Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 9:17 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Novel Coronavirus (G7 Summit Teleconference Meeting)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In relation to the novel coronavirus, last night a G7 Summit Meeting was held by teleconference. A G7 Leaders’ Statement was issued after the meeting. What was the significance of this meeting for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and curbing the effects on the global economy?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: During the G7 Summit Teleconference Meeting last night, there were active exchanges of views regarding the current economic situation as well as prevention measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
There were two major points during the meeting. First, the global economy is now being impacted and the G7 will use various policy measures to curb these impacts. The second major point is to cooperate on medical treatment, rapid development of a vaccine, information-sharing, and other such activities, towards the prevention of the spread of the novel coronavirus. I believe it was a significant outcome that the G7 summit leaders agreed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, and to work to curb the negative effects on the economy occurring now due to the novel coronavirus.
NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask a related question. Although the G7 Leaders’ Statement was issued, Japanese stock prices hit a new record low for this year again today. What do you think will affect stocks? What measures do you think the world’s leaders need to take to improve the effects on the economy going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government of Japan on each movement of the international financial markets and the stock market. However, the stock market is changing in a sensitive manner in reaction to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the various restrictions on economic activities and other effects accompanying that. The reality is that effects such as falling stock prices and violent fluctuations can be seen all over the world.
Additionally, as I stated, I believe that it is extremely important for countries including the G7 countries to implement various policy measures and to conduct cooperation on policies going forward. For example, it was necessary to correct problems inherent in the economy such as excessive lending during the 2008 financial crisis, which was an extremely serious situation.
We are also facing major problems now, but rather than correcting aspects of the economy itself, I believe that it is important to explore how we can prevent and control effects accompanying the spread of the novel coronavirus, and, from that perspective, how to increase demand such as consumer demand.
Novel Coronavirus (Harassment of Japanese Nationals in Indonesia)
Economic Monthly, Susilo: In relation to the cases of harassment of Japanese nationals, from March 1, I was actually in Jakarta. On March 2 from 10 a.m., President Joko first announced that two Indonesians tested positive for novel coronavirus infection. They were infected with the novel coronavirus by a Japanese woman living in Malaysia. President Joko revealed that it was a Japanese person at that time. I immediately thought that the Japanese ambassador would have to respond quickly. But actually, one week later, the Japanese ambassador in Indonesia issued a message that Japanese nationals living in Indonesia are not the source of coronavirus infection, but rather friends of Indonesia. I believe that this was intended to tell people not to blame Japanese people. During the one-week period until the ambassador’s message, not only Japanese people but I was also harassed by my friends. I was told, “Sorry, Richard. I do not want to see you right now because you live in Japan.” Well then. I also became a victim. Why did the ambassador issue a message one week later instead of responding quickly? Isn’t that too slow? President Joko spoke during the morning, so I believe that if the ambassador quickly issued a message at night or held a press conference, then the situation would have been different. What do you think?
Minister MOTEGI: Would it have been correct for the ambassador to swiftly make some sort of comment if one person was harassed? After President Joko made that statement on March 2, the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia first created a consultation service counter for Japanese residents. Various views and information were gathered through the consultation service counter. After receiving such information, the message you mentioned was issued on March 9. I believe that Ambassador Ishii decided on the appropriate timing to convey the message after gathering sufficient information over a few days.
Novel Coronavirus (G7 Summit Teleconference Meeting)
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus. I believe that there have been effects on diplomacy due to the global spread of the novel coronavirus, such as international conferences being postponed one after the other as well as holding the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting by video teleconference. Amidst the current situation in which there is no end in sight, what are your views on how to advance diplomatic matters with various countries?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held as a telephone talk. I would like to hold active discussions based on the discussions between the summit leaders last night. As it is a G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I believe that of course there will be discussions regarding major issues faced by the entire international community as well as major regional issues. Coordination is naturally being conducted to make novel coronavirus infection control measures a topic of discussion. I will bring this up, firmly explain Japan’s efforts, and confirm G7 cooperation at the foreign minister level as well.
On the other hand, it is certainly true that various conferences are being postponed or suspended one after the other, and the reality is that certain effects are occurring for not only diplomatic activities but also various other activities such as those related to the economy. As I stated before, effects are occurring in various fields including international finance and the economies of various countries. That is why I believe that this is a situation in which coordination and cooperation in the international community are extremely important.
MOFA has confirmed cooperation with various countries until now using various means including seeking mutual understanding through diplomatic missions and telephone talks, and we will continue such diplomatic activities going forward. Additionally, we will work to cooperate with the international community to be able to firmly continue diplomatic activities at various levels, including mutual visits by dignitaries that you mentioned as well as implementation of international conferences.
Novel Coronavirus (Region Entry Restriction Measure by the EU)
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I would like to ask about the European Commission. It has announced a plan to restrict entry into EU countries for 30 days. Can you please tell us your reaction to this idea in the EU? Also, I believe that there are many people with plans to go to the EU from Japan. What effects do you think there will be due to the situation of the global spread of mobility restrictions?
Minister MOTEGI: The European Commission has made such a recommendation, and I believe that firstly there will be consideration regarding what to do about the area frameworks of the EU as well as the Schengen Agreement, as they overlap considerably. Of course, I do not believe that it would be appropriate to have excessive mobility restrictions. However, I believe that it is necessary for various countries and regions to implement border measures for a fixed period in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Various countries are introducing this measure, and I will monitor what conclusion the EU decides on. Yesterday, MOFA raised the Warning on Infectious Disease Level for the EU. Basically, the Schengen Area were raised to “Level 2.” The numbers and information for various countries were comprehensively considered. Some countries in the EU have naturally started implementing their own mobility restriction measures and other such measures. However, the concept until then has been that the Schengen Area is perceived as a single region in which it is possible to move freely anywhere under the Schengen Agreement. It is my understanding that the EU is probably considering this border measure under that concept.
Status of Coordination of the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the negotiations on concluding a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. At your meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Munich, Germany, you agreed with him to advance coordination of the schedule to quickly hold the Vice-Ministerial-Level Meeting and for Minister Lavrov to visit Japan soon. I believe that coordination is still being conducted now. What is your recognition of whether the novel coronavirus is related to or the main cause for why it is difficult to decide the schedule?
Minister MOTEGI: It’s hard to say what is the main cause, but the reality is that the schedule is currently being coordinated. I would like for it to be carried out as soon as possible, but the schedule has not been decided yet due to various related aspects such as each side’s respective schedule.
Novel Coronavirus (Contributions for Iran)
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: I would like to ask about contributions to international organizations toward novel coronavirus countermeasures incorporated in the economic measures decided on March 10. 15.5 billion yen in emergency funding and other such funding will be given to Iran and neighboring countries. Of this, what will the contributions for Iran be used for and about how much money do you predict it will be?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that it will be about one sixth, or something like that. Novel coronavirus infections are continuing to spread worldwide, extending to 120 countries now. International responses have become urgent matters. In particular, the number of infected people has risen to 15,000 people in Iran, which you mentioned, as of March 16 local time. Iran has the third highest number in the world, following China and Italy. The spread of infections in Iran and its neighboring developing countries is a major cause for concern for Japan as well as the entire international community. In recognition of this, I presume that Japan’s support of around 2.5 billion yen will be provided to Iran at present from within about 15 billion yen in contributions for international organizations. I believe that this is about one sixth of the total. We will continue to cooperate with related countries and international organizations and advance measures. In terms of the content, I know that there are support-related needs in Iran including for technical cooperation and materials provision targeted at matters such as medical care, health workers, medical facilities, hospitals, and quarantine facilities. I believe that international organizations will implement appropriate support measures that are firmly based on the specific needs.
Novel Coronavirus (Effects on the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games)
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I would like to ask about the Tokyo Olympic Games. Last night following the G7 summit telephone talk, Prime Minister Abe stated that he had received support to hold the Tokyo Olympic Games “in a perfect form”. As diplomacy and the economy are being affected now, do you believe that it is desirable to hold the Games in the time period as scheduled?
Minister MOTEGI: At the G7 summit teleconference last night, Prime Minister Abe stated that he would like to hold the 2020 Tokyo Games in a perfect form as proof that mankind can defeat the novel coronavirus. He received the support of the G7 for this. Toward implementing the 2020 Tokyo Games in a perfect form, we will steadily advance preparations while closely cooperating with the IOC, the Organising Committee, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
The Olympics are an event for peace. I believe that the Games need to be an opportunity to involve and unite the world. In that sense, the Tokyo Olympic Games will continue to have major significance for showing to the world Japan’s splendid reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake using support for Japan from the world. At the same time, I believe that it would be desirable to have the Olympics show how the international community cooperated in defeating the novel coronavirus which mankind and the entire world are facing right now.