Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, February 25, 2020, 9:58 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Response to the Novel Coronavirus (Republic of Korea (ROK))
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to announce that the Warning on Infectious Diseases Level has been raised for the Daegu Metropolitan City and Cheongdo County, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province in the ROK. According to the announcement by the Government of the ROK, there has been a surge in cases of novel coronavirus infections in the Daegu Metropolitan City and Cheongdo County, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province since February 19, and a total of 607 cases have been confirmed through February 24.
In addition, the Government of the ROK specified the Daegu Metropolitan City and Cheongdo County, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province as “special management zones ” on February 21, and raised the infectious disease alert level to the highest level of “grave ” on February 23.
Furthermore, the Government of the ROK has taken measures in the Daegu Metropolitan City that include closing all facilities related to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, quarantining infected people in hospitals, and quarantining all other related people in their homes. In addition, the Government of the ROK has made announcements including requesting voluntary suspension of group events and postponing the start of school and more by one week around the country. Additionally, mass infections have been confirmed at specific hospitals in Cheongdo County, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province.
Taking comprehensive consideration of these circumstances, the Government of Japan is issuing a Warning on Infectious Diseases Level at Level 2: avoid non-essential travel for the Daegu Metropolitan City and Cheongdo County, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province.
Furthermore, MOFA is constantly issuing infectious disease spot information through the Overseas Safety Website as well as consular emails, and is issuing alerts to Japanese residents and overseas travelers in the affected areas. We will continue to cooperate with local governments and related organizations, conduct information-gathering, and issue alerts in a timely, appropriate manner.
The level will be raised to level 2 immediately after this.
Novel Coronavirus (Diamond Princess: Repatriation of Indonesian People)
Economic Monthly, Susilo: Thank you for your announcement last week in relation to the matter of Indonesian crew members aboard the Diamond Princess. I would like to ask about the approval for a charter flight. My question is, as the Government of Indonesia is now conducting preparation and it was announced that approval for a chartered flight was given, would it be possible to send a ship instead of a chartered plane to pick up the crew members? Or would it be possible to have both methods, such as having a ship come to pick up some people and then a plane come sometime in March?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to planned operations of chartered planes going forward, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India have indicated that they will repatriate their citizens by dispatching planes, and the details are currently being coordinated. I believe that the Philippines will probably be first, and the flight is planned to depart as early as tonight. I believe that the specific schedule and other matters for Indonesia and India will be settled after that. This is the first time I am hearing about repatriation by ship, so I would need to confirm that. I would like to conduct consideration on various matters such as whether it would be possible to confirm safe repatriation using various means.
Novel Coronavirus (Visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping of China)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In relation to the novel coronavirus, it has been decided to postpone the meeting of the National People's Congress that was planned to be held on March 5. In connection to this, I believe it seems unavoidable that this will affect the schedule for President Xi’s visit to Japan in summer – I mean spring. What is the current status of coordination and outlook?
Minister MOTEGI: So you are saying it will be summer? I know that it was decided on February 24 to postpone the meeting of the National People's Congress. I would like to refrain from commenting on Chinese domestic affairs, including this matter, on behalf of the Government of Japan.
The Government of China is currently uniting the country to work on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and stabilizing the situation, and Japan will cooperate as much as possible.
Moreover, we are monitoring the response to the novel coronavirus and China’s movements. However, at the present point, President Xi’s visit to Japan will take place as planned and preparation is being carefully advanced for that.
Novel Coronavirus (Response by the International Community, Immigration Restrictions on Japan by Israel)
Pan Orient News, Azhari: My question is also about the virus in the international situation. We heard that certain countries are blocking citizens from Japan or China, to enter their country. Recently, Israel said something like that. Now, Japanese or people who come from Japan will not be allowed to enter Israel. Do you have any comment on such an international situation where countries are banning other countries from entering these countries?
Minister MOTEGI: Several countries have issued advisories such as travel advisories, and announced measures such as immigration restriction measures and restrictions on movement after entry into their countries, regarding regions, not just Japan, where people infected with novel coronavirus have been confirmed. If I must speak about what you mentioned, I know that, as you mentioned, on February 23 local time, the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Population and Immigration Authority announced that it would deny entry into the country by foreign travelers with a history of travel to the ROK and Japan within the past 14 days before arrival in Israel. The Government of Japan has been requesting understanding about safety in Japan while providing explanations to the Government of Israel regarding the thorough measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan. We will continue to provide careful explanations to Israel regarding measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan, the situation within Japan, and other matters.
Islamic Consultative Assembly Election in Iran
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I would like to ask about the situation in Iran. The Islamic Consultative Assembly Election was held in Iran on February 21, and it was reported that the hardliners had a major victory. It seems that anti-American sentiment is rising in Iran. What is your reaction to this result, and how does Japan intend to encourage easing tensions between the United States and Iran going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: We constantly monitor the situation in the Middle East as well as the developments of various Middle Eastern countries with great interest. However, I do not believe it is appropriate to comment in detail on the domestic affairs and elections of other countries, and I would thus like to refrain from commenting. In any event, Japan will continue its diplomatic efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East while leveraging the many years of friendly relations between Japan and Iran.
Novel Coronavirus (Fundraising Within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP))
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus. In regard to the matter of the collection of 5,000 yen from each LDP member and donating it to China, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Suzuki of MOFA stated on his personal blog that he does not approve of this as the State Minister for Foreign Affairs who is responsible for a part of Japanese diplomacy, as if he was Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Minister MOTEGI: Isn’t he State Minister for Foreign Affairs?
NHK, WATANABE: He is saying that as State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Foreign Affairs . Is this viewpoint the unified view of MOFA? He is saying this in the capacity of his official position, so I would just like to ask about it.
Minister MOTEGI: I believe fundraising is being conducted for donation money by the LDP decided by each individual Diet member. I donated money as an individual Diet member.
NHK, WATANABE: Mr. Suzuki said he does not approve of this as State Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is MOFA’s reaction to this statement by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Suzuki?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated just now, he is also acting as an individual. That is MOFA’s view.
Novel Coronavirus (Immigration Restrictions Concerning Japan)
TV Asahi, OISHI: In relation to the novel coronavirus, you stated at the stage of your previous press conference that there were nine countries calling for travel restrictions to Japan. Can you please tell us what you know about the current situation related to that, as well as about countries that are restricting entry by people with a history of travel to Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to immigration restrictions, the related authorities in seven countries – Micronesia, Samoa, Kiribati, Comoros, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, and Israel – are implementing immigration restrictions and other measures for countries and regions where there are people infected with novel coronavirus, including Japan.
In addition, I am aware that Israel, Kazakhstan, and Kerala State in India are taking observation measures after immigration for people who have traveled from countries and regions where there are people infected with the novel coronavirus, including Japan, and that Thailand, Turkmenistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic are implementing medical inspection measures at the time of immigration.
The information that MOFA is aware of regarding immigration restriction measures and restrictions on movements after immigration for travelers coming from Japan, is published on MOFA’s Overseas Safety Website. I would like people to check the website before traveling overseas.
NHK, TAKANO: In relation to this, why do you believe that major, influential countries such as Israel are restricting immigration despite appeals for understanding about Japan’s measures? Will Japan request stronger understanding or issue protests to such countries?
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to refrain from commenting about whether countries are major powers or not. However, Japan has already issued a request to the Government of Israel for it to quickly rescind its measure. As I stated before, Japan is carefully providing detailed explanations regarding the current situation in Japan, our initiatives, and other matters to various countries that are taking measures restricting immigration. We will continue to do that.
Novel Coronavirus (Number of Foreign People Who have Disembarked from the Cruise Ship)
TV Asahi, OISHI: In relation to the chartered flights, can you please tell us what you know about the total number of foreign passengers and crew members who have disembarked from the cruise ship and been repatriated thus far?
Minister MOTEGI: 936 people.