Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 10:32 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Release of the White Paper on Development Coordination 2019

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I spoke about the release of the White Paper on Development Cooperation 2019 at the Cabinet meeting today. The White Paper this time has the subheading of “Connecting the world, shaping the future ,” and focuses on the G20 Osaka Summit, TICAD7, and topics that were discussed in these conferences including high-quality infrastructure development, training and human resources development and innovation.

In addition, the aim was for it to be a “participatory-style white paper.” In addition to publishing columns with themes solicited utilizing social media and the ODA e-mail newsletter , we made creative efforts to make the white paper familiar widely among Japanese citizens including creating a special page to publish photographs by the general public displayed at the photography exhibition at Global Festa JAPAN 2019 .

Through this white paper, we would like to actively contribute to development cooperation and resolving global-scale issues while receiving the understanding and further support of citizens about Japan’s development cooperation.

Japan-Russia Relations (Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation)

Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. At the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Munich, you invited Foreign Minister Lavrov to visit Japan as soon as possible. The first step for this would be a consultation between Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov and Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori, but Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov is involved with the novel coronavirus response, so I believe that the outlook is quite unclear for the consultation. I think that amidst the current situation, there are effects on the predicted negotiations and the consultation schedule. What is your view on the current situation of the consultation, including the schedule?

Minister MOTEGI: The Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation and the meeting between Foreign Minister Lavrov and myself are currently at the stage of schedule coordination. I hope that the coordination can be completed as soon as possible.

Launch Incidents by North Korea

Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about North Korea’s launches of flying objects. Defense Minister Kono announced earlier that there were at least two short-range ballistic missiles among the multiple flying objects launched yesterday by North Korea. Has the Government of Japan issued a protest to North Korea due to this? Can you please tell us the details such as the content and date?

Minister MOTEGI: The Government of Japan issued a protest. It is estimated that North Korea launched at least two short-range ballistic missiles on March 9 between around 7:34 to 7:35 in the northeast direction from the eastern Sondok area. Furthermore, it is estimated that the missiles fell in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

North Korea’s ballistic missile launches violate the related United Nations Security Council Resolutions and I believe they are extremely regrettable. North Korea has been repeatedly launching flying objects including ballistic missiles particularly since May 2019. Such launches are a serious problem not only for Japan but also for the international community. We have issued a severe protest to North Korea through the “embassy” route in Beijing.

MOFA contacted the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) immediately after the launches, confirmed close cooperation, and is currently exerting all efforts for information-gathering and analysis. We will continue to respond with close Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.

Novel Coronavirus (Immigration Restrictions Implemented By Various Countries)

Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about immigration restrictions and mobility restrictions related to the novel coronavirus for countries where infections have been confirmed, including Japan. In the past few days, immigration and mobility restrictions by various countries have increased considerably. I believe that MOFA has been providing explanations to diplomatic missions and various governments until now. Can you please tell us what challenges MOFA faces in terms of public communication and how it will appeal to various countries?

Minister MOTEGI: As it has been until now, if you look at the graphs and other materials showing the number of cases in various countries on the MOFA website, although the number of cases is increasing in Japan, it is not as high as countries such as the ROK, Iran, and Italy. Furthermore, speaking in terms of numbers and excluding the people aboard the Diamond Princess, the number of infected people in Japan is lower than the number in the United States. Additionally, it is true that it is the same situation for the countries I mentioned and countries such as France, Germany, and Spain.

At the same time, we are continuing efforts to provide careful explanations regarding the various measures Japan is taking including our current border measures and cutting off clusters to prevent the spread of infections within Japan. We are also carefully responding to inquiries from abroad such as those about the situation in Japan.

Novel Coronavirus (China’s Partial Suspension of Visa Exemption Measures for Japan)

NHK, WATANABE: China will temporarily suspend from today its measures for visa exemption for short-term stays of 15 days or less for tourism and other purposes. What is your view of this measure? This is a matter of diplomacy and is probably being undertaken to counter Japan’s own measure, so what is your reaction? Also, how are you working to achieve understanding with China in this sense? Is this being positioned as a mutually-beneficial measure, or is this a reactionary measure taken with a confrontational stance?

Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, as I have explained until now, we have been firmly explaining to China and the ROK that Japan’s immigration restrictions, visa suspensions, and other such measures are border control measures aimed at preventing the spread of infections within Japan.

I am not in the position to explain the background for the Government of China’s measure, but I have directly heard the explanation from China that this measure is to prevent the spread of infections, and not a reactionary measure like you described.

Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: In relation to this, although measures are being taken to suspend validity of visas for people from China and the ROK, have there been cases after that of approving new visas from a humanitarian perspective? Also, has MOFA decided a policy or conditions in the case of issuing new visas?

Minister MOTEGI: I have not confirmed the facts of the matter. I have not heard about cases of approval. Please confirm with an official. Various special circumstances are certainly imaginable, and it is possible that new visas will be issued for cases with such special circumstances.

Novel Coronavirus (Immigration Restrictions by the ROK, Reactionary Measures)

Asahi Shimbun, OTA: In relation to this, you stated that China’s measure is not a reactionary measure before, but it seems that the immigration restriction measure taken by the Government of the ROK against Japan is actually a reactionary measure. Can you please tell us your reaction?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe that I am not in the position to explain the background of measures taken by the Government of the ROK.

NHK, WATANABE: Excuse me for asking so many questions. I would like to ask about something in relation to this question. Although you have received an explanation from China that its measure is not a retaliatory measure, in the case of the ROK, it has clearly stated that it is a retaliatory measure. Can you please tell us your thoughts about the reason for the difference in reactions between China and the ROK?

Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, I am not in the position to explain the measures taken by China and the ROK because they are responses taken by other countries. I have directly received an explanation from China that its measure is not a retaliatory measure. I have not received such an explanation from the ROK.

However, in any event, novel coronavirus infections are spreading not only in Asia but around the world including in Europe and the United States. We believe that international cooperation as well as cooperation among neighboring countries are extremely important. Japan will place importance on that viewpoint.

Novel Coronavirus (Mobility Restrictions Implemented by the Government of Italy)

TV Asahi, OISHI: I would like to ask about Italy. Mobility restrictions will be implemented throughout Italy from March 10. Can you please tell us the number of Japanese residents in Italy that MOFA is aware of? Is it being considered to provide support to Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan such as by dispatching a chartered plane going forward?

Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, but as I stated recently, we will firmly respond if you ask about numbers in advance.

Novel Coronavirus (Grand Princess)

Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I would like to ask about the Grand Princess cruise ship that recently reached the United States. I believe there are four Japanese passengers and crew members aboard the ship.

Minister MOTEGI: How many?

Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I believe there are four Japanese nationals. Can you please tell us what the Government of Japan knows about the situation of whether they will return to Japan or if they will be quarantined in the United States for two weeks?

Minister MOTEGI: The majority of these people do not live in Japan. In that sense, I believe that they do not wish to return to Japan. We will confirm what they would like to do and provide as much support as possible while carefully maintaining contact with the people themselves through the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco.

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