Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, June 25, 2021, 10:40 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Provision of Vaccines by Japan
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to report about two matters.
Firstly, in regard to provision of vaccines, I made an announcement in my press conference last week about Japan’s provision of vaccines to various countries. When the various conditions, including coordination with the recipient countries’ governments, are met, we will conduct the final coordination to provide about one million AstraZeneca vaccines respectively to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines as quickly as possible from July 1 next week.
Also, we plan to provide about one million additional vaccines respectively to Taiwan and Viet Nam, which already received the first round of provision of vaccines.
In addition, in regard to vaccine provision through COVAX and not on a bilateral basis, when the conditions set by the WHO, including obtaining approval, are met and coordination is conducted with related organizations, we will begin providing a total of about 11 million vaccines to Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, Pacific Island countries, and other locations from mid-July.
Think of this as being part of the 30 million vaccines that Japan has already made a commitment for.
(2) Vaccinations for Japanese Nationals Living Overseas
Minister Motegi: The other matter is vaccinations for Japanese nationals living overseas. As the novel coronavirus spreads worldwide, there are Japanese nationals living abroad who are concerned about being vaccinated in the countries where they live.
As a result of surveys by MOFA on whether there are Japanese nationals living abroad who would like to temporarily return to Japan to be vaccinated, we received answers from many people who would like to be vaccinated in Japan.
In order to meet these requests, we have decided to provide vaccinations in Japan for Japanese nationals living abroad from August 1.
Specifically, we will take reservations on a dedicated website from mid to late July. If Japanese nationals living abroad come to Japan, such as through a temporary visit, we will enable them to receive the Pfizer vaccine at a site established within Narita Airport or Haneda Airport, and I believe the earliest opportunity for this would be during Obon or some time around then.
Additionally, we have also received requests from Japanese expatriate employees who have temporarily returned to Japan that they would like to be vaccinated quickly under the workplace vaccination framework. These people as well will be able to be vaccinated at workplace vaccination sites as part of the project aimed at Japanese nationals living overseas by going through the prescribed procedure from July 2.
The detailed content will be uploaded to the MOFA website after this press conference. Please read the content there. That is all from me.
Provision of Vaccines by Japan
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about the matter of vaccines that you explained in your opening remarks. You just mentioned the names of various Southeast Asian countries. I believe the background for the selection of these countries could be said to be a kind of “vaccine diplomacy” by Japan. Please tell us your view on this.
Minister Motegi: Firstly, Japan cohosted the COVAX AMC Summit on June 2 to raise funds for the provision of vaccines to developing countries through COVAX.
As stated, at the time of the Summit, there was a funding gap of $1.7 billion USD needed to cover provision of vaccines to 30% of populations in developing countries, and the Summit firmly secured funding beyond the amount of $8.3 billion USD needed overall for this fiscal year.
Japan has led this international initiative since last year, and we are providing and allocating vaccines through it. I believe this will continue to be an extremely important project going forward.
On the other hand, we have also received requests for vaccines themselves from various countries and regions. They are particularly facing a lack of vaccines as the novel coronavirus is now spreading rapidly. We are providing vaccines to the countries and regions I just mentioned based on comprehensive consideration of their infection conditions, vaccine shortages, their relations with Japan, and other aspects.
At the same time, we are providing AstraZeneca vaccines. Various countries and regions already have concluded contracts and the like with AstraZeneca plc. That part has been cleared, so we can send vaccines swiftly to those countries.
On the other hand, there are Pacific Island countries and other countries that do not have contracts with AstraZeneca plc. It seems that we can provide vaccines more seamlessly through COVAX in the way I mentioned before. From this perspective, if we provide vaccines through COVAX, we would do so while coordinating with COVAX to provide vaccines to such regions and countries.
Vaccinations for Japanese Nationals Living Abroad
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: I would like to ask about vaccinations for Japanese nationals living abroad, which you announced earlier. You conducted a survey recently for Japanese nationals living abroad. If you have the numbers, please tell us how many people the survey was aimed at, how many people want to receive vaccinations, and as a result how many people will be eligible for such vaccination in total.
Minister Motegi: We have the numbers, so please ask an official about that.
Provision of Vaccines by Japan (Taiwan)
Taiwan Central News Agency, Yang: All the people of Taiwan are grateful for Japan’s provision of vaccines. You stated earlier that Japan will provide about one million vaccines to Taiwan. When will that be?
Minister Motegi: Japan delivered 1.24 million vaccines to Taiwan on June 4 as part of the first round at the earliest possible timing.
In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake 10 years ago, Taiwan immediately gathered and sent financial contributions, and various forms of cooperation, including in the humanitarian field as well as the field of people-to-people exchanges have been advanced. I believe it was wonderful that Japan was the first in the world to provide such vaccine support to Taiwan.
In addition, I believe it is also wonderful that Japan has received gratitude from many people from Taiwan, including President Tsai Ing-wen, for its provision of vaccines.
We are aware that the situation of the vaccine shortage in Taiwan will continue for the time being, so I mentioned vaccine provision from July 1. I believe the vaccines will probably be provided before mid-July. The specific schedule will be coordinated going forward.
Diplomacy toward Russia (Cooperation with Like-Minded Countries) / Military Exercise by the Russian Military in the Northern Territories
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. Russia began a joint military exercise from June 23 around the Northern Territories. Amidst this development, Russia has been showing movements that can be called unilateral changes to the status quo by force in Europe and Ukraine.
As for Japan-Russia relations, Japan has been conducting negotiations with Russia toward concluding a peace treaty. Due to this situation, does Japan intend to conduct cooperation with like-minded countries that have the same sense of values in terms of diplomacy toward Russia?
Minister Motegi: Firstly, Japan has been precisely lodging protests because the military exercises that Russia is conducting in the Northern Territories, including Etorofu Island and Kunashiri Island, are incompatible with Japan’s position on these islands.
The Government of Japan has taken various opportunities through now to clearly convey Japan’s position to the Russian side in regard to the Northern Territories issue. Additionally, I believe that what is fundamentally important is resolving the Northern Territories issue itself. We are constantly conducting close communication with European countries regarding Russia’s various movements as well as the various incidents including the issue of Ukraine.
Japan and Russia have been conducting negotiations on the Northern Territories issue. The international community has been cooperating due to concerns about matters such as various unilateral attempts to change the status quo, and resolving the Northern Territories issue is something that Japan and Russia must face. This issue is currently being negotiated. Because issues such as what the specific policy will be, how this will be advanced, and the current content pertain to the negotiations, I would like to refrain from answering about that.
The 9th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM9)
Jiji Press, Echigo: PALM9 will be held next week. Amidst the current international situation, please tell us the significance of strengthening relations with Pacific Island countries as well as the outcomes expected for the meeting.
Minister Motegi: PALM is held once every three years. Although it is usually held in-person, PALM9 will be held online on July 2. There will be about five major themes. One is the response to the novel coronavirus as well as recovery from the novel coronavirus. The second theme will be sustainable oceans based on the rule of law. The third will be climate change and disaster preparedness. Next will be strengthening the foundation for sustainable, resilient economic development. The last theme is people-to-people exchanges and human resources development. It is planned to have frank discussions on these fields among the leaders of the Pacific Island countries.
As I announced in my opening remarks, Japan is providing various forms of support, including vaccines. Through PALM9, we would like to further deepen and strengthen the bonds we have cultivated over many years with Pacific Island countries.
Cessation of Publication of the Apple Daily of Hong Kong
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: In regard to the Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, it has been announced that the newspaper will cease to be published. As you stated recently, the G7 Communiqué mentions respecting the freedom of Hong Kong. Secretary of State Raab of the United Kingdom, who you know well, also issued a statement calling this a “blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong.” Please tell us your reaction and how you will respond going forward.
Minister Motegi: Many people in Hong Kong have been forming long lines since the night before and the morning of the last day of publication to obtain the final issue of the Apple Daily, as it will cease publication. I believe that this symbolically expresses the strong thoughts of the people of Hong Kong on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
The closure of the newspaper was marked in the rain. As I have stated about the series of incidences concerning the situation in Hong Kong, our grave concerns are growing about this major setback for free speech and freedom of the press, which have been the foundation for the democratic, stable development that Hong Kong has enjoyed until now.
I will not repeat Japan’s position on Hong Kong, which I have stated many times in my press conferences. The recently issued G7 Communiqué calls for rights, freedoms, and a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong. In addition, the joint statement on human rights in China issued at the 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by 45 countries, including Japan, expresses deep concerns about the situation in Hong Kong.
Japan has been requesting the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China to protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law, and strongly urging China in close cooperation with the international community. I believe that speech and words are important.
In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Diplomacy toward Russia
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask another question about Japan-Russia relations. In relation to the military exercises on Etorofu Island and Kunashiri Island, I believe the inhabitants said that it was like a volcano erupted on Kunashiri Island and they were surprised. They uploaded images of the military exercise on social media. That is the current situation of Japan-Russia relations. During the Japan-Russia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultations (“2+2” Ministerial Meetings), MOFA and the Ministry of Defense (MOD) had such results.
Minister Motegi: What did you say?
NHK, Watanabe: There have been results to date, such as the holding of the “2+2” Ministerial Meetings. Amidst this, how do you intend to build a relationship of mutual trust with Russia going forward? What do you think about such military exercises occurring despite Japan having issued repeated protests?
Minister Motegi: Although there are various issues on each occasion, it is not the case that Japan and Russia have broken off negotiations toward concluding a peace treaty. We have agreed to continue conducting negotiations. In addition, we have realized various projects such as exchange projects, and considerations are being advanced on more such projects.
It is true that due to the effects of the novel coronavirus, we have not been able to conduct in-person negotiations, and it has been difficult to advance some specific projects, such as not being able to start grave visits during this year. However, as we take into account the end of the novel coronavirus, we will firmly advance the projects and consultations. Ultimately, we will persistently work on the negotiations under the basic policy of resolving the attributions issue and concluding a peace treaty.