Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 10:52 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Novel Coronavirus (Support for Japanese Nationals to Depart from Foreign Countries and Return to Japan)
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: As of 12 a.m. today, about 6,400 Japanese nationals have returned to Japan after departing from foreign countries where it is difficult due to travel and movement restrictions, suspension of flights, and other reasons. In addition, there are a little over 2,000 Japanese nationals in such countries who wish to return to Japan. Centered on diplomatic missions, efforts are being continued in succession including support for arranging chartered flights, ensuring means of travel, and appealing to local governments. I believe that out of the slightly more than 2,000 Japanese nationals, about 1,200 will probably be able to return to Japan within this week.
Furthermore, speaking in approximate terms, although it will not be this week, various scheduling coordination such as chartered flight arrangements has progressed considerably for 400 people, and coordination will be conducted for another 400 people going forward. I believe that is roughly the total number of people.
In any event, in particular we will continue to call for and support swift repatriation of Japanese nationals who are in developing countries and countries where novel coronavirus infections are rapidly increasing and, how shall I say this, where healthcare systems are vulnerable.
Novel Coronavirus (Novel Coronavirus Measures at MOFA and Diplomatic Missions)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In relation to the novel coronavirus, it was announced last week that Director-General Mizushima of the Consular Affairs Bureau was infected with the novel coronavirus. Has there been confirmation of a spread of infections within MOFA, including within the Consular Affairs Bureau, after that? Also, during Director-General Mizushima’s absence, I believe that ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals continues to be especially important. What systems and efforts do you think have become necessary at MOFA?
Minister MOTEGI: Preventing the spread of infections within MOFA is extremely important for work including ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals. Both MOFA and diplomatic missions have implemented infection prevention measures including thoroughly promoting practices such as handwashing and cough etiquette, utilizing teleworking and staggered work hours, and dividing personnel into multiple teams that come to work on alternating days. We will continue to strengthen these measures further.
As the Consular Affairs Bureau has had a very large amount of work starting with the operations in Wuhan, it has received help from other bureaus and has carried out work with a fortified system. Basically, efforts are already being carried out under a system with under half the original number of personnel of the Consular Affairs Bureau.
Director-General Mizushima is currently recuperating at home in accordance with the instructions from a healthcare center. When I spoke with him by telephone on the weekend, he sounded – very healthy is the wrong phrase – but it sounded like he was normal and in stable condition, and he did not have any symptoms such as coughing.
Director-General Mizushima developed a fever last week on the night of Thursday, April 9, but before that he had been teleworking to care for his family. I have received a report that the healthcare center concluded that he did not have any close contact with anyone at MOFA, and that the only people who had close contact with him outside of MOFA were his family.
Although a notice of personnel change was not issued that Director-General Mizushima is recuperating at home and he is not being replaced, Director-General Yamada of the Foreign Policy Bureau is acting in his place for his work.
Novel Coronavirus (Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit Teleconference)
Vietnam Television, Vu Duc Cuong: The Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) will be held via the internet today. What significance does this meeting have for the fight to control the novel coronavirus? How do you evaluate the role of Viet Nam as the organizer of the meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: The Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit will be held today, and Prime Minister Abe will attend from Japan. I believe that discussions will be held regarding various countries’ efforts to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus infections as well as international cooperation including ASEAN. Building on the recent G7 and G20 summit teleconference meetings, Japan intends to actively contribute to these discussions.
I cannot completely tell you what the meeting content is yet because it is at the summit level. In any event, I believe that there will be discussions regarding infection control measures and international cooperation related to that, as well as respective economic measures and cooperation for economic measures implementation because the novel coronavirus is also affecting the economy. In addition, the economic measures that the Government recently approved include novel coronavirus countermeasures as well as support measures for developing countries, and I believe the Prime Minister will touch on these during the meeting.
The Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit teleconference meeting is being held at the call of Viet Nam, which holds the ASEAN Chairmanship this year, and Japan appreciates the leadership of Viet Nam.
Novel Coronavirus (Diplomatic Visas for Diplomats from Countries Subject to Japan’s Immigration Restrictions)
Pan Orient News, Azhari: By the border enforcement measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, I understand that diplomat's travel is also restricted. Under such circumstances, I believe cooperation with diplomatic missions like embassies is quite important. But what is the Foreign Ministry's policy in response to the diplomatic visa of diplomats from countries which Japan denies permission to land. Can they enter Japan and what are the procedures?
Minister MOTEGI: Basically, Japan has implemented a measure to deny entry into the country of foreign people arriving from countries with a Level 3 Warning on Infectious Disease, unless there are extraordinary circumstances. However, diplomacy is important. In that sense, we will listen to the respective circumstances of each case. If there is a visa application or the like from personnel from a diplomatic organization, we will listen to the circumstances and quickly respond by starting the procedure to issue a visa if it is appropriate.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. The ROK legislative election will be held tomorrow, April 15. Regardless of whether the ruling party or an opposition party wins, I believe that the situation will continue in which it is difficult to resolve the issue between Japan and the ROK of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Amidst this, it is still unknown when the assets of Japanese companies will be liquidated. Can you please tell us again how Japan intends to respond to this issue?
Minister MOTEGI: Japan is strongly requesting the Government of the ROK to quickly remedy its breach of international law. Regardless of the result of the election, if the liquidation of seized assets moves forward, then this issue will be aggravated. I am strongly pointing out to the Government of the ROK and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha so such an aggravation does not happen.
Novel Coronavirus (Support for Pacific Island Countries)
Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: I would like to ask a question in relation to novel coronavirus measures. You had a talk yesterday with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Fiji, and spoke about funding contributions for medical supplies support and other matters. Can you please tell us what support Japan will provide for not only Fiji but also other island countries?
Minister MOTEGI: There are currently 16 people infected with the novel coronavirus in Fiji. Although that is by no means a large number, I sensed during the telephone talk yesterday that there is a strong sense of crisis concerning the spread of the novel coronavirus in consideration of Fiji’s medical system and other matters.
I believe that there are probably many countries, including developing countries and Pacific island countries that have such a recognition. There is no question that the spread of the novel coronavirus is actually happening around the entire world.
I explained during the telephone talk yesterday that Japan will provide support by contributing about 3.4 million U.S. dollars, which is about 360 million yen, for technical support through UNICEF and the International Red Cross as well as providing medical supplies to Pacific island countries including Fiji. Minister for Defence, National Security and Foreign Affairs Seruiratu expressed gratitude for this.
Support measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in developing countries, including Pacific island countries, were approved by the Cabinet on April 7. We will advance provision of medical equipment through bilateral grant aid based on the needs of various countries as well as technical cooperation through international organizations.
Efforts by various countries are extremely important. However, amidst such a global spread of infections in this age when the movement of people has become so globalized, I believe that international cooperation is also extremely important. Japan will take the lead in the battle to defeat the novel coronavirus.
Novel Coronavirus (Japan’s Role in the Post-Novel Coronavirus Global Economy)
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: My question probably slightly repeats the previous question. Although there is currently a battle to stop the spread of infections, when this situation ends, I believe that Japan will assess how it can lead the global recovery. Can you please tell us what Japan’s approach will be for leading the global recovery as well as what specific efforts will be undertaken?
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, but I did not fully catch the meaning of your question. Can you please repeat it?
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I asked if you could please tell us what Japan’s approach will be for leading the global recovery as well as what specific efforts will be undertaken after the novel coronavirus situation has ended.
Minister MOTEGI: As has been stated, the emergency economic measures are divided into two phases. The first phase is measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and contain the situation. The first phase is further divided to incorporate measures against the novel coronavirus itself, as well as measures for people directly affected in various ways, support for household expenses, employment, and businesses, and support for continuing employment and businesses.
Furthermore, the second phase is to activate a V-shaped recovery of the Japanese economy from the stage when the novel coronavirus has been contained to a certain extent. Comprehensive measures will be taken for industries that were majorly affected, including the tourism industry, the transportation industry, and the entertainment industry, as well as regions that were affected including due to the slump in inbound tourists.
Moreover, we will consider our approach to global supply chains that has become evident due to the novel coronavirus, and enable supplies from multiple countries rather than relying on a single country. We will also provide support to restore domestic production of products that were produced overseas through now.
Additionally, teleworking is progressing now, and we will change the approach to work-styles and services provision through utilization of various forms of technological innovation. We will use various forms of technological innovation such as 5G for teleworking, remote learning, and remote medical care. We will provide necessary funding and support so that companies and others can respond to that. I believe that for implementing this series of measures, it will firstly be necessary to have cooperation and collaboration for economic measures administration in various forms among major countries.
In terms of developing countries, as we work to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the first phase, we will take measures to advance international cooperation including bilateral grant aid, cooperation through international organizations, and medication and vaccine development.
Also, in terms of what will be done for the development and recovery of the global economy after that, I believe that basically various countries will take the measures that I described for the second phase, and thus make their own economies recover. Additionally, I believe we will take the path of considering various new forms of economic assistance and other support at a stage when there may be countries, such as developing countries, where there is a delay in the recovery of the economy.