Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, May 26, 2021, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Novel Coronavirus (Border Enforcement Measures Concerning Foreign Exchange Students)
Radio France, Nishimura: I would like to ask about exchange students from foreign countries. I believe there are several thousand students who have been unable to enter Japan for over a year. Is there any schedule or new information in regard to this? Do you have any thoughts on a new system to resolve this issue?
What is most difficult for them to think about now is the fact that people such as including athletes, personnel related to the Olympic Games, and media personnel will be able to enter Japan, but they will not despite having visas and decided on universities.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I believe that your question is probably in relation to border enforcement measures being taken for people entering Japan since last year. As stated, the novel coronavirus is spreading extremely ferociously throughout the world, including in Japan. In addition, there are reports about several variants, such as that they are strongly infectious, and information on them is still not being sufficiently shared. The menace of the variants is causing strong concerns among people in the international community and in Japan. Amidst this, Japan has been taking several border enforcement measures since last year.
In regard to the exchange students you mentioned in your question, I believe that of course some of them have already acquired visas to enter Japan. On the other hand, for example, for people who already have status of residence in Japan and have entered the country once, while comprehensively monitoring infection conditions depending on the situation at the time, we recognize that causing inconvenience for travel by such people must be strictly limited. However, we are requesting them to postpone re-entering Japan for the time being based on a comprehensive consideration of the current situation.
Amidst this, I believe consideration must be constantly conducted within the Government depending on the overall infections conditions at the time in regard to which foreign nationals can be allowed to safely enter Japan, including people such as the foreign exchange students you just mentioned in your question.
Regarding how to allow entry into Japan by athletes and other people related to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in a way that will also ensure safe and secure Games, their entry into Japan is on the condition that a system ensuring they refrain from having contact with others within the country is maintained, as we request extremely strict testing and control of their movement.
This is of course premised on the movement patterns and how much movement can be controlled for these people during the Games, and having each country designate people responsible for novel coronavirus countermeasures and having them take responsibility for controlling the movement of their country’s people after they enter Japan.
These people are thus being requested to use their own unique systems. Therefore, the issue of how much such protocols can be applied for foreign nationals in other categories is an issue that cannot be simply explained.
Accordingly, as we approach the date of the Tokyo Games, firstly exerting all efforts for infection control measures for safety and security is our utmost priority. We are thus conducting consideration on allowing entry into Japan while also requesting the understanding of some people in regard to inconvenience for entering the country.
We are conducting measures in that timespan. In regard to comparing and deciding what to do for foreign exchange students you asked about in your question as well as foreign nationals with various other statuses of residence in Japan, I believe this is an issue that should be constantly considered while thinking comprehensively about the infections conditions in Japan and abroad as well as Japan’s response and countermeasures.
Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games (External Communications)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: As you just stated in regard to the Tokyo Games, the situation of novel coronavirus infections in Japan is not improving, and a considerable number of viewpoints have been stated abroad expressing doubt on whether the Games should be held. What external communications is MOFA specifically providing now to dispel such concerns?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I do not want to repeat myself, so I will not speak about this in detail. In order to hold the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games safely and securely, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Olympic Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the national government have been cooperating to consider infection control measures. We have been providing explanations on ways to implement the Games, including how to best allow entry into Japan and other such matters as needed.
From the perspective of enabling the people of Japan as well as the athletes and others related to the Games coming from overseas to participate safely and securely, it is important for the Government of Japan to fully convey to such people the efforts being conducted that I just explained.
As a part of the Government of Japan, MOFA is working on providing such explanations as well as welcoming dignitaries who travel to Japan during the Tokyo Games. We have also been continuously providing explanations to diplomatic corps in Tokyo and others on our requests to such visitors to Japan and other matters.
I believe there are still some points that are not fully understood. We will continue to explain the Government of Japan’s efforts in a manner that is transparent and easy to understand going forward.
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I believe that when you mentioned welcoming dignitaries, you meant MOFA’s Secretariat for Official Guests of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo. It seems the Secretariat has an official Twitter account and that it will be in charge of PR regarding the Games. Although there was a period when the account had tweets uploaded day after day, such as in January 2021, if we look at the tweets from May, there was only one tweet on May 17. It does not seem like communications are being conducted actively or that momentum is being created. Why is that?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am not aware of the details of the content of the Secretariat’s tweets. Right now, I do not have materials to provide an explanation of the timing or content of the tweets. Specifically, the Secretariat is in charge of how to welcome dignitaries from foreign governments and others I mentioned before who will come to Japan for the Tokyo Games. I believe it is conducting provision of information and communications necessary for that.
The protocols are based on the consideration conducted with the cooperation of the Olympic Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the national government, and the IOC as I mentioned before. I believe the basic pattern is for communication to be conducted in accordance with the revisions as necessary.
As we approach the Games in two months, there may be some areas in which more detailed information provision becomes necessary. I believe that further efforts will be conducted based on that.
Diplomats from Myanmar in Japan
Mainichi Shimbun, Kaite: I would like to ask about the two diplomats from Myanmar in Japan. Although the Myanmar side contacted Japan to say that their passports had been invalidated, Foreign Minister Motegi explained that their status of residence in Japan has not been revoked. However, their period of stay is stipulated as being the period in which they conduct diplomatic activities. I believe the two diplomats are unable to conduct diplomatic activities, so it is important to balance humanitarian measures and maintaining connections with the Myanmar military. How will the government of Japan respond?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe that the Myanmar authorities provided notification about the diplomatic requirements for diplomats at the Embassy of Myanmar in Tokyo in March. Careful consideration has been conducted within the Government of Japan thus far on how to respond due to this. At the present point, the two diplomats would lose their legal basis for being in Japan if they do not have a status of residence. Thus, Foreign Minister Motegi provided an explanation premised on them not losing their status of residence in Japan.
We are not aware of whether they are conducting or not conducting diplomatic activities, and we are not aware of them having conducted any inappropriate actions during their stay in Japan in the first place. We are thus saying that their status of residence for staying in Japan has not been revoked.
I believe that the issue of how to respond and handle this going forward is one that should entail a comprehensive decision taking into account the situation at the time, the developments in Myanmar of course, the response by the Myanmar authorities, and other such matters.
Border Enforcement Measures Concerning People Related to the Olympic and Paralympic Games
Radio France, Nishimura: I would like to ask another question about border enforcement measures. Recently, border enforcement measures have been strengthened for certain countries. Will special measures also be taken for people related to the Tokyo Games who come from these countries? In other words, will there be different measures for them compared to people coming from other countries, such as longer quarantine periods or having them stay at hotels? I mean people coming from countries such as India or Nepal.
Press Secretary Yoshida: The strengthening of border enforcement measures that you mentioned in your question is related to the B.1.617 variant confirmed in India. They were strengthened as preventative measures. I will provide an explanation just in case. The measures were strengthened to have people entering and returning to Japan from six countries, including India, be subject to a 10-day waiting period at Quarantine Station accommodation facilities, and have them take additional tests three, six, and ten days after they enter Japan.
Was your question about athletes and other people related to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games who will come to Japan from these countries?
Radio France, Nishimura: I believe the athletes are a different matter. I was asking about people related to the mass media in particular.
Press Secretary Yoshida: We are implementing the border enforcement measures I mentioned before during the Olympic and Paralympic Games as measures and countermeasures generally aimed at people related to the Games who will come to Japan from such countries. I believe they will basically be considered in that system. However, at the present point, there are some aspects that are impossible to predict in regard to what will happen with the infections conditions and variants going forward.
Therefore, I believe that revisions may be added to the Playbooks and related materials in the period until the Games in regard to the response to people related to the Games coming to Japan. We will respond appropriately based on the conditions at the time.
Radio France, Nishimura: I have read the Playbooks. For example, the definition of close contact written in the Playbooks is contact without masks for over 15 minutes at a distance within one meter. That is a little weak. Isn’t that weak against the variants in particular? Isn’t it necessary to review this?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I gave my answer about the border enforcement measures for the Tokyo Games on the premise of the Playbooks already released by the IOC and others that have been considered through now. I am the spokesman for MOFA, so please understand that I am not in an appropriate position to comment beyond what has been said by the IOC and the Olympic Organising Committee in Japan which have jurisdiction over the Playbooks.
Developments in Belarus (The Forced Landing of a Civil Aircraft and Detainment of an Opposition Journalist)
NHK, Watanabe: I believe you have already issued a statement about what is being called a state hijacking of a civil aircraft using a fighter aircraft in Belarusian airspace. Various details have emerged about the situation afterwards, including that a journalist aboard the civil aircraft was detained. Russia is taking a response supportive of Belarus. How will the Government of Japan respond going forward based on the situation after the incident occurred? I believe some responses will not or cannot be taken. What is your view on this at the current stage?
Press Secretary Yoshida: As you stated in your question, a statement was issued under my name on May 24 regarding the incident that occurred in Belarus that you asked about. The statement mentions that such a forced landing of a civil aircraft by the Belarusian authorities may have contravened the Convention on International Civil Aviation, and strongly condemns it as unjustifiable that the Belarusian authorities arbitrarily detained a specific passenger flying on a civil aircraft which was forced to make an emergency landing.
We have issued many statements since last year regarding the situation in Belarus, and have made requests to the Belarusian authorities. We have strongly urged the Belarusian authorities to cease such arbitrary detention of its citizens, and to stop acting against the principles of the rule of law and democracy. Amidst this, such an incident has occurred.
Various countries and the international community have strongly reacted to this incident. Among them, I believe the European Council of the EU, which is near Belarus, met on May 24 and decided on a series of measures, including calling on EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus and on revising the sanctions list.
In addition, as this incident involved the landing of a civil aircraft, the international organization known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has jurisdiction over it, and movements can be seen toward conducting an investigation of the incident based on the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.
Based the Government of Japan’s position that I already clarified, we will urge the Belarusian authorities to take action while fully monitoring and cooperating with efforts of various related countries and the international community. At the present point, I would like to refrain from commenting based on speculation about our future specific response.