Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, March 27, 2020, 5:29 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Novel Coronavirus (Elevation of the Response Division to an Emergency Response Headquarters)
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to begin by speaking about two matters. Firstly, due to the establishment yesterday of the National Headquarters based on the Act on Special Measures for Countermeasures against Novel Influenza and Other Diseases, the existing Response Division at MOFA was immediately elevated to become an Emergency Response Headquarters headed by myself.
MOFA will continue to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of and provide necessary support for Japanese nationals who are residents or travelers overseas, including by issuing information and alerts in a timely and appropriate manner, and take decisive action to implement swift border enforcement measures.
(2) Establishment of the FY2020 Draft Budget
Minister MOTEGI: The other matter is that the FY2020 draft budget was just approved. The allocation for MOFA is 712 billion yen. The allocation includes the budget for Japan to actively lead international rule-making and related matters such as the promotion of the “rule of law,” the ODA budget necessary for realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and promoting the SDGs, and the budget for improvement of the system to develop active, strategic diplomatic activities. We will leverage this budget to develop a more active and strategic diplomacy.
Novel Coronavirus (Results of the G20 Summit Meeting)
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about the G20 Summit Teleconference Meeting held last night. It is written in the Leaders’ Statement that bold fiscal support will be continued toward research and development funding for medicines for the novel coronavirus as well as the recovery of growth of the global economy. Can you please tell us your reaction to the results of this meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: Although the meeting had a very large number of participants, I believe that it was extremely significant. I believe that you asked about the G20 meeting. During the G20 Summit Teleconference Meeting, I understand that Prime Minister Abe spoke about two major points.
The first point was about immediately accelerating development of medicines and other treatment to resolve the current situation and promoting international cooperation to that end. The second point was that various countries should implement strong economic and fiscal policies in a coordinated manner, in the same way as during the 2008 financial crisis. He received the support of the country leaders for both points. Those were the results.
In addition, in regard to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Prime Minister Abe explained that he had agreed with International Olympic Committee President Bach about holding the Games by summer 2021 at the latest. He indicated the resolve of Japan as the host country to hold the Games in their complete form as proof that mankind defeated the novel coronavirus. In response, he received the understanding and support of the G20 country leaders.
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask another related question. During the recent G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, you called for focusing on international joint development of medicine going forward. Do you have an idea of what the framework would specifically be, and if so, can you tell us about it?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated two nights ago, the actual medicine development would probably involve strengthened cooperation between the public and private sectors.
As has been stated, development is progressing in Japan including clinical trials that are now being held for four medicines. The United States and other countries are also currently undertaking such initiatives, and will share information including about the clinical trials. I believe that there will also be a focus on development in cooperation with various medical supply manufacturers and others, and I expect that specialized discussions will be held including between health authorities.
Novel Coronavirus (Support for Repatriation of Japanese Nationals Stranded in Peru)
TV Asahi, OISHI: In relation to Peru, about 260 Japanese nationals are currently stranded there. I believe that the local embassy is calling on the Government of Peru to repatriate them. Can you please tell us the current status of coordination, including the prospects for operating a chartered plane?
Minister MOTEGI: There are two routes. The first is the planned operation on Saturday, March 28 local time of a private chartered plane arranged by the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Peru, which about 25 Japanese nationals are planned to board. The second is the operation of a chartered plane arranged by a private travel agency on Sunday, March 29 local time for Japanese travelers in Peru. We are currently looking for people who wish to board this flight, and have so far found about 90 people.
The flight will fly from Cusco to Lima and then to Mexico City, where the Japanese nationals will return to Japan aboard a commercial flight they booked themselves.
We are currently supporting swift repatriation of Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan centered on Cusco and Lima, but there are still 60 people remaining in other areas and movement is quite restricted. We will consider how we can support their repatriation while maintaining contact with them.
TV Asahi, OISHI: To confirm, is it correct to understand that each person will pay for the airfare at his or her expense?
Minister MOTEGI: Basically, I have heard that the Japanese nationals will be asked to pay for their flight, whether it is arranged by Taipei or by the private travel agency.
Novel Coronavirus (Effects on Diplomacy of Various Countries’ Immigration and Movement Restrictions)
Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: As immigration restrictions are implemented in many countries due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, I believe the movements of diplomats are also restricted. Can you please tell us if you know if there have been any effects on the progress of diplomatic negotiations and other such matters?
Minister MOTEGI: Although it is quite difficult to conduct overseas visits now for matters that should be negotiated or discussed in person, we are using alternative means such as telephone talks and teleconference meetings as much as possible. As has been stated, large meetings and other such meetings are being postponed or suspended not only in Japan but all over the world now. In that sense, I believe there have been effects. However, I do not believe that various consultations have been majorly impeded or completely stagnated due to immigration restrictions.
Novel Coronavirus (Japan-Indonesia Telephone Talk)
Economic Monthly, Susilo: In relation to the question earlier, will a Japan-Indonesia Telephone Talk be held?
Minister MOTEGI: I already held a Japan-Indonesia Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk on March 23. We agreed that both our countries will closely cooperate to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Novel Coronavirus (Status of Coordination for the Japan-China Summit Telephone Talk)
Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: It seems that Ambassador Kong Xuanyou of China stated at the press conference at the Japan National Press Club today that China is suggesting that President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Abe will likely hold a Telephone Talk in the near future. Can you please tell us the prospects for that at present? Also, if it will be held, can you please tell us about the significance?
Minister MOTEGI: Nothing has been decided about the Telephone Talk between Prime Minister Abe and President Xi. I have also not directly confirmed whether China would like that. In any event, I held a Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently as well as the Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting last weekend in a teleconference format. We are closely cooperating in various ways with China. As international cooperation is necessary for sharing information and wisdom as well as taking border enforcement measures, we will firmly carry out such cooperation.
Novel Coronavirus (Diplomatic Mission System)
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask a question related to the novel coronavirus. Since the end of this month, it has been confirmed that four staff members working at the embassies in the Czech Republic, the United States, and North Macedonia have been infected with the novel coronavirus. Are there other cases besides these?
Also, in cases in which it is confirmed that an embassy staff member is infected, I imagine that continuing work would become difficult particularly at embassies with a small number of staff members. Can you please tell us your views on how to continue embassy work while preventing the spread of infection to other staff members?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, as for the basic idea, we will have thorough measures such as hand-washing and cough etiquette, both at MOFA and diplomatic missions. We will also utilize teleworking and staggered work hours. As there is the possibility of close contact with an infected person when staff members must work closely in person together, we will divide staff into teams of those who commute to work and those who telework in order to prevent infections. We will take such measures.
Amidst this, in terms of small diplomatic missions that have a small number of staff members, their functions must not be completely suspended if infections spread in the building. MOFA will promote measures such as teleworking, utilizing staggered work hours, and dividing staff into multiple teams of those who commute to work and those who telework, as I just mentioned, which is important for diplomatic missions beyond large-scale ones. Please ask an official for details about various diplomatic missions.