At a press conference on April 16, Foreign Minister Taro Kono announced that the Japanese and U.S. governments will hold a Security Consultative Committee meeting of their foreign and defense ministers (2+2 meeting) on April 19 in Washington, D.C. Kono will be in the U.S. from April 18 to 21. This will bring to 99 the total number of visits he has made to foreign countries and regions since taking office as foreign minister in August 2017. He has visited a total of 63 different countries during those visits. The total number of visits is forecast to reach 100 by month end.
The pace of FM Kono’s overseas travel schedule is unprecedented. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida, who served as foreign minister for about four years and seven months, visited 51 foreign countries and regions (total trips to foreign countries and regions: 93). By meeting with the leaders and foreign ministers of various countries, Kono aims to gather support for Japan’s viewpoints and strategies at international conferences.
It is inevitable, however, that Kono uses the weekends for the trips when the Diet is in session and there are meetings he is expected to attend. Kono fell ill in March after taking a series of domestic trips and this impacted the schedule of Diet deliberations, including the cancellation of the March 20 Upper House Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he was to attend. For this reason, some are saying, like this source familiar with the LDP Diet Affairs Committee, “Kono needs to take care of himself because his health is not only his.” The 2+2 with the United States will feature consultations on the crash by a top-of-the-line F-35A stealth fighter deployed at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Misawa Air Base (Aomori Prefecture). It is likely that a joint statement will be issued. Kono is also scheduled to have a foreign ministers meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where they will confirm their nations’ close bilateral partnership.