Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, May 8, 2020, 2:23 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Passing of Mr. OKAMOTO Yukio

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to speak about the passing of Mr. OKAMOTO Yukio. I felt unbearable grief when I heard of his sudden death.

Mr. Okamoto has worked on a wide range of important matters such as the Gulf War, the Okinawa issue, and Japan-U.S. security at MOFA and as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister.

About 20 years ago when I was State Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was a colleague of Mr. Okamoto when we worked together on support for the recovery of Iraq. I can still clearly remember Mr. Okamoto crying when Mr. OKU Katsuhiko and Mr. INOUE Masamori were shot in Iraq.

Mr. Okamoto was also passionately dedicated to the recovery after the Great East Japan Earthquake as well as fostering the young generation. We will firmly inherit and carry on his passion for Japan and the world.

Many people were deeply impressed by Mr. Okamoto, who traveled many times to the front lines of diplomacy and always listened to people there. I believe this is proven by the fact that he has many friends around the world, including the United States.

I would like to remember Mr. Okamoto’s achievements and once again express my heartfelt prayers for him.

(2) Japanese Nationals Leaving Foreign Countries Where Flights Etc. are Suspended and Returning to Japan

Minister MOTEGI: As usual, I would like to speak about Japanese nationals leaving foreign countries and returning to Japan. The number of Japanese nationals who have been repatriated has further increased to about 8,900 people thus far. The number of Japanese nationals who wish to be repatriated, as well as the number of countries where they are located, have been decreasing. There are now about 250 Japanese nationals in about 30 countries. Among the 250 people, about 50 are planned to be repatriated soon. We have been steadily achieving results in repatriating Japanese nationals.

In addition, there are Japanese nationals who newly wish to leave foreign countries and return to Japan. The number of such people is always changing. We will continue to provide as much support as possible, such as provision of information, to Japanese nationals who wish to be repatriated.

Furthermore, we are advancing cooperation with various countries so that we can all repatriate our own nationals. For example, 67 Japanese nationals returned to Japan from Peru by flying from Peru to Mexico aboard a private chartered flight on May 4 local time. About 100 Peruvians, including Peruvian residents of Japan, returned to Peru by flying on the return flight that flew from Mexico to Peru.

Moreover, in regard to relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK), a Korean girl with leukemia and her family flew aboard a special flight from Japan Airlines that departed from Delhi on May 4 and landed at Haneda Airport early in the morning on May 5. The family then returned to ROK during May 5. This was achieved with the cooperation of JAL from a humanitarian perspective. I would like to thank the people concerned from Japan and ROK for their efforts.

Yesterday, I received a letter of thanks from Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. It said that this is a good example that truly symbolizes Japan-ROK cooperation amidst such a severe situation. I also believe that this was an extremely good cooperation from the perspective of cooperation between Japan and the ROK.

Japan highly appreciates that cooperation with various countries is advancing in this way. We will continue to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese residents and travelers in foreign countries and to realize repatriation of Japanese nationals who wish to return to Japan.

Novel Coronavirus (Free Provision of Avigan, Latest Status of Coordination)

Sankei Shimbun, HARAKAWA: In regard to Avigan, which I also asked about last week, I heard that it began to actually be shipped from yesterday. Can you please tell us the situation as of today, including the countries that wish to receive Avigan, the number of countries for which coordination has been completed, and about the actual shipment?

Minister MOTEGI: As I have stated many times, various countries have expressed high interest in Avigan. We have received requests for provision of Avigan through diplomatic channels from close to 80 countries thus far.

As of today, Avigan has been provided to the first country, Estonia, and coordination has already been completed to provide it to 43 countries. Regarding the provision of Avigan to Estonia, I held a telephone talk with the Foreign Minister Reinsalu of Estonia yesterday and conveyed that Avigan pills would be provided in response to the request from Estonia. Foreign Minister Reinsalu expressed gratitude in response.

Following this, Avigan will be provided sequentially via the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) firstly to countries for which coordination has been completed. I have received a report that coordination is currently being conducted to send Avigan in a few days to Luxembourg, Albania, Georgia, and Hungary.

Situation in North Korea (Movements of Chairman Kim Jong-un, New Missile-Related Facility)

Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: I would like to ask about the situation in North Korea. Recently there was a report on the movements of Chairman Kim Jong-un for the first time in 20 days. In addition, there was also a report that recently construction has been advancing on a missile-related facility close to Pyongyang International Airport. How do you view the situation in North Korea?

Minister MOTEGI: We are constantly monitoring and analyzing the situation concerning North Korea, including military aspects, with high interest. Regarding the movements of Chairman Kim Jong-un himself, I am aware of the report in the North Korean media on May 2 that he attended the completion ceremony on the previous day, May 1, for a fertilizer factory on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

There has also been a report about the construction of a new ballistic missile facility. We receive various reports and information, including intelligence from various forms of disclosed information as you pointed out. We will continue to conduct information gathering and analysis while closely cooperating with the United States and others regarding the situation in North Korea.

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