Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, September 30, 2020, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Detainment of a Japanese National in Belarus
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about the incident in Belarus in which a Japanese national is still being detained. Can you please tell us about his situation after being detained, the conditions of where he is being held, and how the Government of Japan is appealing for his release?
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: As has been discussed many times in this press conference, the situation in Belarus continues to be serious, as large-scale protests continue to be held and many protesters are being detained or have died. Because of this, we are monitoring the situation with major concern, and calling on the Belarus authorities to immediately stop carrying out such detainments and to peacefully resolve the situation through dialogue.
In regard to the detained Japanese national who you asked about, as I have stated before, he does not have any particular health-related issues. The Japanese embassy is communicating with the Belarus authorities to carry out their consular duties to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals. There have not been any major changes as of the present point.
Phased Lowering of the Level of the Advisory Prohibiting Travel
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about a different matter. I believe there have been various discussions about the direction for lowering the Warnings on Infectious Disease Levels issued by the Government of Japan. Can you please tell us the current status of coordination, or whether there have been decisions, about whether the targets for this will be the 16 countries with which Japan is conducting negotiations, and what the aims will be for how much, when, and in what form the Levels will be lowered going forward?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: It is my understanding that Foreign Minister Motegi answered a question about this during his press conference yesterday. In terms of allowing resumption of cross-border travel, currently 159 countries and regions are at the Warning on Infectious Disease Level 3: Avoid All Travel. We are currently conducting consideration regarding what to do about this.
Nothing has been decided about the specific content or direction at the present point. However, we will conduct comprehensive consideration about matters such as how infection conditions are winding down in various countries and regions, how movement restrictions are being relaxed in various countries and regions, and business needs. Our consideration will not simply be limited to whether or not to lower or maintain the Levels, but will also include consideration about what conditions to set, such as what policies would be implemented to accompany lowering the Levels and about border enforcement issues.
Therefore, although we have currently not yet reached issuing a specific direction on which countries and regions we would target, we will continue to sincerely conduct consideration in accordance with the way of thinking I just described.
Japan-Russia Relations (Russia’s Military Drills in the Northern Territories)
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. Yesterday, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s website published that military drills were conducted on Kunashiri and Etorofu islands in the Northern Territories. MOFA lodged a protest about this when there was a report on September 24. However, if we look at the various viewpoints in reports amidst the communication with Russia after that, some people have expressed the view that this was a show of force by Russia in conjunction with the first telephone talk between Prime Minister Suga and President Putin, and there have been some articles written based on this analysis. What is MOFA’s and the rest of the Government of Japan’s analysis of this, such as whether Russia had such a motive, or whether there is not such a significant political backdrop since a navigation warning was issued?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: As you just explained, on September 24, notice was received that Russia would conduct a shooting drill on the coast of Kunashiri Island from September 29. As the Chief Cabinet Secretary and others have successively explained, Japan immediately lodged a protest that this action would lead to the strengthening of the Russian army’s armaments, is incompatible with Japan’s position, and is thus unacceptable.
I am aware of the reports and analysis that you pointed out. MOFA and the rest of the Government of Japan diligently conduct information-gathering and analysis each day regarding the situation in Russia, particularly concerning the Four Northern Islands. However, answering based on speculation about Russia’s motives would affect our diplomatic communication. I would thus like to refrain from speaking about the matter here.
Overseas Visits By Prime Minister Suga
Sankei Shimbun, HARAKAWA: Foreign Minister Motegi has made numerous overseas visits since August, and he is actually traveling overseas now. What is the Government’s view regarding overseas visits by Prime Minister Suga?
In other words, although he is currently conducting telephone talks amidst the novel coronavirus situation, should he continue to conduct summit-level diplomacy via telephone talks or should he travel overseas as much as possible? Can you please tell us the view about overseas visits by Prime Minister Suga going forward?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Firstly, as you stated, during the novel coronavirus crisis, Foreign Minister Motegi is successively resuming in-person diplomacy based on aspects such as infection conditions in counterpart countries and diplomatic needs. I believe that this will also begin to be implemented for diplomacy between summit leaders. I believe that it can be said in principle that it is very important for summit leaders to meet directly and communicate.
It has been just under two weeks since Prime Minister Suga was inaugurated, and he has already held telephone talks with the leaders of over 10 countries as well as the heads of international organizations. It is my understanding that he held a summit telephone talk with Canada today. I believe he has been extremely active in confirming mutual cooperation and various principles.
On the other hand, in regard to how specifically in-person diplomacy and overseas visits could be carried out, nothing has been decided yet at the present point. However, I believe that comprehensive decisions will be made on the timing and destinations based on aspects such as the current international situation and infection conditions in various countries.
Particularly in regard to the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept promoted under the Abe administration, I believe that it is important to cooperate with major countries as well as countries that share the concept with Japan. Due to that, I believe that Prime Minister Suga is emphasizing building stable relations with neighboring countries, as he has stated. I think that consideration will be conducted going forward based on such basic concepts of diplomacy.