country has unequivocal responsibility to take measures to prevent the spread of infections aboard a ship. However, due to the urgent circumstances, the Government of Japan believes that the countries concerned should cooperate and make suitable responses.

Additionally, speaking from a diplomacy perspective, I believe information and explanations regarding the facts of this matter have been provided in a timely, appropriate manner to the United Kingdom, which is the country of registration of the Diamond Princess.

In regard to the approach going forward, as Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated, it is Japan’s position that once the current stage of preventing the spread of infections is over, firm consideration will be made regarding ideal responses, including building an international cooperation system regarding related infection control measures.

Novel Coronavirus (Dispatch of Chartered Flights By Various Countries)

Yomiuri Shimbun, GOTO: I believe that more countries will emerge that want to dispatch chartered flights for cruise ship passengers. Can you please tell us the countries that have decided to dispatch chartered flights now, including the schedules?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: I am probably repeating a part of what Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga already stated in regard to chartered flights. Following on from the flights chartered by the United States on February 17, in the early morning today, February 19, passengers from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and others who wanted to be repatriated early are leaving Japan using a flight chartered by the ROK. As has been stated, Australia has also decided to repatriate its citizens aboard a chartered flight, and final coordination is being conducted regarding the schedule of the operation of the aircraft. I have heard that the operation is expected to begin tonight at the earliest. In addition, Canada has also decided to repatriate its citizens aboard its own chartered flight, and coordination is being conducted regarding the details including the date of departure. Furthermore, in addition to these countries, Italy, Israel, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have indicated publicly that they would like to dispatch flights at various stages going forward. It is possible that there will be other countries and regions that will make the same request going forward.

Novel Coronavirus (Public Communication)

Yomiuri Shimbun, GOTO: I believe that the foreign media has been alleging that there has been insufficient disclosure of information in the Government of Japan’s response to the Diamond Princess in particular. Is MOFA working on this, including the issue of how the press release of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) is released?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: MOFA is fully aware that public communication is a very important matter for such situations and issues. As has been explained before, we have provided explanations to embassies in Tokyo, conducted several briefings for the foreign press in Tokyo, and provided detailed information on what is happening in Japan to diplomatic missions. We are also having diplomatic missions provide explanations to the appropriate people overseas.

We are also sharing the importance of such efforts with the ministries and agencies concerned. In the case of the cruise ship that you mentioned as well, MOFA has been providing support so that the announcements of the MHLW are thoroughly shared quickly with members of the foreign press and others. I believe that these efforts must of course be continued going forward.

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