Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, March 13, 2020, 10:58 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Issuance of Warnings on Infectious Diseases Levels
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Last night, Warnings on Infectious Diseases Levels were further raised, primarily for Europe. The content is as you can see on MOFA’s website.
G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Video Teleconference Meeting)
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The U.S. State Department announced that the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which was scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh from March 24-25, will be held by video teleconference because of the spread of the novel coronavirus. As the meeting will not be held face-to-face and there will be a time difference, what themes would you like to discuss?
Minister MOTEGI: Yesterday in the early morning of March 12, Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which was originally scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh from March 24-25, will be held in teleconference format instead.
Regardless of the format of the meeting, I believe it is extremely important for the G7 to hold frank exchanges of views regarding urgent issues faced by the international community. Japan will continue to cooperate with G7 countries, including the United States, to be able to actively participate in discussions.
I was expecting we would have time starting from the working dinner on the 24th to the working lunch on the 25th, but since the meeting would be in video teleconference format, I believe there will be certain time limits. I hope to have in-depth discussions on certain specific themes in that sense going forward.
Novel Coronavirus (Immigration Restrictions By Various Countries Concerning Japan)
Yomiuri Shimbun, ASANO: I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus. As of yesterday, there were 29 countries and regions with immigration restrictions on Japan and 70 countries and regions with mobility restrictions following entry. Firstly, can you please tell us your understanding of the reason behind this situation, and what you will communicate going forward in order to explain Japan’s efforts?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have repeatedly stated, such immigration restrictions, observation measures during entry or following entry to the country, and other such measures are aimed at countries where many coronavirus infection cases have been confirmed, not only Japan. If you look at the actual number of infected people on the MOFA website and other sources, Japan is currently probably around 10th and the increase in cases has not been very large.
We have been appropriately communicating in a timely manner the situation in Japan and preventive measures against the spread of infections in Japan, and have been providing necessary explanations and other information through diplomatic missions and others to various countries. We will continue to conduct such efforts.
At the same time, there are Japanese travelers in these countries, so we will continue to provide necessary alerts by providing information regarding such immigration restrictions and other measures.<\P>
Novel Coronavirus (Japan-Russia Relations)
NHK, WATANABE: The Director of the Information and Press Department Zakharova of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia announced that short-term overseas visits by Russian diplomats would be reduced to the bare minimum . Visits by diplomats will be cancelled due to this including Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to Japan that was agreed upon in Munich, and particularly the Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-Level Meeting, and I believe this will have an effect. However, Director of the Information and Press Department Zakharova stated that the schedule for the next Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting had not been set in the first place, so the spread of infections would have no effect on the process. What do you think at the present point about the effects of this on Japan-Russia diplomacy going forward, visa-free exchanges including the four-island exchange program , and other such matters?
Minister MOTEGI: It is my understanding that Director Zakharova’s statement referenced minimizing overseas trips and not prohibiting them. Also, I stated that the Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-Level Meeting and Foreign Ministers’ Meeting are currently being coordinated. They are being coordinated indeed. We would like to hold various exchange projects and other matters planned for this year as scheduled as much as possible. However, as has been stated, various international events, meetings, conferences, and other gatherings are being cancelled or postponed now. We will make decisions in an appropriate, timely manner based on the situation within Japan as well as the situation of the spread of the novel coronavirus abroad, which is currently close to 120 countries. However, we will firmly advance the necessary preparation step by step for holding the meetings.
G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: In regard to the G7 foreign ministers’ teleconference meetings that you mentioned at the very beginning, although the opportunity has been lost to hold bilateral foreign ministers’ meetings in Pittsburg, do you intend to confirm cooperation with participants with telephone talks and other means?
Minister MOTEGI: It has not been decided.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference
NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask about the NPT Review Conference. There are some reports that United Nations sources are saying that it is being considered to postpone the conference until next year, and final coordination is being conducted. Can you firstly tell us what information MOFA has received?
Minister MOTEGI: I am aware of the reports. I have not heard that such a decision has been made.
NHK, TAKANO: In relation to this, as you stated earlier, various meetings are being canceled, and there are concerns in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which experienced the atomic bombing, that the NPT Review Conference might be suspended or postponed. If the conference is postponed, what effects related to nuclear non-proliferation do you think this would have?
Minister MOTEGI: It has still not been postponed. As I stated earlier, it is naturally desirable to hold important meetings as scheduled as much as possible. Amidst this, based on the current situation, the host country, organizations holding the conference, participating countries, and others will all make their own respective decisions. I would like to refrain from answering at the present stage about what would be done if it were suspended or postponed because it has not been decided yet.
Diplomatic Slowdown Due to the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: As stated earlier, various diplomacy-related plans are being postponed or suspended, and I believe the spread of the novel coronavirus is affecting diplomacy. What is your view of the current situation in which there is a slowdown of such diplomacy? Also, what diplomatic activities do you think should be developed precisely because of this situation?
Minister MOTEGI: The World Health Organization (WHO) is using the term “pandemic” to describe the current worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus. As has been stated, there are concerns about effects on not only diplomacy, but also the economy and various other fields. On the other hand, I believe that international synergy and cooperation have become extremely important all the more because of this situation, and I would like to explore in various ways how the international community can cooperate on novel coronavirus infection control measures as well as how countries with regional connections can cooperate.
Submission of a Report Criticizing North Korea’s Human Rights Situation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
Yomiuri Shimbun, ASANO: A report criticizing North Korea’s human rights situation was submitted by the EU to the UNHRC in Geneva. Can you please tell us the stance of the Government of Japan, including the reasons?
Minister MOTEGI: Japan is a co-sponsor country.
Novel Coronavirus (The United States’ Temporary Suspension of Travel from Europe to the United States )
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In relation to the novel coronavirus, President Trump of the United States decided to temporarily suspend travel from 26 European countries into the United States. This is extremely severe compared to the measures being taken by Japan for the various European countries, and the EU has strongly complained that this is a unilateral decision. You stated earlier that international cooperation has become extremely important. From that perspective, what is your reaction to this response by the United States?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the United States’ announcement of the temporary suspension of travel from Europe into the United States is based on the continuing worldwide spread of coronavirus infections, including in the United States. Ultimately, in terms of preventing epidemics, it is my understanding that this measure is to prevent the spread of infections within the United States. Japan will implement without hesitation the necessary countermeasures while continuing to closely cooperate with the international community. Furthermore, at the present point I have not heard any specific discussions about introducing immigration restriction measures to be applied to Japan similar to the one for Europe.
Statement by President Trump of the United States (Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games)
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: In regard to a statement by President Trump, in early morning Japan time, President Trump expressed his personal opinion in regard to holding the Tokyo Olympic Games, stating “I would say maybe they postpone it for a year .” He indicated that he thinks that it would be unfortunate, but postponing the Games would be better than holding them without spectators . Novel coronavirus infections are spreading throughout the world, so what is your reaction? What are your thoughts on when would be ideal to hold the Summer Olympic Games?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to the statement by President Trump, I am of course aware of it. However, Japan is currently advancing preparations toward holding the Games as planned. Consideration is not being conducted that would assume postponement or suspension of the Games.
Relationship between the WHO and China
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to the novel coronavirus, the WHO announced a “pandemic” situation. Also, during his visit to Wuhan, President Xi Jinping indicated his recognition that the novel coronavirus has been curbed . These two events occurred at a similar timing and there has been various speculation. In terms of the relationship between China and the WHO, China has donated 2.1 billion yen to the WHO. Do you believe that this relationship between China and the WHO has affected some decisions made by the WHO? Also, some people are saying in regard to this relationship that there has been some sort of effect on the issue of timing of international announcements of countermeasures. What is your view on this?
Minister MOTEGI: It is extremely difficult to comment about speculation. Please let me refrain doing so.