Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, July 21, 2020, 11:59 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Presentation of Letters of Appointment to Senior Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Before this press conference, I presented letters of appointment to 22 senior officials of MOFA. I believe that Director-General Katayama of the Foreign Service Training Institute, Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Kanasugi, and the other Director-General class officials have done excellent jobs. I stated that I would like to express my sincere respect again, and that I hope that everyone who newly ascends to posts such as Senior Deputy Minister and Director-General will work based on the achievements thus far and further develop them.
There are many people who have been appointed to the Minister’s Secretariat, but they will eventually be appointed Ambassador or to other similar positions, and I would like them to work actively in their assigned countries, on the frontlines of Japanese diplomacy.
(2) Raising of Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels
Minister MOTEGI: I would also like to speak about raising Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels. As stated, the novel coronavirus is currently spreading again in the United States, and infections are continuing to spread in South America and Africa. As of July 21, the situation is that over 14 million people have been confirmed to be infected in 188 countries and regions around the world and 590,000 people have died worldwide.
Due to this situation, taking into comprehensive consideration various circumstances such as the number of infected people per 10,000 people, the Warning on Infectious Disease Level will be newly raised to Level 3 (avoid all travel) for 17 countries and regions.
Specifically, the Level will be raised for Nepal in Asia and Oceania; Suriname, Paraguay, and Venezuela in Central and South America; Uzbekistan in Europe and Central Asia; Kenya, Comoros, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, Namibia, Palestine, Botswana, Madagascar, Libya and Liberia in the Middle East and Africa. As a result, a total of 146 countries and regions are at Level 3.
Raising of Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In regard to Warning on Infectious Disease Levels that you mentioned in your opening remarks, will they be raised after this?
Minister MOTEGI: They are now being raised.
Novel Coronavirus (Restriction on Re-Entry into Japan By People with Status of Residence in Japan)
Radio France, NISHIMURA: I would like to ask a question about consultations on re-entry.
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, what is it?
Radio France, NISHIMURA: Radio France.
Minister MOTEGI: I mean, what consultations?
Radio France, NISHIMURA: I would like to ask a question about re-entry.
Minister MOTEGI: Yes, re-entry.
Radio France, NISHIMURA: People with status of residence in Japan, who departed several months ago, are still not allowed to re-enter the country. Even if someone departed from Japan before the restriction was implemented, unless they are a permanent resident or the spouse of a Japanese national, permission for their re-entry is not granted.
Nevertheless, these people continue to pay taxes, health insurance payments, rent, and other payments in Japan. I have to say that this is abnormal. Do you intend to prioritize such people with status of residence in Japan for permission for re-entry? Also, please tell us the strategy for what order and when permission will be given for re-entry by people with status of residence in Japan.
Minister MOTEGI: At the beginning, I thought I heard you say “oil producing countries,” but I understand now that your question is about re-entry. I am aware of the various requests concerning re-entry into Japan by people with long-term status of residence in Japan.
Japan has implemented border enforcement measures that are considered necessary. For foreign people with status of residence in Japan who departed Japan with re-entry permission, re-entry has been permitted particularly in cases of individual circumstances in which humanitarian consideration should be taken.
The Government of Japan will continue to conduct considerations regarding how to partially and gradually allow resumption of travel in a way that also prevents the novel coronavirus from spreading again.
As I have stated repeatedly in my press conferences, we will advance resumption of travel step-by-step through relaxing restrictions on countries and regions where infections are winding down. This is the approach that all countries are taking.
If we look at the EU now, it has lifted restrictions on 13 countries outside the Schengen area. Also, in terms of which people are allowed to travel, that is according to the policy of the country. For example, there are countries with a high need for tourism that are allowing travel by people including tourists. Many countries are allowing travel in the order of centering it on people related to business first, then overseas exchange students, and finally tourists and regular people. I, too, am checking the situations of infections around the world as well as relaxation of travel restrictions in various countries every day. It is certainly not the case that Japan is abnormal. I believe it is absolutely not true that only Japan is abnormal. We must prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. If you think it does not matter how much the infections would spread, then you and I are thinking differently. There is absolutely no change to our policy of conducting consideration on how to allow resumption of travel in a way that prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Raising of Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels (Resumption of Travel)
Japan Times, OSUMI: I would like to ask two related questions. In regard to the issue of re-entry from earlier, will there be any impact on the re-entry restriction after raising the number of countries subject to travel warnings to 146? Currently 129 countries are subject to travel warnings. That is my first question. For my second question, the Government of Japan is advancing permitting entry into Japan by business visitors. Amidst this strategy, there are people who have been unable to re-enter for several months even if they are quarantined and receive a PCR test. Among them, there are people who cannot live their daily lives anymore, by losing their housing and jobs, classes, and more. Are you really prioritizing business visitors over such people for permission to enter Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, 146 countries have been raised to Level 3. Also, permission for travel is being expanded on a trial basis step-by-step. I do not think these matters are directly related.
Also, as I stated earlier, I fully understand that there are people with long-term status of residence in Japan who wish to re-enter the country. We must care for such people. However, there are concerns such as how to approach border enforcement measures and whether this will lead to the spread of infections in Japan. We also have to eliminate those concerns in cooperation with the related ministries and agencies.
Japan Times, OSUMI: Excuse me for asking another question. This situation has been continuing for several months, so can you please tell us the outlook? Please tell us if we can expect an announcement on when there will be some developments and the strategy will change.
Minister MOTEGI: As stated, coordination is currently being conducted on an arrangement to allow resumption of travel centered on people related to business with four countries: Viet Nam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. The target countries and regions will be expanded sequentially from countries where the situation of the spread of infections is winding down.
In addition, as there are various needs in terms of human resources, we will diligently conduct considerations regarding which human resources to possibly allow to enter Japan and what additional infection control measures to implement to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
However, on the other hand, I do not believe that everyone could have accurately predicted the current novel coronavirus situation several months ago. It took 67 days for the first 100,000 people to be infected since the novel coronavirus was confirmed in China. It took 11 days to become 200,000 people from 100,000 people, not 67 days. Then, it only took 4 days to become 300,000 people from 200,000 people. Now it does not take 4 days for the number to grow by 100,000 people. The number of infected people is now growing by one million people. The center of the spread of infections in the world has also shifted from China to Europe, expanded into the United States, and has now further expanded to Central and South America including Brazil, South Asia including India, and Africa. That is what we can see in terms of expansion around the world. So it is extremely difficult to predict what the situation will be in half a month or a month, even for experts.
Amidst this situation, I believe that everyone wishes the situation to wind down as quickly as possible. Unless we can see the situation of the spread of infections winding down, it is not possible to definitively make statements on the extent, which countries, and which human resources it would be possible to allow resumption of travel for. However, there is no question that we believe it would be good to allow resumption of travel as quickly as possible.
Situation in China (Intrusions by Chinese Government Vessels into the Waters Surrounding the Senkaku Islands)
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about the intrusions by Chinese vessels into the contiguous waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands. Through yesterday, there were 98 consecutive days in which Chinese vessels entered Japanese waters, the longest period ever. Can you please tell us your thoughts on these movements by China and how the Government of Japan will respond?
Minister MOTEGI: We firmly lodge protests each time there is a record of over 64 consecutive days in which Chinese vessels enter Japanese waters. We will continue to respond firmly but in a calm manner to resolutely defend our territorial land, sea, and airspace.
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask another question in relation to this question. In regard to the movements by Chinese government vessels near the Senkaku Islands, there are views in the Liberal Democratic Party that consideration should be conducted on measures such as conducting environmental research or joint exercises between the Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Forces. What are your views on the necessity of specific measures beyond protests by MOFA?
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to think about the response by hearing the views of the ruling party.