A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official was furious that, “The foreign minister’s ‘addiction to overseas trips’ is hopeless. As it is, he is ‘prospering at the expense of MOFA’s ruin.’” He had lost patience with Foreign Minister Taro Kono’s excessive foreign visits.
Indeed, Kono was traveling at a dizzying pace last month, going to Russia, Singapore, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and so forth. He is also scheduled to visit the U.S. and Iceland in the second half of September and will have visited a total of 16 countries in two months.
The above MOFA official continues: “For sure, Minister Kono is no longer demanding an airplane for his exclusive use, but he always flies on first class, using up an enormous amount of funds. MOFA officials are suffering the consequences. Some of them have had to cancel overseas trips, while even bureau chief level officials are flying on economy class.”
It would have been tolerable if his frequent foreign visits contribute to enhancing Japan’s national interest, but a Kantei source says: “There are various urgent diplomatic issues, such as the territorial talks with Russia and the abduction issue, but Prime Minister Abe is ignoring the foreign minister completely.”
A reporter covering MOFA also states cynically: “Right now, only NHK reporters would travel with the foreign minister on his trips. He is dubbed the ‘satellite foreign minister.’”
The cabinet is due to be reshuffled after the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election. This reporter intimates that, “The foreign minister is backed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, so it is widely believed that he will be retained.”
So the “satellite foreign minister” will be continuing with his overseas trips?