Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 3:47 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk
NHK, Yamamoto: In regard to the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk this morning, I believe it was swiftly held right after the swearing in of Secretary of State Blinken. Did the United States request to hold a telephone talk immediately? Also, Foreign Minister Motegi’s visit to the United States was mentioned. Did he discuss the specific timing, such as around when he will visit or by when? Please answer those two questions.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: We had to contact you all on short notice and had you gather for a press conference early this morning because the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk was conducted soon after Secretary of State Blinken was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. However, prior to that process, Japan and the United States had conducted coordination to swiftly hold a telephone talk after the Secretary of State’s confirmation. Therefore, communication was confirmed that we will immediately hold the telephone talk after the confirmation in the session of Congress.
In regard to Foreign Minister Motegi’s future visit to the United States, there has been communication about coordinating the visit as soon as possible while monitoring the novel coronavirus situation and other aspects. However, given what I just stated, the specific details of the visit will be coordinated going forward.
Tightening Visa Restriction Measures
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about border enforcement measures, which have become a viral topic of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere from last night. People are discussing various reports that visas are somehow not being issued at the present point for foreign spouses of Japanese citizens who are permitted to enter Japan under “special exceptional circumstances,” and that visa issuance is suspended. I would like to know whether the visa issuance conditions have actually been somehow tightened, and if so, when such measures began.
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to issuance of visas which you asked about, I will firstly give an explanation in order. Concerning the state of issuance of visas during the period of the state of emergency, I believe you are aware that decision-making was conducted on strengthening border enforcement measures in relation to the novel coronavirus by the Government of Japan on December 26, 2020 and January 13, 2021.
As approved based on the decision by the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters on September 25, 2020, MOFA had been allowing issuance of visas for new entry into Japan by foreign people from all countries and regions, as well as for use for the “Business Track” and “Residence Track” between Japan and specific countries that were subject to measures from the beginning of this year. However, the validity of such visas has been suspended and new visas will not be issued until the state of emergency is lifted, as part of the strengthening of border enforcement measures.
In regard to issuance of visas for foreign people permitted to enter Japan under special exceptional circumstances, we are conducting careful consideration of the individual “special exceptional circumstances” to make decisions on whether each person truly needs to urgently enter Japan for the period until the state of emergency is lifted.
To be specific, our policy is to issue visas allowing entry into Japan on an exceptional basis for special exceptional circumstances of, for example, cases requiring humanitarian consideration in which the foreign person needs to come to Japan because he or she has a blood relative in serious condition in Japan, or if the foreign person has circumstances in which public interest would be harmed if that foreign person does not enter Japan at that certain time.
In regard to your question on when this began, basically the specific operation of the visa work was implemented on January 26, Japan time.
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask a related question. I believe that entry into Japan with special exceptional circumstances was allowed for cases of spouses of Japanese citizens and spouses of permanent residents. Is it correct to understand that examinations have become stricter for visa applications? Is being a spouse of a Japanese national or a permanent resident not good enough? Should their urgent necessity also be confirmed to enter Japan? Also, is it correct to assume that these examinations will be aimed for those newly entering Japan?
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to how we issue visas under the state of emergency, basically we firstly ask the person applying for the visa if they can wait until the state of emergency is lifted, and see if they can delay their entry into Japan a little if possible.
On the other hand, for people who cannot wait, we have them give a detailed explanation of all the circumstances, and make decisions one by one. We are currently conducting such operations as part of the current overall restraint on new entry into Japan by foreign people. This basically has people newly applying for visas in mind.
NHK, Watanabe: In that case, if we look at the various things written online, reports are spreading that include misunderstood and mistaken information regarding suspension of issuance of visas, and information written based on the various interpretations of people asked about their own circumstances. Are MOFA, the Ministry of Justice which is also probably related to this, or any other Government ministries or agencies considering posting such information on their websites?
Press Secretary Yoshida: Basically the special exceptional circumstances are the same as the original special exceptional circumstances. There are cases in which we cannot necessarily clarify categorically which people fall under those special exceptional circumstances. We do this based on the situation.
I believe that there are probably not that many people newly applying for visas, particularly for spouses or children of Japanese citizens. The departments in charge will conduct consideration on what should be done while fully keeping in mind the necessary points including what extent such explanations are necessary on the website, or whether discussing such matters individually at visa application receptions would be clearer.
Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: I would like to ask about the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk. I believe that the term “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) has been used in relation to the telephone talk in the press release issued by the U.S. Department of State and the Tweet by Secretary of Defense Austin after the recent Japan-U.S. Defense Ministers’ Meeting. I believe there were some concerns about what would happen with the term due to the administration change. Please tell us your reaction on behalf of the Government of Japan on whether it seems that the Government of the United States is indicating it will continue using the term FOIP.
Press Secretary Yoshida: There have been discussions on how the FOIP term is used before, and I have been repeatedly asked questions about that in this press conference.
As you stated, during the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today, Foreign Minister Motegi and Secretary of State Blinken discussed the importance of the FOIP. It is my understanding that this was mentioned in the press release issued by the U.S. Department of State.
As for Japan, we have discussed the concept and vision of FOIP many times with the United States through now, and I believe we have received full recognition and understanding about the content.
Agreement to Extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) Between the United States and Russia
Kyodo News, Asada: Earlier, you mentioned that there was discussion of Foreign Minister Motegi visiting the United States during the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk. However, a telephone talk has not yet been conducted between Prime Minister Suga and President Biden. President Biden has already held telephone talks with the United States’ border countries and Europe following his inauguration, but he has not yet held one with Japan, the United States’ ally. Please tell us about the status of coordination for a telephone talk. Also, yesterday a U.S.-Russia Summit Telephone Talk was conducted. I believe it was agreed to extend the New START Treaty. Please also tell us your reaction to the United States holding a summit telephone talk with Russia before its ally Japan.
Press Secretary Yoshida: We are aware that the summit telephone talk is an opportunity to convey congratulations for the inauguration of President Biden’s administration, and we are earnestly conducting coordination for this. Once the coordination is complete, I believe we will properly announce the telephone talk.
In regard to the U.S.-Russia Telephone Talk, I am aware that President Biden and President Putin discussed extending the New START Treaty, which was a pending issue. As already mentioned by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato, the New START Treaty signifies important progress for nuclear disarmament as it stipulates reduction of transport methods for nuclear warheads, and contributes to strategic stability between the United States and Russia. Furthermore, it also contributes to the NPT Review Conference scheduled to be held in August 2021, so the Government of Japan welcomes this. In that sense, I believe this was an extremely important telephone talk.
I believe that the new U.S. administration is making various decisions on the order of countries to hold telephone talks based on various schedule-related circumstances. We expect that a Japan-U.S. Summit Telephone Talk will be held soon.