Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, March 6, 2020, 4:05 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Novel Coronavirus (Suspension of Validity of Visas Issued in China and the Republic of Korea (ROK))

NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about the Government of the ROK in relation to the novel coronavirus. Yesterday the Government of Japan decided on measures including requiring a two-week waiting period in a designated area for people entering Japan from the ROK. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK stated that this is an excessive measure and is extremely regrettable , and this afternoon Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha summoned Ambassador Tomita and issued a protest. What is your reaction to this, and how will Japan explain this measure going forward to the ROK to seek their understanding? Thank you.

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Government of Japan has been taking various drastic measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan until now. If we look at the entire world, the current situation is that the novel coronavirus emerged in China, spread widely, including to the ROK, where the number of infected people now exceeds 6,000, so I believe it is now truly a critical moment. This measure is being taken based on the recognition that domestic measures as well as flexible immigration measures are extremely important.

We have properly informed China and the ROK that we are taking these measures. In addition, Ambassador Tomita carefully explained to Foreign Minister Kang that these measures are above all to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan.

Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: When Prime Minister Abe announced the immigration restrictions yesterday, he stated that single-entry and multiple-entry visas that had already been issued would have their validity suspended. Can you please tell us what the policy will be to respond to the cases of visas issued through new visa applications?

Minister MOTEGI: Because of the circumstances, I believe that it is necessary to make careful assessment. We will respond appropriately to cases where a visa is necessary due to humanitarian and other considerations by closely examining the individual circumstances.

Novel Coronavirus (Travel Restriction Measures by Various Countries)

Pan Orient News, Azhari: My question is about travel restrictions. There are many countries imposing travel restrictions on people mostly from China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and others. Travel restriction war seems to be escalating between Japan and Republic of Korea. This is impacting normal people’s lives, human rights and freedom of travel. What is Japan’s message to countries imposing such travel restrictions including Arab countries, which said that nobody from Japan cannot enter? I think those countries include Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Do you think a unified global approach should be established for all countries on travel restrictions to protect from the coronavirus?

Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, at present I have not heard anything about the United States taking measures such as travel restrictions against Japan. I know that such a measure will not be taken.

Additionally, it is generally at the discretion of countries whether they admit foreigners or admit them under certain conditions. Moreover, for example, I do not believe that the human rights treaties and other such treaties to which Japan is a signatory nation prohibit making judgments on the suitability of admitting entry into the country by foreigners in accordance with domestic laws from the perspective of appropriately implementing infection control measures. Of course, due to this experience of the spread of novel coronavirus infections, I believe that it is extremely important to build international cooperative systems in various forms going forward, but as I stated before, I believe that basically it is up to each country to decide on measures such as immigration restrictions.

Novel Coronavirus (Suspension of Validity of Visas Issued in China and the ROK)

Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: The suspension of validity of visas will last until the end of March. Can you please tell us what the criteria was for making the ROK and China subject to these restrictions, and what the criteria will be for making a decision on whether it is necessary to renew the implementation period for these measures?

Minister MOTEGI: As I stated at the beginning, a comprehensive judgment was made based on the number of infected people, the situation of the spread of infections, and the number of people coming and going from Japan, and thus it was decided to take these measures. Also, the circumstances of the spread of the novel coronavirus are changing moment by moment, so I believe that measures must be considered while monitoring such circumstances.

Of course, it would not be the case that a visa would be suspended for only three days, for example. We set a certain time frame for the measures, which is to have the measures in place until the end of March as of now. We will decide what to do after that while monitoring how the circumstances develop going forward.

Novel Coronavirus (Hungary’s Quarantine Measure for Japanese Tourists)

TV Asahi, OISHI: In relation to the novel coronavirus, there are some reports that 15 members of a Japanese tourist group were transported to a hospital because of concerns that they were infected with novel coronavirus in Budapest, Hungary. Can you please confirm what you know about this case?

Minister MOTEGI: On the evening of Thursday, March 5 (local time), the Hungarian government coronavirus operational corps announced that 15 Japanese tourists were transported to a hospital in Budapest and quarantined there because of concerns they might be infected with the novel coronavirus.

The Embassy of Japan in Hungary will provide necessary support from the perspective of protecting Japanese nationals while closely cooperating with the Government of Hungary and others.

,P>According to the Hungarian authorities, the 15 people are in good health. It will soon be morning in Hungary, when we will contact the 15 people and take necessary steps.

Novel Coronavirus (Suspension of Validity of Visas Issued in China and the ROK)

NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask again about the protests by the ROK. Foreign Minister Kang strongly protested Japan’s measures by calling them “not only unfriendly, but also unscientific .” You stated before that you are providing careful explanations to Foreign Minister Kang, but it does not seem that understanding has been received. What do you think? Also, did you make this decision because this is a priority while assuming that the ROK would protest?

Minister MOTEGI: As I stated before, these measures are being taken above all from the perspective of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus within Japan. Also, the reality is that there has been a sudden increase of infected people in the ROK and over 6,000 people are infected now. The measures being taken are based on that reality. They are not being taken from a diplomacy perspective or in relation to other issues. I will continue to carefully explain this.

Novel Coronavirus (Restrictions on Entry into Various Countries for Arrivals from Japan)

Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: In relation to immigration restrictions being implemented by various countries for arrivals from Japan, you stated in the Diet today that there are 24 countries and regions implementing such restrictions as of today. However, on February 27th it was 11 countries. I believe that Japan is providing explanations regarding domestic measures, but what is your reaction to the increasing number of countries implementing such restrictions?

Minister MOTEGI: As I have stated repeatedly, the countries implementing such restrictions are not only implementing them for Japan. It is my understanding that these countries and regions are implementing restrictions and issuing travel advisories for countries where there has been confirmation of people infected with the novel coronavirus, including Japan.

Novel Coronavirus (Concerning the ROK)

Dong-a Ilbo, KIM: Some people in the ROK are voicing concerns that Japan-ROK relations will grow colder due to the measure requiring the 14 day waiting period. Can you please tell us how you think this measure will affect Japan-ROK relations?

Minister MOTEGI: Repeating what I said earlier, this is not a measure being taken as part of diplomatic policy. Above all, this is an extremely important time to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan, and this measure is being taken due to that. If I were to say anything further, this measure is being implemented with a set time frame, so I do not believe that it will have a negative effect on Japan-ROK relations in any way.

Novel Coronavirus (Quarantine Measures)

Independent Web Journal, CHIURA: It has been announced that quarantine measures are being considered. Have a specific location and personnel been prepared for this? Also, it is expected that there will be some criticism of this as being a drastic human rights violation. What is your view?

Minister MOTEGI: Please ask your first question to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Additionally, in regard to measures such as movement restrictions, it is as I answered to the English question earlier.

Novel Coronavirus (The Grand Princess U.S. Cruise Ship)

NHK, YAMAMOTO: In relation to the novel coronavirus, the Grand Princess U.S. cruise ship is sailing off the coast of California and it seems that U.S. health officials are conducting examinations of people infected with the novel coronavirus. Can you please tell us the information you know about the Japanese passengers and crew members?

Minister MOTEGI: It is my understanding that there are three Japanese passengers and one Japanese crew member aboard the ship.

Novel Coronavirus (Suspension of Validity of Visas Issued in China and the ROK)

NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask about border control measures. About how many people have had the validity of their already-issued visas suspended through the measures concerning China and the ROK? I want to ask what actual effects are anticipated from the suspension of the validity of already-issued visas. In short, how many people have had their visa validity suspended?

Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, but I do not have the number. Please ask officials. They will give an explanation.

NHK, TAKANO: I understand. I wanted to know the scale.

Minister MOTEGI: I am sorry. Please ask them.

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