MOFA defends decision to evacuate expatriates

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

The foreign minister yesterday noted that the government has been conducting the evacuation of expatriates in Japan ever since the neighboring country was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami last week. “We have been helping expatriates leave Japan, especially those staying in the six prefectures in the northeastern areas that were seriously damaged by the huge quake and powerful tsunami, beginning the day after the disaster,” Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said yesterday.

 In a move to defend his ministry’s decision to make use of regularly scheduled Taiwan-Japan flights to evacuate expatriates instead of using chartered planes, Yang noted that most of the countries that evacuated their nationals using charter flights, in light of escalating radiation risks, are countries that are far away from Japan.  These countries, including France, Luxemburg, the Czech Republic, Britain, the United States, Indonesia and Australia, do not have as many regularly scheduled flights to the country as Taiwan, he noted.

”There are around 17 to 18 flights between two airports in Tokyo and Taipei daily,” said Yang, adding that the latest information also showed that most of these regular flights are still only 80 percent full.    He further noted that the countries using charter flights to evacuate their nationals are doing so in a voluntarily manner, rather than using forced evacuations. His ministry would prefer not to use the term “expatriate evacuation” because of the difficulty of defining the word “expatriates” in mandarin, Yang said in response to media inquires on why the ministry repeatedly refused to use the phrase to describe the flights. Two Flights Added