Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, May 15, 2020, 2:19 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Japanese Nationals Leaving Foreign Countries Where International Flights Etc. are Suspended and Returning to Japan

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: First, I would like to give a brief report about Japanese nationals leaving foreign countries and returning to Japan.

A total of about 9,400 Japanese nationals have been repatriated thus far.

There are about 340 Japanese nationals in 30 countries who wish to be repatriated going forward. These numbers reflect the fact that, even though many people are returning to Japan, the number of people who are still abroad and who wish to return to Japan continues to increase. Among the 340 Japanese nationals, about 210 are planned to return to Japan in the next couple of days.

Novel Coronavirus (Possibility of Relaxation of Immigration Restrictions, “Fast Track”)

Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: I would like to ask about travel by businesspeople between China and the Republic of Korea (ROK). China and the ROK are approving travel between the two countries limited to businesspeople who have tested negative for the novel coronavirus. There are reports that China is approaching Japan about approving mutual travel in the same system. Can you please tell us whether this is true, as well as your current thoughts about such travel?

Minister MOTEGI: In order to allow resumption of travel, I believe that it is necessary for the spread of infections in Japan to first wind down. At the same time, we know that there are some countries where second waves of infections are coming, so we will continue to firmly monitor conditions overseas. In regard to whether overseas travel is safe or not, we would like to conduct deliberation on what approach concerning movement is possible by comprehensively considering various circumstances such as the infection conditions in the relevant countries.

Regardless of whether we would use the term “fast track,” if we relax immigration restrictions, movement restrictions, and other measures, I believe we would do it step by step.

In the beginning, I believe priority would probably be given to essential workers, such as people absolutely necessary for business or experts who are needed for various exchanges of views. I believe that the general public, including tourists, would come at quite a later stage.

I believe that people would be separated into several groups, and the approach would be to start with essential people step by step. Although I do not think we would want to make it complex, it would be step by step.

Additionally, regarding countries, rather than looking at countries one by one, I believe the approach would be stratified by allowing travel with about 10 countries first for a particular group, and then adding more countries.

For example, yesterday Hungary began to approve inbound by Japanese businesspeople and others. I believe that if possible, it would be desirable for the measure in Japan and the measure in the other country to be implemented simultaneously, or to not have the timings be far apart.

Novel Coronavirus (Taiwan’s Participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO))

Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I would like to ask about the upcoming WHA. At a previous meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, frankly speaking, you stated that there is an issue with China regarding the situation in which it is difficult for Taiwan to participate in the WHA. Can you please tell us again the sentiment behind that statement, or in other words, your awareness of the issue?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe I gave that answer. Japan does not believe that a geographical vacuum should be created when responding to issues in the field of global health, such as infectious diseases, and has been consistently asserting this position in the WHO.

From this perspective, Japan has been consistently supporting Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer. That is what is important. When I was asked why that has not been possible, I gave an example, although there are probably several reasons.

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

Sankei Shimbun, HARAKAWA: I always ask about this. Can you please tell us the latest status of coordination for provision of Avigan?

Minister MOTEGI: In regard to Avigan, although the number has not changed much, requests have been received through diplomatic channels for provision of Avigan from close to 80 countries. Avigan has already been provided to three countries – Estonia, the Netherlands, and Kazakhstan. Yesterday, in addition to providing Avigan to Indonesia, specific coordination was completed to provide Avigan to 45 countries. Thus, Avigan has been provided to four countries including Indonesia thus far, and coordination has been completed to provide it to 45 countries.

We have received high interest from various countries about provision of Avigan. In addition to the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Estonia, during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Hungary yesterday and the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Thailand the day before yesterday, I conveyed that Japan will provide Avigan pills, and the foreign ministers expressed gratitude.

Novel Coronavirus (Investigation Regarding the Initial Response By the WHO)

Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: I would like to ask about a global investigation regarding the response to the novel coronavirus. At the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs today, you answered that it is important for an independent organization to investigate whether the WHO functioned properly concerning the issues of the point of origin of the novel coronavirus and the initial response. Can you please tell us the reason why you think an independent organization is necessary, and, if a framework is possible, how you envision it would be, such as whether China and Japan should participate?

Minister MOTEGI: I spoke about three matters. Firstly, I stated that now is truly a situation in which it is necessary for the international community, centered on the WHO, to cooperate to respond to an infectious disease that is having such enormous effects on the entire world.

Additionally, I stated that after the situation winds down, in order to prepare against such a situation occurring in future, there must be a full investigation regarding the functions of the WHO, what issues there were with its initial response, and other matters.

I also believe that the results of the investigation should be acceptable to the countries of the international community, and thus it is important to conduct a fair, independent, and comprehensive investigation.

I believe that there will be discussions among the countries concerned going forward on how to ensure the fairness and independence of the investigation.

Novel Coronavirus (Taiwan’s Participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO))

NHK, KIMURA: I would like to ask about Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the WHO. Japan has already indicated its position on this. There is still a little time until May 18, so is Japan thinking of making some sort of additional appeal during this time?

Minister MOTEGI: The WHA will begin next Monday, and appeals for Taiwan’s participation are continuing now. This is true for Taiwan and the United States, and we will continue to do what we can while cooperating with them.

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