Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, March 20, 2020, 11:42 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I just held a Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting concerning the novel coronavirus for 70 minutes staring from 10:30 a.m. I stated that cooperation on the response to the novel coronavirus by our three countries, which have a responsibility for the peace and stability of the region, is extremely important. Each country provided an explanation of their situation, and I received agreement from China and the ROK on the importance of trilateral cooperation.
Furthermore, as I stated during the opening remarks, it is important to have more technical cooperation among the health authorities of our three countries in order to resolve this situation. I proposed that a Health Ministers’ Meeting should be held as quickly as possible, and our three countries all agreed on holding this meeting together soon.
In relation to this, I raised four points as specific cooperation. The first is to further utilize existing information-sharing mechanisms. The second is to share information on circumstances concerning medical supplies and vaccine development. The third is for our three countries to cooperate toward ensuring smooth exports and imports of medical supplies as well as sharing during emergencies. The fourth is to have cooperation not only among our three countries, but rather for international public health measures. I raised these four points, and we agreed that our three countries will further actualize them at the working level going forward.
Lastly, I stated that we would like to hold the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in a complete form as proof that mankind defeated the novel coronavirus, and I received support from China and the ROK. I believe that this video teleconference meeting was held in an extremely timely manner. Today was a holiday only in Japan. When I said that it was worth working on a holiday, my two counterparts laughed.
I believe that there will be discussions going forward at the Foreign Minister level as well as at the summit leader level, including the G20. I would like discussions to be continued at both high levels and at the working level going forward.
Reporter: Roughly what dates did you discuss for the health ministers’ video teleconference meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: That did not come up. We discussed that we would like to hold a meeting as soon as possible. The Chinese Minister of Health is currently in Wuhan. In any event, we discussed that the Chinese minister can connect to the video teleconference meeting from Wuhan, so I would like coordination to be conducted on the schedule so the meeting can be held as soon as possible.
Reporter: I believe that you mentioned in your opening remarks that you stated that information sharing is necessary regarding border enforcement measures. Did China and the ROK give their views about that?
Minister MOTEGI: We all agreed on the view that it is necessary for various countries to implement border enforcement measures for a fixed period because novel coronavirus infections are spreading globally now. Amidst this, Japan, China, and the ROK confirmed that we are respectively implementing border enforcement measures carefully and appropriately.
Reporter: I have another related question. I believe that a video teleconference is an irregular format for a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and that there were times when the sound cut out during the meeting. Can you please tell us your overall impression of the video teleconference?
Minister MOTEGI: Although the sound cut out a little during the beginning, that was the only part during the 70-minute meeting. After that, I was able to hear quite clearly. I could also see the expressions of my counterparts, unlike during a telephone talk without a monitor when I cannot tell if they are smiling or not. Naturally face-to-face meetings are good, but that is not possible during the current situation, so I felt that a video teleconference was an extremely effective method.
Reporter: In relation to the Tokyo Olympic Games, you stated that you received support from China and the ROK when you mentioned holding the Games in a complete form. What did China and the ROK say when expressing their support?
Minister MOTEGI: Before my statement, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that he hoped that the Tokyo Olympic Games would be held in good form. I then stated what Prime Minister Abe stated during the G7 Summit Meeting last week, which was that we would like to hold the Games in a complete form and for them to be proof of mankind defeating the novel coronavirus, and mentioned that support was received from the G7 countries. Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha then stated that they support Japan’s position.
Reporter: Some reports state that immigration restrictions concerning China and the ROK will be extended from two weeks to about one month. Is MOFA considering taking the same measures concerning suspension of issuance of visas and suspending the validity of visas?
Minister MOTEGI: As novel coronavirus infections spread globally and the situation changes daily, I believe that various countries will make judgments in a timely, appropriate manner. As I stated earlier, Japan, China, and the ROK agreed that we are respectively taking careful and appropriate border enforcement measures. Amidst this, we will make consideration on what measures are necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus within our respective countries.
Reporter: Which country called for the meeting today to be held?
Minister MOTEGI: Various discussions are held among Japan, China, and the ROK. During these discussions, an atmosphere of wanting to hold this meeting naturally formed.
Reporter: You mentioned working-level discussions concerning distribution of medical supplies and other matters in your four points earlier. Would this basically be working-level discussions between health authorities?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the follow-up for today will first be held at the working level, and that specific measures will probably be part of the follow-up if the Health Ministers’ Meeting is held. In any event, I would like the follow-up for today’s meeting to be carefully conducted.