Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, April 17, 2020, 3:35 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Livestream of Press Conferences

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Starting from today, we will livestream this press conference on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official Twitter account. In addition to livestreaming on MOFA’s Japanese language account, we will also livestream the press conference with simultaneous interpretation on our English account.
We will also be livestreaming my regular press conference in English too.
As the novel coronavirus spreads, people are staying at home, and work from home is being encouraged. As such, at the press club of MOFA as well, reporters are making efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus by working in a different manner. Against this backdrop, this livestream will enable reporters who are not here in person as well as people throughout Japan and around the world to watch these press conferences in real-time.
Utilizing digital technology, I want to thoroughly explain Japan’s foreign policy and MOFA’s efforts going forward. I hope that many people will tune in and watch the briefings live.
Please check our Foreign Ministry’s English Twitter account for my press conference.

(2) Number of Infected People in Japan

Minister MOTEGI: Now, let me give you the updates on the outbreak. As of today, the number of infections in the world is about 2.1 million. The number of deaths in the world is 140,000. The number of infections in Japan is 9,167. The number of deaths in Japan is 148. The situation is very severe.
In Japan as well, we continue to face a very dire situation. But the rate of fatalities per 100,000 people in Japan is 0.12. So by international comparison, as of now, we have been able to contain the number to a lower level. The Government of Japan will continue to work in a united manner to prevent the spread of infections in Japan and to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad. 

(3) Protecting Japanese Nationals in Regions Where Flights Have Been Suspended

Minister MOTEGI: From this perspective, I would like to add the following. Since last month, due to restrictions on the operation of international flights, we have seen more cases in which Japanese people abroad are not able to leave the countries they are in and come back home. The protection of Japanese nationals is one of the most important responsibilities of MOFA. So at the Ministry, centering on myself, the Consular Affairs Bureau, the regional bureaus, and the related diplomatic missions abroad are working as one to gather concrete information and share such information with Japanese nationals abroad as needed. We are also making efforts to secure means of repatriation and providing thorough support to them.
As a result, so far we have repatriated about 7,100 Japanese nationals from countries that are difficult to depart from. As of now, there are still about 1,300 Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan. Of those 1,300, by the end of this week, it is likely that about 300 will be able to come back to Japan. This number includes the Japanese nationals who will assemble in Ethiopia through 10 routes from different places in Africa. They will take an Ethiopian Airline flight tomorrow, April 18, from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, to come back to Narita International Airport. By the end of this month, it is likely that about 300 Japanese nationals will be able to come back to Japan in addition to the numbers I mentioned earlier.
These numbers are constantly changing, but MOFA will continue to appeal to local governments and others, and provide solid support to those Japanese nationals wanting to come back to Japan while listening to various circumstances that they are in as well as confirming aspects such as the status of means of transportation in the countries where they are staying.

Novel Coronavirus (Status of Coordination for Provision of Avigan)

Economic Monthly, Susilo: On April 7, you made an announcement regarding Avigan. You are going to deliver Avigan to 30 countries going forward. On April 14 when the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit was held, Prime Minister Abe also promised that Japan is going to deliver Avigan to these countries. During this week after that, what kind of procedures have been taken? When are you going to make the delivery to Indonesia? Please mention the timeframe for that.
Minister MOTEGI: First, let me talk in general about supplying Avigan. At the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit Teleconference held on April 14, some leaders touched on Avigan. Prime Minister Abe explained about expanding clinical studies of Avigan. The leaders agreed about the importance of early development of a therapeutic drug to fight against this virus. Before that, on April 7, from a humanitarian perspective, Japan decided to provide $1 million dollars in emergency grant aid in order to supply Avigan free of charge to countries that wish to have it.
On the following day, April 8, the procurement agency, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and the Japanese Government signed an agreement. Thus the work of procurement and supply has already started. We will provide supplies to countries once the respective procedures are completed.
As for the countries to which Avigan will be provided, we will announce that after the drug is supplied, including the timing of the supply. So far, we have received requests for supplies from more than 50 countries. We have already concluded coordination to provide Avigan free of charge within a certain limit to 20 countries. Indonesia is included in the 20 countries for which we have completed coordination.

Novel Coronavirus (Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Cooperation))

Chosun Ilbo, Lee: Recently, Japan and the ROK cooperated at the embassy level to jointly repatriate citizens from both countries who were in Africa. I think this is the first case of cooperation between Japan and the ROK since the outbreak started so I would like to ask about your thoughts about this cooperation. We are in a serious situation. To overcome this situation, what plans does Japan have regarding Japan-ROK cooperation?
Minister MOTEGI: The other day, the Japan-China-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Teleconference Meeting was held. In that meeting, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and I agreed that it is extremely important to have not only domestic responses by various countries, but also international cooperation to respond to the novel coronavirus. Particularly, medical service delivery systems are sometimes fragile in African countries and other developing countries. Assistance to these countries requires cooperation by various countries, and coordination with international organization is also extremely important for this purpose.
Against this backdrop, Japan will cooperate with the ROK and China, as well as various other countries including European countries and the United States, in order to provide assistance. This was also confirmed during the recent G7 and G20 Summit Video Teleconference Meetings. We would like to expand a good track record one by one and make contributions.

Japan-Russia Relations (Announcement of the Postponement of the Ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Germany)

Hokkaido Shimbun, NORISADA: I have a question regarding the relationship between Japan and Russia. President Putin yesterday announced the postponement of the May 9 ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. I believe that Prime Minister Abe was invited to the ceremony and was considering attending. Can you please tell us the Government of Japan’s reaction, including whether or not you received any official notice about the postponement directly from the Russian side? Also, if Prime Minister is once again invited to the new ceremony, then will the Government consider his attendance again?
Minister MOTEGI: I am of course aware that the ceremony postponement was announced. Because of the current situation in which infections are expanding globally, I understand that the Government of Russia made this judgment by giving priority to the health and safety of the participants in this event from both within Russia and from overseas.
As for the ceremony, this is not a cancellation. I understand it is a postponement. The date to which the ceremony will be postponed has not been decided. I believe that various coordination will be conducted going forward.

Livestream of Press Conferences

Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: As you mentioned at the outset, your press conferences will be streamed in English. I understand that this is one of the measures for the novel coronavirus. However, in the sense of strengthening overseas communication, do you intend to continue the simultaneous English streaming even after the situation is contained?
Minister MOTEGI: As stated in a question earlier, I believe that probably after humankind defeats the novel coronavirus, we will be able to look back on this as being an opportunity to reconfirm the necessity of international cooperation and collaboration in various fields.
At the same time, teleworking is being advanced now, and it is also important to promote remote education and remote medical services. In order to implement them, various attempts are now being made. So far, teleworking has not taken root yet. Perhaps people had some doubt about the possibility of it. However, we are now working from home. Although we are going through trial and error, teleworking is advancing. So if we have a will, it can be done. We are now living in the era of digital transformation. In this context, we must strengthen communication utilizing new digital technologies. We will not stop what we have started.

G7 Summit Video Teleconference Meeting (WHO Reform)

Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I would like to ask about the G7 Summit Video Teleconference Meeting that took place yesterday. According to the White House, the leaders of the G7 countries requested thorough investigation and reform of the WHO. What is the official stance of Japan regarding the WHO?
Minister MOTEGI: In the meeting, Prime Minister Abe stated that the entire international community, with the WHO at the center, should cooperate to respond to the novel coronavirus, which is seriously affecting the entire world. He also stated that the functions of the WHO should be fully verified to be prepared against a similar situation happening in the future.

Japan-Russia Relations (Negotiations Concerning the Northern Territories)

Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: About diplomacy with Russia, I believe that many aspects of diplomacy and exchanges with Russia have stagnated, including the postponement of the ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to Japan, and the visa-free exchanges. What effects do you think there will be on the negotiations concerning the Northern Territories and other matters going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: Foreign Minister Lavrov and I completely agreed to advance the peace treaty negotiations. Also, the current situation with the novel coronavirus has certainly led to various restrictions on travel and movement and the postponement of numerous meetings in various countries, not only in Japan and not just the peace treaty negotiations between Japan and Russia. I believe that firstly bringing the situation under control as quickly as possible is more important than anything else.
After then, we will firmly coordinate the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation while monitoring the novel coronavirus situation, and will aim for achieving concrete results.
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