Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, June 12, 2020, 5:09 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Enactment of Bills, Etc. Related to MOFA
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I do not have any opening remarks. Today, all the bills and agreements related to MOFA that were submitted to the Diet were enacted. I would like to express gratitude to all the people, including the ruling and opposition parties.
Novel Coronavirus (Relaxation of Restrictions on Entering and Leaving Japan)
Economic Monthly, Susilo: Regarding the partial lifting of measures restricting foreign people from entering Japan, I believe a policy was decided to relax restrictions only for business travel between Japan and the four countries of Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Viet Nam. My question is, for example, would it be possible to lift the restrictions for people from those four countries, such as Australians, for them to visit to Japan for tourism instead of business?
My second question is, I believe that one condition for deciding to lift the restriction is probably the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus, but can you please tell us what the other conditions are? In particular, can you please tell me when the restriction will be lifted for my country of Indonesia?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have repeatedly explained at my press conferences thus far in relation to the content of your questions, firstly, at the present point, it is not true that we have decided when we will allow resumption of travel with certain countries.
Additionally, as I have stated many times, priority is given to the winding down of the novel coronavirus in Japan. Although I believe that the situation in Japan has settled down considerably due to the dedicated efforts of our citizens and medical personnel, at the same time, we will monitor matters such as the situation of infections overseas as well as the responses by major countries.
For example, in Europe where the novel coronavirus was once considerably spreading, travel has mostly resumed within the Schengen area. The European Commission has also proposed to begin to allow travel sequentially to people from outside the EU from July 1 based on the decisions by the respective countries. Such movements have been occurring.
Amidst this, resumption of travel will not be allowed all at once. It will happen in stages. Firstly, in terms of the type of people, the first people allowed to travel to Japan will probably be business managers, experts, technical interns who are needed in Japan, and other such people. Next will be people such as overseas exchange students. Lastly, it will be expanded to general people such as tourists.
In terms of countries, resumption of travel will begin from countries where the novel coronavirus situation has mostly wound down, and will be sequentially expanded to more countries where the situation has wound down. During my recent telephone talks with the foreign ministers of Viet Nam, Australia, and New Zealand, we talked about having discussions regarding the possibility of allowing resumption of mutual travel between Japan and the other respective countries. However, at the present point, there have not been any decisions made about aspects of this.
Toyo Keizai, INNAMI: I would also like to ask about the relaxation of restrictions on entering and leaving Japan, as asked in the previous questions. My first question is, as negotiations are being conducted with several countries now, how do the other countries evaluate the current novel coronavirus situation in Japan? Is it all right to ask my second question as well?
Minister MOTEGI: May I begin by answering your first question? We have started discussions, not “negotiations,” regarding the possibility of allowing resumption of travel with other countries. Amidst this, in addition to the countries with which we have started discussions, other countries have also highly appreciated Japan’s response to the novel coronavirus thus far. They have also appreciated how we have handled the situation in terms of our domestic response. I have held telephone talks, teleconference meetings, and other such meetings with the foreign ministers of over 40 countries over the past few months, and the foreign ministers have stated their high evaluation of Japan’s initiatives.
At the same time, because the novel coronavirus is spreading globally in such a way, it is not possible for a single country to stop the worldwide situation of infections. International cooperation and collaboration are thus extremely important, and Japan has been calling for such international cooperation. We have also been actively providing support to developing countries and emerging countries with vulnerable healthcare systems, and calling on the international community to provide support as well. I believe that Japan is highly appreciated for these efforts.
Toyo Keizai, INNAMI: My second question is, in relation to entering and leaving Japan, there is a possibility that the novel coronavirus situations will change moment by moment in Japan and in other countries. How will MOFA monitor these situations going forward? What kind of system will you create to determine which countries may travel or not?
Minister MOTEGI: Although the numbers change every day, I am not sure if it is appropriate to describe the change happening “moment by moment”. . In any event, we are monitoring aspects such as the number of people who are newly infected and how much that number has changed in a week. Also, for example, when we decide to issue Warnings on Infectious Diseases, we take into consideration various aspects such as the spread of infections as well as local movement restriction conditions and the level of the healthcare systems.
Also, as I have repeatedly stated, in terms of allowing resumption of travel with other countries, it would basically be desirable for Japan and the other country to mutually relax their restrictions as much as possible. Even if it is not exactly the same day, I believe it would be desirable for the timing to not differ much.
Support for Medical Care Through the Supplementary Budget
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about support for novel coronavirus measures in emerging countries. Grant aid for medical care-related equipment is being provided to regions such as Southeast Asia and Africa. Can you please tell us what is the major demand for Japan? Also, as China is developing its “mask diplomacy,” what are your thoughts on the characteristics and strengths of Japan’s support?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, I believe that international cooperation is extremely important to deal with the novel coronavirus. Above all, I believe that it is an important matter for the international community, including Japan, to support developing countries with vulnerable healthcare systems and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Japan is advocating for, leading, and providing such support.
The first supplementary budget includes grant aid to provide medical care-related equipment to about 100 developing countries. I have participated considerably in the discussions, and they are advancing at an unprecedented speed. As of now, Cabinet decisions have finished for about half the countries, and there have been exchanges of notes with nine countries, including Myanmar, Cambodia, the Maldives, and the Marshall Islands.
The developing countries have different needs, but we have received requests for needs for medical equipment that leverages Japan’s advanced technology, as well as medical items necessary in large numbers at hospitals such as ambulances, beds, and stretchers. We are advancing preparation to swiftly procure the equipment and items and provide them as quickly as possible. Of course, those countries have their own strengths too. Amidst this, I believe it is generally desirable to provide support to developing countries that will build complementary relations. If I were to speak about the characteristics of Japan’s support, I believe that one characteristic is that our grant aid is being carried out at an unprecedented speed, faster than it took before. Another characteristic is that Japan is aiming to provide support for health in developing countries and strengthening their healthcare systems, rather than individual items such as masks.
Possibility of Japan Accepting Foreign Human Resources in the Finance Field from Hong Kong
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about the situation in Hong Kong. Yesterday, Prime Minister Abe indicated in his answer in the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors that Japan will consider accepting specialized human resources from Hong Kong, the finance center of Asia. Due to the developments concerning the enactment of China’s national security law, some developments can be seen in terms of people immigrating to Japan from Hong Kong. How will the Government of Japan respond to such developments? Also, how will Japan establish a system to accept people from Hong Kong going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, I believe that the matter you mentioned is different from the relaxation of border measures due to the novel coronavirus and allowing resumption of travel. Japan is seriously concerned about the decision concerning Hong Kong and the recent situation there. Basically, the discussion yesterday was about the approach to Hong Kong as a finance center. As Prime Minister Abe stated, it is important for Tokyo to continue to be an attractive place for business in terms of finance aspects, and for it to further develop as a cosmopolitan city where human resources, information, and capital gather from around the world. From the perspective of activating Japan’s economic society and achieving further internationalization, we have been actively advancing acceptance of foreign human resources with technical and technological knowhow and expertise, including people from Hong Kong as it has many human resources. It is currently necessary to base this on the conditions related to the winding down of the novel coronavirus. But from a medium- and long-term perspective, we intend to continue to actively advance acceptance of such human resources while cooperating with the ministries and agencies concerned.