Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, February 21, 2020, 9:28 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Novel Coronavirus (Dispatch of Chartered Flights by Various Countries, Public Communication)

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to provide a brief explanation of the repatriation operations for foreign passengers and crew members of the Diamond Princess.

Following the flights operated by the United States on February 17, the flight by the Republic of Korea (ROK) on February 19, and the flights by Australia and Hong Kong on February 20 were operated, as well as the flight by Israel for 11 passengers were operated from last night through this morning. 126 passengers and three crew members have also left Japan aboard a chartered flight operated by Canada. A total of 759 foreign passengers and crew members have left Japan up until now.

Going forward, in addition to the second chartered flight that Hong Kong plans to operate, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Taiwan have decided that they will operate chartered flights and final coordination is currently being conducted for the schedules. It is expected that the flights will be operated tonight at the earliest.

In addition, Indonesia and the Philippines have stated that they would like to repatriate their citizens by dispatching planes and other means at various stages going forward. It is possible that other countries will also make the same request going forward. We will conduct coordination on the details based on such requests.

MOFA will exert efforts to the extent possible so that foreign people receive the support they need while closely cooperating with related ministries and agencies, the embassies of the countries concerned, and others.

In addition, yesterday, we provided another briefing to diplomatic corps and foreign press regarding the situation concerning the novel coronavirus in Japan and aboard the cruise ship. We have been having diplomatic missions provide explanations and announcements in an appropriate, timely manner, and have also been frequently providing information to various embassies. We will continue to carefully and firmly respond going forward.

Visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping of China

Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: I would like to ask about the visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping. I believe that Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi is to visit Japan soon, and coordination of President Xi’s visit to Japan would take place during Dr. Yang’s visit. As there are still no signs of an end to the spread of the novel coronavirus in China, can you please tell us again your recognition of the current status of coordination and prospects for the visit to Japan by President Xi?

Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, coordination is currently being conducted for the schedule and other matters concerning the visit to Japan by Dr. Yang, and nothing has been decided regarding the specific schedule at the current point. In addition, it has been agreed that President Xi will visit Japan this spring, and coordination is currently being conducted regarding the specific schedule. We will continue to carefully advance preparations. However, frankly speaking, several preparatory meetings have been postponed, so I believe that preparations must be accelerated, with such circumstances in mind.

Novel Coronavirus (Restrictions on Travel to Japan By Various Countries)

Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: In relation to the novel coronavirus, some Pacific island countries have placed restrictions on entry by visitors coming from Japan, and the United States has issued a travel advisory about Japan. Can you please tell us MOFA’s understanding of the situation concerning such countries’ immigration restrictions and travel advisories, and your thoughts on how Japan will request understanding from these countries?

Minister MOTEGI: Speaking based on what has been confirmed thus far, I am aware that the related authorities from nine countries – Micronesia, Tonga, Samoa, Israel, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, the ROK, Thailand, and Bhutan – have called for travel restrictions for countries and regions with people infected by the novel coronavirus, including Japan.

In addition, I am aware that the related authorities from the United States and Taiwan have issued travel advisories for Japan, although they are not recommendations to suspend or postpone travel. The United States had already classified Japan as an “area with apparent community spread,” and has newly issued a level 1 travel advisory, meaning to exercise normal precautions , but not a recommendation to suspend or postpone travel.

In any event, MOFA, as well as Japanese embassies in the United States and others, will continue to provide timely, appropriate explanations and information regarding thorough prevention measures against the spread of infection, safety, and other matters in Japan.

Novel Coronavirus (Diamond Princess, Flag State Jurisdiction)

Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus. I believe that international law does not clarify which country has responsibility for the outbreak of infection aboard the Diamond Princess. Due to this case, is the Government of Japan considering calling on various countries to create rules for this, such as through international conferences? Please tell us your view.

Minister MOTEGI: In regard to measures to prevent the spread of infection aboard a ship, a rule under international law has not been established regarding which of the countries concerned, such as the country of registration of the ship, the country of the ship operator, or the country where the ship is anchored, would unequivocally have responsibility. While closely cooperating with people and countries related to the ship, 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.

Additionally, speaking from a diplomatic 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.

Due to the urgent circumstances, the Government of Japan believes that the people and countries related to the ship should cooperate and make suitable responses . However, in terms of the future, we believe that once the current stage of firstly exerting all efforts to cooperate for and work on preventing the spread of the infection is over, it will be time to consider what the ideal responses should be, including building an international cooperation framework going forward.

Novel Coronavirus (Public Communication)

NHK, WATANABE: You explained the repatriation operations being advanced by various countries in your opening remarks. On the other hand, if you look at foreign media and others, criticism regarding Japan’s response is increasing. Can you please tell us how the Government of Japan will provide public explanations about misunderstandings believed by overseas media and others as repatriations continue? How will you build such cooperative relations?

Minister MOTEGI: As I stated in my opening remarks, we believe it is important to convey accurate information in a transparent way both domestically and internationally in a timely, appropriate manner regarding the situation in Japan and our efforts concerning the novel coronavirus, including the response to the cruise ship. We are responding while closely cooperating with the ministries and agencies concerned.

Although I am not in the position to comment on individual reports from overseas, I would certainly like accurate reporting to be done.

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