Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, December 23, 2020, 3:47 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Strengthening of Border Enforcement Measures on People Entering Japan from the United Kingdom
The first announcement is about the strengthening of border enforcement measures in relation to the novel coronavirus mutation in the United Kingdom, as also announced during the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s morning press conference. I believe the materials have been distributed to you, so please listen to the four points I will explain while confirming them in the materials.
The first point is that the United Kingdom is currently one of the countries subject to denial of permission to enter Japan. From December 24 for the time being, new entry into Japan will not be allowed for foreign people who have stayed in the United Kingdom within the past 14 days before arriving, with the exception of some circumstances such as humanitarian consideration. This will temporarily suspend Japan’s measure taken from October 1, 2020 regarding allowing new entry by foreign people into the country from all over the world.
The second point is about overseas travel by residents of Japan. From November 1, the same relaxation on the waiting period as for the Business Track was allowed for people arriving in Japan with the conditions that their overseas stay was within seven days and that they had a host company or entity that could assure infection control measures. From December 24 for the time being, this measure will be suspended for people who have stayed in the United Kingdom within the past 14 days before arriving in Japan. It is necessary for people returning to Japan to quarantine at home or another such location for 14 days.
The third point is that until now, it was not required for people with Japanese citizenship to present proof of a negative novel coronavirus test within 72 hours of leaving the foreign country they were staying in. However, from December 27, it has been decided to require Japanese citizens as well who have stayed in the United Kingdom within the past 14 days to present proof of a novel coronavirus test in advance at the quarantine station of the airport.
If someone does not present a novel coronavirus test in advance, the person will not be able to go home even if he or she tests negative at the quarantine station of the airport. The person will quarantine for 14 days at a facility designated by the chief of the quarantine station. We would like Japanese nationals staying in the United Kingdom to be fully aware of this point. We would appreciate if people would cooperate to make this point well-known among family members and acquaintances returning from the United Kingdom.
In addition, although this has not been required thus far for Japanese nationals returning to Japan and foreign people with status of residence in Japan who were re-entering the country, it is now requested that such people download the contact tracing application and register their location information for 14 days after entering Japan.
Finally, the United Kingdom is currently at Level 3 of the Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels. Although Japan has taken several relaxation measures on entry into the country, we would like people to fully pay attention again to the fact that the United Kingdom is at Level 3. Please be aware of this and refrain for the time being from making short-term trips to the United Kingdom with the intention of returning to Japan, that is, travel where you would not stay long-term in the United Kingdom such as relocating to start a job. That was my first announcement.
(2) Appointment of Ms. YAMASHITA Mari as the next Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, and Director of the UN Office in Belgrade, United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)
Press Secretary Yoshida: My second announcement is on a completely different topic. As stated in the press release today, a Japanese person has been appointed as the Director of the UN Office in Belgrade of UNMIK, so I would like to make an announcement about this.
On December 23, which was December 22 local time, Secretary-General of the United Nations Guterres appointed Ms. YAMASHITA Mari as the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, and Director of the UN Office in Belgrade of UNMIK.
As Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ms. Yamashita will work on matters such as coordination between UNMIC and the Government of Serbia to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 that promotes stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo. I would like to express my heartfelt prayers for Mr. Yamashita’s future activities. That is all from me.
Strengthening of Border Enforcement Measures on People Entering Japan from the United Kingdom
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about the strengthening of border enforcement measures. The measures will be applied to the United Kingdom now. Although I believe it will depend on the situation for within Europe, where do you think these measures will be expanded to at the present point? Will this response be taken as needed if the novel coronavirus mutation spreads to mainland Europe, which is connected to the United Kingdom via the Dover Strait? I would like to know a little more about what will be put in place going forward.
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to the novel coronavirus mutation announced in the United Kingdom, based on the situation in which the Government of the United Kingdom discovered the mutation and is providing necessary scientific information and analysis, we have taken border enforcement measures for the United Kingdom. There have been several reports and information that such mutation has been discovered. While ascertaining the infection conditions, immigration control, and other such matters of various other countries, by strengthening border enforcement measures for people arriving from the United Kingdom, we are firstly continuing to quickly take necessary border enforcement measures from the perspective of placing maximum priority on the health and lives of the people of Japan and preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus within Japan.
Mainichi Shimbun, Tadokoro: I have two questions. In relation to the matter of the United Kingdom, you stated in the second half of your opening remarks that you would like people who make return visits to the United Kingdom from Japan, such as for business trips but not for relocating long-term to start a new job, to be particularly careful. Please tell us if it is planned to particularly issue a call for this, such as any sort of spot information, in addition to the alert in this press conference.
Press Secretary Yoshida: What is your other question? You said you have two questions.
Mainichi Shimbun, Tadokoro: My other question is about Air Defense Identification Zone of Russian and Chinese military aircraft.
Press Secretary Yoshida: In my opening remarks earlier, I reaffirmed that the United Kingdom is at Level 3 of the Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels, and requested that people of course refrain from traveling to the United Kingdom with the intention of returning to Japan. We will of course call for this by maximally conducting all methods to raise awareness among Japanese people, such as through the Japanese embassy in the United Kingdom and MOFA’s various websites. We will take every opportunity to properly convey this.
Joint Patrol by Russian and Chinese Aircraft over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea
Mainichi Shimbun, Tadokoro: I would like to ask about aviation by Chinese and Russian military aircraft over the Air Defense Identification Zone, which is over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated in his press conference that Japan’s concerns were expressed to China and Russia through diplomatic channels. According to reports, it seems that the Republic of Korea (ROK) and others stated that this aviation was regrettable. To the extent possible, can you please tell us the reason why Japan’s expression of concern did not reach the level of stating that it was regrettable, as well as the timing and diplomatic channel used to express concern?
Press Secretary Yoshida: About the Chinese and Russian bombers, it has been confirmed that on December 22, four Chinese bombers and two Russian bombers conducted a long-distance joint patrol from the Sea of Japan to the East China Sea. We are monitoring this aviation by China and Russia with high interest.
Also, in regard to your question about Japan’s expression of concern to China and Russia, in response to the situation, the directors with jurisdiction over China and Russia respectively expressed concern to the embassies in Tokyo on the evening of December 22.
In regard to your question about why there was only an expression of concern, there has not been any sort of issue with international law concerning aviation through now and it has not been confirmed that there was any violation of Japan’s territorial waters or air space. Therefore, concern was expressed rather than issuing a protest. We confirmed that we are monitoring such aviation with high concern.
NHK, Watanabe: In relation to this question, in regard to the joint patrol by the Russian and Chinese bombers, if we look at the announcement by the Russian Ministry of Defense, it says that this was the second exercise. In other words, the first exercise was conducted previously in which there was aviation over Takeshima Island. The issue is that this was positioned as the first exercise, and then this time it was the second exercise. In that sense, it seems that this is being conducted according to some sort of plan, as there was flying in formation with a group taking photographs in advance. Thus, if this was being conducted according to an advance plan, would that be more serious? What is your view on this? As this was positioned as the second exercise, I believe there will be analysis on whether the exercises are being conducted in a series. What is your view on this, including the aim?
Press Secretary Yoshida: We will continue to conduct information-gathering and analysis with serious concerns about the content of Russia’s announcement and the various actions accompanying it. Also, in that sense, not much time has passed since this occurred, so I believe that some sort of analysis is probably not proceeding at the present point. In any event, we will continue to constantly monitor such matters.
There are opportunities to exchange information and views with various foreign countries concerning such issues. Amidst this, we will conduct analysis on the aim of China and Russia. However, please understand that the nature of the matter is not one that we should speculate about.
Strengthening of Border Enforcement Measures on People Entering Japan from the United Kingdom
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: Excuse me for returning to the previous subject. I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus infection conditions in the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Suga was asked about entry into Japan from the United Kingdom on a television program on December 21, and stated that, for example, one or two Japanese people living in the United Kingdom are entering Japan each day. I believe it has been pointed out that this might not necessarily be accurate. Please tell us MOFA’s understanding of the situation of entry into Japan. Also, what is your reaction to the point that this was not accurate?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe that there was also a question about people entering Japan from the United Kingdom during the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s press conference this morning. Basically, it would not be appropriate for MOFA to answer about our understanding of the number of people entering Japan because this is under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Services Agency. As the Chief Cabinet Secretary stated at the press conference, the rough estimate was about 50 people per day in November, for example. Among them, there were about 40 Japanese people. In December, there were about 150 people per day, including about 140 Japanese people.
Also, in regard to Prime Minister Suga’s statement, I believe that there was certainly a question about that during the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s press conference this morning. I am not aware of anything beyond what he explained then.
Application of Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan for the Senkaku Islands
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: Excuse me for asking about a different matter. In regard to Prime Minister Suga’s recent telephone talk with President-elect Biden and his statement about applying Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan for the Senkaku Islands, Prime Minister Suga has stated in lectures and other occasions for several days up to two times that he frankly did not presume this.
Some experts have expressed criticism in regard to this statement that indicating that careful diplomatic efforts were conducted to have President-elect Biden state this will have negative effects as a message of deterring China. Please tell us your reaction to this criticism.
Press Secretary Yoshida: Through reports, I am aware of what Prime Minister Suga stated on the TV program. But basically I have not seen his statement. In any event, presidents and secretaries of state from the Government of the United States have indicated such a recognition of applying Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan for the Senkaku Islands through now. The Government of Japan highly appreciates the commitment clearly expressed by the Government of the United States on this issue.
We are very grateful for the evaluation by experts on communication between Japan and the United States and Japan’s diplomatic efforts. However, we believe that it is not possible to simply sweepingly evaluate what the efforts of such a statement on such a matter would be. The Government of Japan will continue its diplomatic efforts while confirming this way of thinking with the new administration of the United States.
Detainment of a Japanese National in Belarus
NHK, Watanabe: Excuse me. I would like to change the theme to ask about the Japanese national who has been detained in Belarus. The year is nearly over, but no information has come in about him and it is not known whether he was released. What is the situation now, not only in terms of his health status, but also in terms of Japan’s negotiations with the Lukashenko administration amidst considerable opposition by the people of Belarus? Please tell us how Japan will respond to the situation in which he continues to be detained.
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware that questions have been asked repeatedly about this matter. The Government of Japan is continuously confirming the situation of the Japanese national detained in Belarus with the authorities, including through consul meetings, from the perspective of protecting Japanese nationals.
What will happen with this situation going forward depends on the decision by the Belarusian side. I believe it would be inappropriate to comment publicly on this matter as it is related to the national’s safety.
Japan will continue to precisely follow the situation, including that the national’s health continues to be in perfect condition and about his wishes, through consul meetings and other means as well as through communication with the Belarusian side.