Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, July 10, 2020, 1:51 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Visit to Japan By U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Biegun
NHK, WATANABE: You held an in-person meeting today with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Biegun. Beginning with this meeting, can you please tell us your thoughts about how you will resume and expand diplomacy involving in-person meetings, that is not limited to telephone talks and video teleconference meetings?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I received a courtesy call from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Biegun this morning.
I have held telephone talks and video teleconference meetings with foreign ministers and others from close to 60 countries after the novel coronavirus began to spread. I believe that each telephone talk and video teleconference meeting was significant, but frankly speaking, I felt that it was good to have a face-to-face meeting today. Although the courtesy call was originally scheduled to be about 20 minutes, I held a considerably in-depth discussion with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Biegun for over about an hour. You can read about the content and other matters in the press release. I felt the significance to conduct diplomatic activities face-to-face.
Future Travel by Dignitaries
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: In relation to the question just now, I believe that the meeting was conducted while various infection control measures were taken. Can you please tell us if this will become a standard or basis for visits going forward, and whether this will provide momentum for Japanese officials to pay visits going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: It is true that the visit to Japan by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Biegun was the first case of a visit by a dignitary since the novel coronavirus began to spread, and that special measures were taken to minimize the risk of the spread of infections. However, if we look at the situation in the West, I believe that it is already becoming common recently for special dignitaries to travel in this way. I think that visits are already being conducted quite frequently.
The West and other countries conduct them by having people take PCR tests before departure, travel in small numbers of people using private planes, short stays, restrictions on meeting locations and accommodations locations at the destination, no use of public transportation, and avoiding contact with the general public to the utmost extent. These measures were taken for the visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Biegun. When the people return to their country as well, they have a thorough health check including a PCR test. By taking these special measures, of course when confirmed that people are not infected by using a PCR test upon arrival, they can quickly hold meetings. When people return to their home country as well, they can resume their duties quickly if they are confirmed to test negative using a PCR test or another method. I believe this approach has become common.
Such travel by dignitaries is not conducted every day. It is not the case that 250 people arrive each day. They are also not accompanied by a large number of people. That is why I believe that we should consider responding to overseas visits on official business by dignitaries under a framework different from regular border enforcement measures.
The European Parliament’s Resolution Concerning Removal of Children in Japan
Radio France, NISHIMURA: This week, the European Parliament passed a resolution concerning the issue of removal of children by their Japanese parents. What is the reaction of the Government of Japan? This is an extremely serious issue, and the overseas impression of Japan is clearly deteriorating. Is consideration being conducted on taking some sort of specific action?
Minister MOTEGI: I am aware that the resolution was adopted. Additionally, I believe that cases should be separately considered between ones that are subject to the Hague Convention and others that are not subject to it. For cases that occur in Japan but are not subject to the Hague Convention, the Government of Japan has responded in a fair and just manner regardless of the nationality of the people, based on Japanese law, which I believe is how other countries respond as well.
In addition, for cases that are subject to the Hague Convention, Japan has consistently responded appropriately through cooperation with the central authorities of the EU countries based on the Convention. I believe that the resolution’s assertion that Japan is not complying with international rules is completely incorrect.
Novel Coronavirus (Resumption of Travel)
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about border enforcement measures against the novel coronavirus. A special framework with Viet Nam was recently created, and people from Japan traveled to Viet Nam. However, since then, we have not seen any movement for people to come to Japan from Viet Nam. Can you please tell us what is happening now in terms of travel between Japan and Viet Nam? Please also tell us about the status of negotiations with Thailand. Furthermore, can you please tell us about the status of coordination concerning relaxing border enforcement measures for travel between Japan and our neighboring countries and regions of Taiwan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and China?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, resumption of travel will be advanced step-by-step. In terms of regions, it will begin from countries where novel coronavirus infections are winding down. In terms of people, it will begin from human resources necessary for business and other matters, and proceed sequentially to overseas exchange students, and lastly be expanded to general people such as tourists. Under this policy, firstly we have begun consultations with Viet Nam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand as subjects of these measures. People related to business already recently traveled from Japan to Viet Nam. Currently, consultations are advancing with Viet Nam and Thailand in particular. Travel by specific people occurs based on their respective needs, and I am not in the position to speak about when businesspeople will come. However, we are seeing considerable progress in our consultations with Viet Nam and Thailand.
As has been stated, there have been developments with Australia and New Zealand such as the confirmation of new infections fairly recently. Consultations have been ongoing to see how to open the border between Australia and New Zealand first. We will conduct further coordination while observing such matters.
Additionally, as I stated recently, the target countries will be sequentially expanded. The target countries that will take precedence will be countries where novel coronavirus infections are truly winding down and countries where there are high needs for travel, such as for business.
Although I do not believe that it will be decided quickly next week, we will conduct consideration on the second round of targets without taking much time.
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to this, I believe that by “second round” you mean that there will be an announcement on several countries that have been settled to be part of the second round. Also, yesterday over 220 people were confirmed to be infected in Tokyo in particular. Is the situation in Japan having an effect on the negotiations, such as making them difficult?
Minister MOTEGI: I said “second round,” so in Japanese that does not mean one country or one region. Also, over 200 people were confirmed to be infected yesterday in Tokyo. I am not in the position to say whether that is a high or low number, or whether it is a level for concern. However, at the very least the general view of the international community now is that the situation in Japan is very calm and under control, and I do not believe there has been any change to that.
National Security Law in Hong Kong
Independent Web Journal, NAYA: I would like to ask about the national security law in Hong Kong. Due to this law, what will happen to the activities and freedom of the Japanese residents and companies in Hong Kong? Will their safety and freedom of activities be safeguarded? I would also like to ask another question besides this.
Minister MOTEGI: Please ask your other question after this. 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 position of Japan to attach great importance to upholding a free and open system and ensuring democratic and stable development under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework of Hong Kong. At the present point, I have not received any reports of damage to Japanese companies or Japanese nationals in relation to the law. However, there are currently about 26,000 Japanese nationals living in Hong Kong and 1,400 Japanese companies active there, so the future of the “One Country, Two Systems” framework is extremely important for Japan, as we maintain close economic ties and people-to-people exchanges with Hong Kong.
From this perspective, we will continue to firmly monitor the future effects concerning the law, and request the Government of China to ensure that the activities and rights of Japanese nationals, companies and others in Hong Kong are respected and protected in the same way as before.
Japan-China Relations (Visit to Japan By President Xi Jinping of China)
Independent Web Journal, NAYA: Thank you for your answer. In relation to this, I believe there is a movement requesting the cancellation of the visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping of China as a State Guest. Can you please tell us your thoughts on how Japan-China diplomacy and relations will be developed going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: It is as I have answered many times through now.