Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, October 30, 2020, 12:07 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Warnings on Infectious Diseases and Travel Advice and Warnings
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to announce two matters.
The first is about the lowering and raising of Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels and other such matters. The other is about the resumption of cross-border travel. But I would firstly like to speak about the lowering and raising of Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels and the lifting of general Travel Advice and Warning Levels.
There are countries and regions where novel coronavirus infections are still spreading, including Europe, the United States, and South Asia. On the other hand, there are also countries and regions where the novel coronavirus situation is winding down. We are conducting comprehensive consideration on various factors such as infection conditions, relaxation of movement restrictions, and business needs. As shown in the handout, the Warning on Infectious Disease Levels that were previously issued for nine countries and regions will be lowered from Level 3: Avoid All Travel to Level 2: Avoid Non-Essential Travel. Specifically, the Levels will be lowered for Australia, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Brunei, and Viet Nam.
On the other hand, infections are rapidly spreading in Myanmar and Jordan. We have comprehensively considered such factors as the worsening infection conditions, and will raise the Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels from Level 2 to Level 3 for these two countries. As a result, a total of 152 countries and regions worldwide will be at Level 3.
In addition, in order to avoid having Japanese nationals who live abroad experience difficulty departing from overseas countries, and based on the fact that there are developments to relax movement restrictions as well as gradual resumption of regular service for international flights, we will lift the general Travel Advice and Warning, which is different from the Warning on Infectious Diseases, which was set at Level 2 for the entire world on March 25.
Furthermore, for countries and regions such as Syria and Iraq where particular caution is needed for travel and stays due to political, security, and other conditions, we will continue to maintain Travel Advice and Warnings that we have been issuing separately thus far.
(2) Resumption of Cross-Border Travel
Minister MOTEGI: The other matter I would like to speak about is the resumption of cross-border travel. At the Japan-Viet Nam Summit Meeting held on October 19 during Prime Minister Suga’s visit to Viet Nam, it was agreed to launch the “Business Track” between our two countries that enables limited business activities even during the quarantine period at home or other locations. As a result of advancing coordination with Viet Nam due to this, the “Business Track” will be launched with Viet Nam from November 1. Incidentally, last year Viet Nam ranked ninth out of all countries in terms of the number of short-term business travelers to Japan.
Viet Nam will be the third country with which we launch the “Business Track” following Singapore and the ROK. The “Residence Track” has already been launched with 10 countries and regions including Viet Nam, and the users of the Residence Track are growing. In addition to the “Residence Track,” I believe this measure is an important step for allowing partial, phased resumption of cross-border travel in a way that prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus. That is all from me.
Warnings on Infectious Diseases and Border Enforcement Measures
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about the Warnings on Infectious Diseases that you just made an announcement about and refusal of entry into Japan being taken as a border enforcement measure. Is it correct to understand that Myanmar and Jordan, which were just raised to Level 3, will be added to countries and regions from which entry is refused, and that conversely the nine countries and regions which were lowered to Level 2 will no longer be subject to refusal of entry into Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: Those countries and regions will be removed from the countries and regions subject to refusal of entry into Japan. On the other hand, the suspension of visas will still remain. In effect, the situation will continue in which it is not possible to enter Japan without the “Residence Track” or “Business Track.”
Northern Territories Issue (Various Agreements Between Japan and Russia)
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I would like to change the subject to ask about the negotiations between Japan and Russia. In an interview following his inauguration as Prime Minister and yesterday’s plenary session of the House of Councillors, Prime Minister Suga stated that negotiations between Japan and Russia would be held based on the various agreements between the two countries thus far, while mentioning the agreement in Singapore to hold negotiations on the basis of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956.
As you have also mentioned repeatedly in the Diet, these various agreements are believed to include the Tokyo Declaration on Japan-Russia Relations. Can you please confirm what specifically Prime Minister Suga was referring to when he mentioned various past agreements? Also, Prime Minister Suga mentioned various past agreements in addition to the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956 that includes that Russia will return the two islands. Just to be sure, can you please confirm whether there will be a change in Japan’s approach to the negotiations?
Minister MOTEGI: There will not be a change in our approach to the negotiations. Also, in terms of what has been stated thus far, as is also true for my answers in the Diet, the various agreements that Prime Minister Suga mentioned in the Diet include the agreement between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin in Singapore, the Irkutsk Statement in 2001, and the Tokyo Declaration on Japan-Russia Relations in 1993. Having said that, basically negotiations are being advanced now under the agreement to “accelerate peace treaty negotiations on the basis of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956.”
Illegal Operations of Chinese Fishing Boats Near the Yamatotai Area
Yomiuri Shimbun, MORIYAMA: I would like to ask about the Yamatotai area. It is a good fishing area in the Sea of Japan, and Chinese fishing boats have been successively conducting illegal operations there. How will the Government of Japan respond?
Minister MOTEGI: We will firmly respond while cooperating with the Fisheries Agency, the Coast Guard, and others. We will also continue close communication with China so that unexpected situations do not occur.
U.S. Presidential Election
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about the U.S. presidential election being held next week. It is being pointed out that the overall election result might not be immediately confirmed due to the major increase in people voting by mail in this election. I believe that the Government of Japan is conducting consideration on matters such as the timing for when to express congratulations to the winner. What are your thoughts on the prospects for that?
Minister MOTEGI: The election will be held on November 3. However, the method for voting by mail differs according to each state. There are separate decisions, such as the one in Pennsylvania that votes postmarked by November 3 will be valid if they arrive by November 6. In any event, we are monitoring the presidential election situation in the United States, our ally, and its result with high interest.
As stated, this has become a battle in units of each state throughout the United States, a system which is quite different from Japan’s. Basically, there is a “winner-takes-all” system in which the candidate who receives the most votes in the popular vote of each state acquires all the state’s Electoral College votes, which each state has a different number of. Attention will probably be focused on what happens in the swing states, which are usually said to be Florida with 29 Electoral College votes, Pennsylvania with 20 votes, Michigan and Illinois with 15 votes, North Carolina with 15 votes, Arizona with 11 votes, and Wisconsin with 10 votes. There also seem to be several other swing states, so you have to look at such factors in terms of how the situation will progress at the present point. It is certainly true that voting by mail has increased overwhelmingly compared to the previous election. It is expected that it will take time to count the mail-in ballots and other such work. Japan will monitor the situation and of course express congratulations when the winner is appropriately determined.
Kyodo News, NAKATA: I would like to ask about asset disclosure by Cabinet members. Asset disclosure will take place today for Cabinet members, state ministers, and others. What are your views on the significance of the asset disclosure system?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the asset disclosure system aims to ensure the people’s trust in the government and administration. I will appropriately respond in accordance with that aim as a politician and my position as a Cabinet minister.