Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, February 14, 2020, 11:06 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Response to the Novel Coronavirus
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: In relation to the novel coronavirus, coordination is being advanced to dispatch the fifth chartered flight on Sunday, February 16, which will return back to Japan on Monday, February 17. So far, repatriation has been achieved through four chartered flights for a total of 763 people, which consists of the majority of Japanese nationals and their families living in Hubei Province who wished to return to Japan.
The fifth chartered flight will mark the end for now of repatriation operations aboard chartered flights. At present, maximum efforts and coordination are being carried out so that the fifth chartered flight will be used by all Japanese nationals living in Hubei Province who wish to return to Japan.
(2) Minister Motegi’s Attendance at the Munich Security Conference
Minister MOTEGI: From tonight, I will travel to Munich, Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference, where people related to security gather from around the world. I believe that it has been 18 years since I last attended the conference. At the conference, I will participate in the panel discussion with the theme of “Keeping it Pacific: Managing Security Relations in Asia ,” and will speak about Japan’s foreign and security policy, including the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” During my stay in Munich, I also plan to hold Foreign Ministers’ Meetings with Russia, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Iran, and China, as well as a Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
I hope that the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be an opportunity to further deepen discussion centered on the peace treaty negotiations based on the working-level discussions held since the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the end of last year in Moscow. Although I said it has been 18 years, now that I think about it, it has been 17 years.
Minister Motegi’s Attendance at the Munich Security Conference (Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In regard to bilateral meetings in Munich that you mentioned in your opening remarks, it seems that Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China will attend the Munich Security Conference. If a meeting is realized, what would you like to discuss?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated before, I plan to hold Foreign Minister’s Meetings with Russia, the ROK, Iran, and China during my stay in Munich. I would like to hold a meeting with Minister Wang, and the schedule is roughly set. During the meeting, one topic I would like to discuss as you can imagine is measures concerning the novel coronavirus, as well as matters such as Japan’s support. I would also like to discuss preparation for the visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping as a State Guest in spring, which I would like to proceed as planned.
Novel Coronavirus (Fifth Chartered Flight)
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: In regard to the fifth chartered flight, can you please tell us about how many people want to board the flight at present?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have stated many times, the number of people who want to board the flight changes daily, and coordination is being conducted at present. About 200 people have returned to Japan aboard each flight of the four flights thus far, but I expect that the number of people on the fifth flight will be much lower. However, we would like to use the same type of chartered plane.
Constitutional Amendment in Russia
Hokkaido Shimbun, NORISADA: I would like to change the subject and ask about constitutional amendment in Russia. Yesterday, President Putin indicated that he intends to order that consideration be made for a draft provision specifying a prohibition on ceding territory. Although it cannot be predicted whether this will actually become a provision, what is your current recognition of how this will affect the current negotiations between Japan and Russia, which are based on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, in regard to the negotiations between Japan and Russia which have been proceeding solemnly, I would like to once again advance negotiations with Foreign Minister Lavrov in accordance with the agreement between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin to have us accelerate negotiations to seek a solution that is mutually acceptable. There is no change to Japan’s policy of resolving the attribution issue and concluding a peace treaty. We are constantly carefully monitoring the diplomacy and domestic situation of Russia, but I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government of Japan regarding each and every detail.
Novel Coronavirus (MS Westerdam)
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus. The MS Westerdam cruise ship that departed from Hong Kong has arrived in Cambodia, and passengers are beginning to take ashore. There are five Japanese people among the 2,300 passengers and crew members. Can you please tell us what you know about the ongoing coordination, including their current health status and plans for their repatriation going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: There is a total of five Japanese people, comprising of four passengers and one crew member, aboard the MS Westerdam that is currently anchored in Sihanoukville Port. Personnel from the Embassy of Japan in Cambodia have already gone to the area and are cooperating with local JICA specialists to gather information and provide support to the Japanese nationals. The embassy personnel have contacted the Japanese people aboard the ship, and have heard that none of them have any health problems.
Novel Coronavirus (Fifth Chartered Flight)
Asahi Shimbun, OTA: I would like to return to the subject of dispatching the chartered flight. Please excuse this detailed question. You did not mention the timeframe earlier. Is it correct to understand that the plane is planned to depart on the night of February 16 and return back to Japan in the morning of February 17, in the same way as the previous flights?
Minister MOTEGI: I do not know for certain, but I believe that the plane will probably depart at night.
Novel Coronavirus (Diamond Princess)
NTV, MAENO: I would like to ask about the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It is being requested by Israel that the 15 Israeli passengers aboard the ship be allowed to disembark quickly. What will the response be to this request?
Minister MOTEGI: There are people of various different nationalities aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Efforts are being made while cooperating with related ministries and agencies about how to proceed with supporting these people, regardless of their nationality. MOFA is also cooperating with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to provide careful explanations to embassies in Tokyo. We are also listening to the needs of the people aboard the ship and providing various forms of support including medical treatment materials. We will continue to carefully respond to this situation.
Japan-China Relations (Visit to Japan by Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi)
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about Japan-China relations. There are some reports that Mr. Yang Jiechi, a top diplomatic official of China, will visit Japan at the end of this month. If he comes to Japan, I expect that he will pay courtesy calls to Prime Minister Abe and you. What is the current status of coordination?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that by some reports, you mean what your company is reporting. Coordination is currently being made regarding the schedule for the visit to Japan by Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi.