Structures Supporting Japan's Diplomatic Functions
Structures to Implement Diplomatic Functions
The Need to Enhance Ministry Structures
Diplomatic activities in many different fields are becoming much more important as the international situation changes in the post-Cold War period. Even before the end of the Cold War, the volume of work handled by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was expanding quickly, parallel to Japan's rise in international stature; this trend has become more pronounced in recent years. For example, the number of telegrams (which are the main means of communication between the Ministry in Tokyo and Japan's diplomatic establishments overseas) rose by about four times in the 15 years from 1979 to 1994. During the same 15-year period, the amount of economic assistance provided by Japan expanded about five times, while the number of treaties and other international agreements concluded almost tripled, as did the number of visas issued. As the number of Japanese nationals residing or traveling abroad increases, related administrative work also expands - Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs must possess structures that permit proper handling of this situation.
In addition to responding adequately to this increase in regular activities, it is incumbent upon Japan to improve and strengthen the structures it needs to implement diplomatic initiatives, while at the same time pursuing a foreign policy that is active, creative, and suitable for the new era. This is especially true today - Japan should actively participate in the building of a new architecture for the peace, prosperity and stability of the world.
To strengthen Ministry structures, expeditious implementation of the following is required:
- increasing the number of permanent Ministry staff, as the number is still much lower than that of foreign ministries of other major industrialized countries;
- enhancing the Ministry's structures, so as to deal properly with wide-ranging foreign policy issues;
- strengthening the functions of Japan's overseas diplomatic establishments by upgrading their facilities, strengthening measures for the safety of Japanese nationals abroad, and enhancing crisis-management systems;
- promoting further information management of Ministry functions.
Enhancing Organization, Personnel and Budgetary Allocation
In recognition of the above-mentioned requirements, the Ministry took the following steps throughout 1995 to enhance its organization, personnel and budgetary allocation, with a view to strengthening the structures it needs to implement Japan's foreign policy.
To enhance its organization, the Ministry established a Services Trade Division, designed to analyze information related to trade in services (a field whose importance as part of international trade is growing), and strengthening and improving structures needed to plan and formulate foreign policy on trade in services. In January 1996, the Ministry established an Embassy in Luxembourg, a country which plays an important role in the EU. As of the end of FY1995, the Government of Japan had 182 overseas diplomatic establishments - 112 embassies, 63 consulates-general, 1 consulate, and 6 permanent missions or delegations.
When increasing its personnel, the Ministry has placed priority on: 1) strengthening its ability to gather and analyze information; improving its crisis-management systems (including the protection of Japanese nationals overseas); 2) enhancing and increasing Japan's international contributions; and 3) addressing issues related to foreign nationals in Japan. In spite of tight budgetary and recruitment restraints, the Ministry increased its staff by 160 during FY1995 - 40 at the Ministry itself, and 120 at overseas diplomatic establishments.
In response to a report submitted by the Advisory Group on the Enhancement of Diplomatic Functions, the Ministry has carried out reforms to increase staff numbers and enhance staff quality through suitable recruitment and training.
Budgetary allocations are increased, despite tight fiscal restraints, with a view to providing greater support for the following two goals: 1) strengthening the structures the Ministry needs to implement diplomatic functions (by increasing personnel, improving organizational structure, strengthening the functions of overseas diplomatic establishments to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad and enhance crisis-management systems, and strengthening information-related and telecommunications functions); and 2) enhancing and increasing international contributions (by increasing bilateral assistance, cooperating in peace-keeping operations and efforts to address global issues, strengthening international cultural exchanges, and implementing the Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative). The Ministry's FY1995 budget was 724.8 billion yen, up 4.3% (30.1 billion yen) from the previous fiscal year.
In the area of information management, the Ministry has adopted a plan entitled MOFA Plan for Enhancing Administrative Information Management. (Starting in FY1995, this five-year plan embodies such goals as setting up a LAN (Local Area Network)-based computer system for intra-ministry and overseas functions, and ensuring that the Ministry provides information more efficiently). The Ministry is also moving forward, in a comprehensive and systematic fashion, with further strengthening of the information management of its administrative functions, as well as improving information systems as a means to enhance its diplomatic functions and improve its administrative services for Japanese nationals and others.
Protection of Japanese Abroad
During 1994, the number of Japanese traveling overseas increased considerably, partly because of the introduction of a new airfare system and the opening of the Kansai International Airport. Figures show that, for every month in 1994, the number of travelers was greater by about 10-25%, compared with the same month of the previous year. The total number for 1994 was an all-time high of 13.58 million, an increase of 13.8% over 1993. (Reference: White Paper on Tourism) As of 1 October 1994, a total of 428,342 Japanese nationals were classified as long-term residents overseas (non-permanent residents staying abroad for three months or longer); while this was a decline of 1.1% relative to the previous year, the number of Japanese nationals classified as permanent residents abroad rose to 261,553, an increase of 2.6% over the previous year. Thus, the total number of Japanese nationals residing abroad was at an all-time high of 689,895, an increase of 0.3% over the same period of the previous year. (Reference: 1995 edition of Annual Report of Statistics on Japanese Nationals Overseas)
As the number of Japanese people traveling overseas increases, so does the number falling victim to crimes and accidents. Continuing a trend seen in 1994, there was a notable increase in the number of Japanese travelers who were victims of violent crime, or who were imprisoned for illegal drug possession and other crimes. As accident victims, for example, 16 Japanese nationals died in avalanches while trekking in the Himalayas. Continued instability in certain parts of the world also tends to create a risk that Japanese people will be caught up in regional conflicts or acts of terrorism.
The Government of Japan has been providing as much support as possible for Japanese nationals overseas who are victims of crime or involved in accidents or emergency situations. The Government is also enhancing its capacity to protect Japanese people abroad. Within Japan, to promote travel-safety awareness, the Government has been providing, through its Overseas Security Information Center, safety-related information to people who plan to travel to different parts of the world. The Government is also improving its Overseas Safety Information Fax Service, promoting cooperation with the private sector in safety-related areas, and sponsors "Safety Overseas Travel Week."
To enhance Japan's consular system, the Government trains consular experts and is expanding its expertise on consular affairs.
Recognizing the tremendous increase in the number of Japanese traveling overseas in recent years, and desiring to offer greater convenience, the Third Provisional Council for the Promotion of Administrative Reform proposed in June 1992 that the validity period for ordinary passports be raised from five years to ten. The Government responded positively, adopting several measures as part of its promotion of deregulation. The following are two significant amendments made to the Passport Law. 1) Ordinary passports were made valid for ten years. (The fee for this type of passport was set at 15,000 yen; passports valid for five years are still issued to those requesting the shorter term, and to youths under 20 years of age.) 2) The system permitting a child or children to be entered on a parent's passport was abolished, and the passport fee for children under 12 years of age was set at 5,000 yen. In addition, innovations were made to the passport booklet itself, and to the passport making machines. The amended Passport Law was promulgated on 8 March 1995, and came into effect on 1 November the same year. These changes represent considerable reform of the passport system used by Japan to date.
Although Japanese emigration to Latin America, quite common soon after the war, has practically ceased, the number of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Latin America is now estimated at about 1.5 million.
As time passes, second- and third-generation descendants of Japanese immigrants are gradually forming the majority of Japanese communities overseas. These people are active in various walks of life, and contribute to the development of their countries of birth. They also act as a link to Japan, a matter of some significance that indicates the growing importance of supporting their activities. Moreover, as a considerable number of Japanese descendants have come to Japan to work over the last few years, it is becoming increasingly important to take measures to improve their welfare.
Ministry of Justice figures show that 3.83 million foreigners entered Japan in 1994, and that the number of registered foreigners (Note 18) in Japan was 1.35 million at the end of the same year. Both numbers indicate that the rapid rise in entries and registrations, seen in the recent past, has decelerated, but there is every reason to assume that the figures will continue to climb. This trend is to be welcomed, as it provides an opportunity for people from foreign countries to understand more about Japan, and for Japan to continue its internationalization process.
One negative development, though, is the recent rapid increase in the number of people from Asia and elsewhere coming to Japan to work illegally.
The Ministry of Justice estimated that, in May 1995, about 287,000 foreigners, the majority of whom were illegal workers, had overstayed their permitted period of stay and were living in Japan illegally. This represents a decline of about 12,000 from the peak in May 1993, yet is still a large number. These illegal workers, precisely because they are unlawfully employed, often work under poor labor conditions, and tend to get involved in crime. This situation seriously undermines the image of Japan in the countries from where they come, and also impedes desirable international exchanges. For these reasons, too, the relevant authorities are taking steps to deal not only with illegal workers but also with job brokers who organize illegal work, and unscrupulous employers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducts rigid examinations before issuing visas, to prevent people from entering Japan to obtain illegal employment. At the same time, as one way to promote exchanges with people from different countries, and as part of the general move towards deregulation, the Ministry is simplifying and accelerating visa application procedures. In 1995, norms applied in issuing multiple visas for business people from other APEC economies were relaxed, and a number of visa application procedures were simplified and accelerated.
To encourage the training of people from developing countries, the Government of Japan supports training provided by the Japanese private sector and technical training programs which enable skilled and qualified foreign trainees to acquire practical skills in employment situations in Japan.
Foreign Policy and Public Opinion
The year 1995 marked the 50th year since the end of World War II and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. It was also in 1995 that the APEC Leaders Meetings were held in Osaka. These and other factors provided an opportunity for the Japanese people to develop a higher degree of interest in international issues.
If Japan is to promote its foreign policies smoothly, it is essential that these policies be understood and supported by the Japanese people. The Government of Japan takes careful note of public opinion, while at the same time continuing its efforts to foster among the Japanese people a greater understanding of the international situation and Japan's foreign policy and to obtain their support.
For example, the Ministry increased the number of foreign affairs lectures it began sponsoring in FY1994 at universities throughout the country, thereby providing greater opportunity for dialogue with university students. The Ministry also increased the number of times it communicates with citizens directly through such media as television and radio. In addition, the Ministry holds symposiums, called the International Mirai (Future) Forum, in major local cities. These symposiums provide an opportunity to hear the views of panelists, intellectuals from foreign countries invited to Japan as part of the Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative.
It seems, in foreign countries, there is often a one-sided view of Japan, colored by fixed ideas. For Japan to fulfill its role in the international community in a manner befitting its status, it is extremely important that an accurate and balanced view of Japan be fostered abroad. It is for this reason, too, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively involved in public relations activities in foreign countries.
For some time the Ministry has sponsored lectures and exchanges for intellectuals, media staff members, educators, students and others in foreign countries, and has distributed pamphlets and other material to them. To complement these activities, in April 1995 the Ministry opened its "Homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan" on the Internet, an international network that has expanded rapidly over the last few years. In a subsequent development, the Ministry set up its "APEC '95 Official Home Page" during the APEC Meetings held in Osaka in November 1995 - this was the first time that information on a large international meeting in Japan was available in real time over the Internet. The Ministry's public relations program also makes use of other media offered by the new information age - for example, the Ministry compiles CD-ROMs which contain important information on Japan's foreign policy for the last three years (including information contained in annual editions of the Diplomatic Bluebook).
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