Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, April 3, 2020, 5:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Japan-Poland Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Following the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives this morning and the meeting of the Committee on Security this afternoon, I held a telephone talk with Foreign Minister Czaputowicz of Poland from 5 p.m. for about 20 minutes.

I expressed gratitude to Foreign Minister Czaputowicz that about 150 Japanese nationals were repatriated to Japan aboard a special chartered flight from LOT Polish Airlines.

I highly appreciated this as cooperation symbolizing the deeply amicable relations between Japan and Poland, which marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations last year.

International cooperation is extremely important for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and Japan and Poland have shared recognition regarding four points. The first is for the international community to share lessons learned and expertise regarding the novel coronavirus. The second is cooperation among related countries on border enforcement measures. Japan has implemented border enforcement measures, and Poland is also implementing strict border enforcement measures. The third point is strengthening private and public sector initiatives as well as international cooperation on medication and vaccine development. The fourth point, which was realized this time between Japan and Poland, is ensuring the safety of each countries’ nationals who are in foreign countries, as well as discussions and cooperation to ensure the minimum transport methods necessary for movement of people and things.

Various exchanges with Poland have been postponed in relation to the novel coronavirus. Foreign Minister Czaputowicz and I both expressed the hope that the situation will improve and be brought under control, and that we can promote various exchanges between Japan and Poland.

Incidentally, because it has not been possible to make overseas visits recently, I have been advancing discussions with the foreign ministers and others from various countries using telephone talks, teleconferences, and other means. Thus far, I have held telephone talks with the foreign ministers of China, the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, the EU, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Singapore, Iran, and Poland, and we established shared understanding regarding issues related to the novel coronavirus and other matters. In addition, the Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as well as the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting have been held in the teleconference format. We confirmed close cooperation at the foreign minister level, as well as to further strengthen international cooperation as I mentioned before. Although I believe that meetings will continue to be held in this way for the time being, I will firmly continue diplomatic activities.

(2) Postponement of the Japan-Russia Year of Regional Exchanges Opening Ceremony

Minister MOTEGI: I would also like to speak about the postponement of the Japan-Russia year of regional exchanges opening ceremony. Japan and Russia had agreed on coordination toward holding the opening ceremony in Hokkaido in the first half of this year, and preparations were being advanced.

However, it is difficult to conduct preparation for holding the ceremony in the first half of this year due to the current situation concerning the novel coronavirus, and Japan and Russia have agreed to postpone the ceremony until a timing that is mutually convenient.

The timing to hold the ceremony will be coordinated based on the situation of the novel coronavirus going forward, as well as the diplomacy schedules of both countries and the circumstances of the people concerned from both countries. Additionally, coordination will continue to be conducted to hold the ceremony in Hokkaido.

We will conduct solid preparations to hold a ceremony befitting the beginning of the Japan-Russia year of regional exchanges, which was agreed upon by the leaders of both countries.

Novel Coronavirus (Utilization of Teleconferences)

Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about meetings in a teleconference format that you introduced during your opening remarks. Although it is expected that teleconference meetings will further increase due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, I believe it will be necessary to improve functions to maintain privacy such as prevention of eavesdropping. Is it being considered to include expenses related to such teleconference meetings in the emergency economic measures that the ruling parties are currently promoting coordination for?

Also, can you please tell us your impressions on what the differences are between teleconference meetings and regular telephone talks?

Minister MOTEGI: Final coordination is currently being carried out to include in the economic measures the expenses for teleconference system improvement from the perspective of promoting teleworking at MOFA and conducting such international communication in various forms.

Particularly in multilateral meetings, situations arise in which it is impossible to know who is speaking just through the audio. For example, during the recent G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the foreign ministers raised their hands when speaking and that could be seen on the screen. The foreign ministers could see who was leading each session or part. For instance, I took the lead on the North Korea issue and gave the opening remarks. It would not be possible to see who was raising their hand with just audio, so in that sense, I believe that teleconferences make it easier to hold multilateral meetings.

Of course, I believe it is desirable to hold a “real” meeting in which the participants actually meet in person because it is possible to do various things like share dinner together and have bilateral meetings on the sidelines. However, due to the current situation, we would like to use the teleconference format. Also, it is possible to connect relatively quickly with telephone talks. There are also some foreign ministers in various countries where people are teleworking instead of commuting to their workplaces, which makes it difficult for them to set up teleconference meetings, so in such cases, we will try various other communication methods, such as telephone talks.

Ballistic Missile Launches By North Korea

Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about ballistic missile launches by North Korea. Following the missiles launches on March 21 and 29, the Government of Japan announced that the missiles “fell into the sea near the northeast coast of North Korea.” Until then, it used to be announced that the missiles “fell into the Sea of Japan.” Can you please tell us the aim of changing to a more specific announcement format, as well as what the analysis is regarding North Korea’s aim for its continued launching of missiles that fall into the sea near its coast?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the notifications by the Cabinet Secretariat as well as the Ministry of Defense announced that the missiles “fell into the sea near the northeast coast of North Korea” in order to convey clear information in a swift, accurate manner to the people of Japan based on comprehensive analysis of the information acquired at that timing. I believe that it is an accurate, clear expression. I believe that that expression makes it clear that the missiles did not land just to the west of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Regarding North Korea’s aims, there is various information concerning the novel coronavirus in the country, and I believe there are various views including that the missiles were launched to send a message within North Korea as well as externally, to show its improved missile technology, or a combination of such aims. I would like to advance further information gathering and analysis.

Novel Coronavirus (Protection of Japanese Nationals in Regions where Flights and Other Forms of Travel have Been Suspended)

NHK, WATANABE: You mentioned the chartered flight that was discussed during the Japan-Poland Telephone Talk. Can you please tell us if it currently seems there will be plans to repatriate such groups of Japanese nationals who are abroad through chartered flights operated by the airlines in those countries or others?

Minister MOTEGI: Please ask the respective officials for the details. To give an outline, I am aware of about 50 countries where there are Japanese residents or travelers who wish to return to Japan but are unable to because of restrictions on leaving the country, movement restrictions, airport closures, flight suspensions, and other reasons. The number of people who want to return changes daily. This is because, depending on the day, there are some people who want to return to Japan one day, but on the next day might decide to watch the situation a little longer because of Japan’s measure requiring a 14-day observation period if they were to return to Japan. Provisionally speaking, there are about 4,000 people who wish to return to Japan in one form or another. Diplomatic missions are providing as much support as possible to help with special commercial flights or operation of private chartered flights. Among these 4,000 Japanese nationals, departure dates have been determined for about 1,000 people, coordination is being conducted for specific departure dates for about 2,000 people, and coordination is being advanced regarding methods to depart countries for 1,000 people.

Novel Coronavirus (Visit to Russia By Prime Minister Abe)

NHK, WATANABE: Excuse me for asking repeated questions. You mentioned the Japan-Russia year of regional exchanges earlier and that it would be postponed to a good time. However, Russia has not made an official announcement regarding the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany on May 9. Can you please tell us Japan’s current stance about Prime Minister Abe attending the ceremony?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe that Russia has not made any special official announcement regarding the parade for the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. Japan’s position has not changed.

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