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Foreign Minister Kono spent 140 days overseas during his first year in office

  • August 3, 2018
  • , Asahi , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

Foreign Minister Taro Kono marks his first year in office on Aug. 3. He has traveled overseas at a rapid pace since taking office, making visits to 59 countries and regions (total of 44 different countries and regions) as of Aug. 2. He has put so much energy into overseas tours that he appears to dislike being restricted by the Diet.

 

“Japan still has a big role to play in foreign affairs even though the situation has changed considerably from the days when Japan was the world’s top provider of official development assistance (ODA),” reflected Taro Kono on his first year in office to a group of reporters in Singapore on the night of Aug. 2.

 

Kono has been in Singapore since Aug. 1 to attend the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting. He will travel to Myanmar and Bangladesh from Aug. 5. He is also planning to visit Latin America and the United States.

 

Kono has spent nearly 140 days overseas in the past year. He traveled internationally every month except for last October, when the Lower House election was held. When the Diet is in session, he uses his weekends for [official] overseas trips. Moreover, in several cases, he was the first Japanese foreign minister to ever visit.

 

He insists on traveling overseas because he values face-to-face meetings with other ministers in charge of foreign affairs. Right after taking office, he was told by the Indonesian foreign minister that “it is a mistake to think that foreign affairs can be handled by a single phone call.” Now he is putting that philosophy into practice. He shared with those near him: “Japan’s views are not reflected at all in joint statements issued at international conferences. A while ago, Japan’s views were promptly included, but now China’s are.”

 

Kono is advancing his personal belief that it must be made easier for the foreign minister to travel overseas without being restricted by the need to attend Diet sessions. This stance that seems to make light of the Diet is drawing criticism from the opposition parties.  

When it comes to foreign affairs, clear results are not always visible. In prioritizing international travel over Diet session attendance, Kono will be called upon to produce convincing results.

 

Key features of Kono’s foreign policy

Countries/regions visited (as of Aug. 2)

Total of 59 (44 if countries/regions visited more than once are excluded)

Countries/regions visited for the first time by a Japanese foreign minister

Mozambique, Bahrain, Maldives, and Bhutan

Countries/regions visited for the first time in a long time by a Japanese foreign minister

Oman (first time in 27 years)

Sri Lanka (first time in 15 years)

Uses his weekends to take overseas trips

 

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