Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, May 29, 2020, 11:05 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japanese Nationals Leaving Foreign Countries Where International Flights Etc. are Suspended and Returning to Japan
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Regarding repatriation of Japanese nationals, which I always report on, a total of about 10,000 Japanese nationals have been repatriated thus far. There are about 280 Japanese nationals in 27 countries who wish to return to Japan. Among them, it is expected that over 200 Japanese nationals will return to Japan by next week.
Through now, the Consular Affairs Bureau, regional bureaus, and diplomatic missions have been cooperating under my direction to provide thorough support for the repatriation of Japanese nationals in areas where repatriation is difficult due to reasons such as the suspension of international flights. As a result, I believe that the number of repatriated Japanese nationals will exceed 10,000 by the end of this month.
I have been introducing these efforts during my opening remarks in my press conferences thus far. However, since the number of the nationals to be repatriated has wound down after a considerable number of Japanese nationals have been repatriated, I would like to provide timely reports only when there are major developments from now on, instead of reporting on this during each press conference.
MOFA will continue to firmly work as one to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals and to secure methods for them to return to Japan.
Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk
Hokkaido Shimbun, NORISADA: I would like to ask about the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk that you held yesterday. During the Telephone Talk, you and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to implement working-level consultations as soon as possible in order to advance efforts between Japan and Russia. Can you please tell us what progress you would like to aim for the operationalization of this year’s project based on the results of the pilot project last year?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, yesterday I held a meeting by telephone with Minister Lavrov for the first time in three months since we met at the Munich Security Conference in February. The Telephone Talk was just over 45 minutes. I have held Telephone Talks with foreign ministers from close to 40 countries thus far, but my Telephone Talk with Foreign Minister Lavrov was quite long and I believe we had good discussions.
There were two major points. The first was that we held an exchange of views regarding issues concerning the novel coronavirus, including the current situations in the two countries and the governments’ initiatives. We also welcomed that cooperation is progressing between our countries including for the issue of simple test kits.
Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated high appreciation for Japan’s novel coronavirus measures. We also agreed that it is extremely important to continue to advance specific cooperation regarding novel coronavirus response plans, and that we would continue to closely cooperate.
The other matter was bilateral relations besides the novel coronavirus. The peace treaty negotiations, joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, the exchange projects on the Four Northern Islands, and the Japan-Russia year of regional exchanges and its opening ceremony have been postponed. Although preparation had been firmly advanced in various forms until now, unfortunately these activities have been slightly delayed for several months due to the effects of the novel coronavirus. Foreign Minister Lavrov and I agreed to urgently hold working-level consultations to quickly begin preparation in order to firmly advance the projects, considering their importance. Amidst this, I believe that discussions regarding the joint economic activities and other matters will be held during the Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation and the working group meeting for comprehensive discussions.
Foreign Minister Lavrov and I agreed that firm discussions will be held at the working level taking as much time as possible in order to advance progress.
Japan-Russia Relations (Ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Germany)
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I would like to also ask about Russia. In regard to the Ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Germany scheduled for June 24, Russian media reported that Russia will send invitations again to the countries which were previously planned to attend the ceremony. Can you please tell us whether Japan will take a positive view toward attending the ceremony if invited at the present point?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated before, the major themes of the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk yesterday were novel coronavirus measures as well as various aspects of bilateral relations including the peace treaty negotiations and the joint economic activities. We spent most of our time on discussions to advance those matters. I would like to refrain from replying regarding speculative matters beyond that.
Situation in Hong Kong (Decision by the National People's Congress)
Independent Web Journal, WATARAI: I would like to ask you about Japan-China relations. The National People’s Congress of China recently approved the national security law. Particularly for the issue of Hong Kong, China is showing its power to take over Hong Kong, and the international community is extremely worried about this. Japan advocates for freedom and democracy. Regarding China’s behavior or approach, can you please tell us what Japan will do with Japan-China relations going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated in my press conference yesterday evening, Japan is seriously concerned about the decision made by China’s National People’s Congress regarding Hong Kong in the midst of strong concerns expressed from the international community and the people of Hong Kong and about the situation concerned in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an extremely important partner for Japan with which Japan maintains close economic ties and people-to-people exchanges. It is the long-standing policy of Japan to attach great importance to upholding a free and open system which Hong Kong has been enjoying and the democratic and stable development of Hong Kong under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework.
Japan has repeatedly conveyed its position and views to China through now. Under my instructions, yesterday Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs AKIBA summoned Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou and conveyed that message. Japan will continue to observe the situation, and address the situation in an appropriate manner while cooperating with the countries concerned.
Super City Bill
Independent Web Journal, WATARAI: I would like to ask another question. Won’t the Super City law recently passed by the Diet pave the way for a surveillance society? In terms of a surveillance society, China is taking the lead in surveillance cities by leveraging IT. Many people are expressing concerns that Japan could be copying China’s bad course of action. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Minister MOTEGI: Minister Kitamura of the Cabinet Office is in charge, so please ask him.