Chapter V.
Structures Supporting Japan's Diplomatic Functions

A. Structures to Implement Diplomatic Functions

1. The Need to Enhance Ministry Structures

Diplomatic activities in many different fields are becoming much more important in the current international situation. In addition, Japan's rise in international stature has been paralleled by a constant expansion in recent years in the volume of work handled by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, the number of telegrams (which are the main means of communication between the Ministry in Tokyo and Japan's overseas diplomatic and consular establishments) rose by about 2.4 times in the 10 years between 1985 and 1995. During the same period, the amount of economic assistance provided by Japan expanded about 3.8 times, the number of treaties and other international agreements concluded increased by about 1.5 times, and the number of visas issued rose by about 1.2 times. 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 an active foreign policy suitable for a new era. This is especially true today-Japan should actively participate in securing the peace and prosperity of the entire 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 the 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 and consular establishments by upgrading their facilities, strengthening measures for the safety of Japanese nationals abroad, and enhancing crisis-management functions; and
  • promoting further information management of Ministry functions.

2. Enhancing Organization, Personnel and Budgetary Allocation

In recognition of the above-mentioned requirements, the Ministry took the following steps throughout FY1996 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 new Councillor position to handle Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) matters, as well as the Chemical Weapons Convention Division. A consulate-general was also established on Cheju Island in the Republic of Korea in January 1997, reflecting the long history of close exchange between Japan and Cheju Island and the growing frequency of reciprocal visits in recent years. This brought the number of overseas diplomatic and consular establishments of Japan to 183 as of the end of FY1996-112 embassies, 64 consulates-general, one consulate and six permanent missions or delegations.

When increasing its personnel, the Ministry has placed priority on: (1) strengthening its ability to gather and analyze intelligence and 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 FY1996-41 at the Ministry itself and 119 at overseas diplomatic and consular establishments. This brought staff totals to 5,005-1,951 at the Ministry itself and 3,054 at overseas establishments. Even so, the number of permanent Ministry staff remains low compared to those of the other major industrialized countries-for example, the number is equal to about one-fifth of U.S. staff levels.

At the same time, the Ministry not only increased staff numbers but also made efforts to utilize its staff more effectively and to streamline administration, and in addition implemented reforms to enhance staff recruitment and training.

Budgetary allocations have been 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 and consular establishments to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad and enhance crisis-management systems; and strengthening information-related and telecommunications functions, as well as the communication network, between the Ministry and its overseas diplomatic and consular establishments); and (2) enhancing and increasing international contributions (by increasing bilateral assistance; cooperating in peace-keeping operations and in disarmament; strengthening international cultural exchanges; and implementing the Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative). The Ministry's FY1996 budget was 755.8 billion yen, up 4.3% (31 billion yen) from the previous fiscal year.

(The Ministry's FY1997 budget will be 774.8 billion yen, up 2.5% [19 billion yen] from the previous fiscal year, with the establishment of a new embassy in Croatia and a staff total of 5,094.)

In the area of information management, the Ministry is moving forward, in a comprehensive and systematic fashion, with further strengthening of the information management of its administrative functions, as well as the establishment of a LAN (Local Area Network)-based computer system for intraministry and overseas functions on the basis of the MOFA Plan for Enhancing Administrative Information Management (a five-year plan starting in FY1995). Efforts are also being made to improve information systems as a means of enhancing the Ministry's diplomatic functions and improving its administrative services for Japanese nationals and others.

B. Consular Functions

1. Protection of Japanese Abroad

During 1995, the number of Japanese traveling overseas was an all-time high of 15.3 million, 12.7% higher compared to the previous year (refer to the White Paper on Tourism). As of 1 October 1995, a total of 460,522 Japanese nationals were classified as long-term residents overseas (non-permanent residents staying abroad for three months or longer), a 7.5% increase over the previous year, while the number of Japanese residents classified as permanent residents abroad rose to 267,746, an increase of 2.4% over the previous year. Thus, the total number of Japanese nationals residing abroad was at an all-time high of 728,268, an increase of 5.6% over the previous year (refer to the 1996 edition of the Annual Report on Statistics on Japanese Nationals Overseas).

As the number of Japanese people traveling overseas increases, the number falling victim to crimes and accidents is also growing. The risk that Japanese people will be caught up in conflicts or acts of terrorism remains high. For example, in January 1996, six Japanese nationals were injured when the Central Bank in Sri Lanka was blown up, while a situation also arose in May in Central Africa in which a rebellion among a part of the national army developed into street fighting, with 32 Japanese people forced to flee the country. The August kidnaping of a Japanese national in Mexico also caused broad discussion on safety measures for Japanese nationals abroad.

The Government of Japan has been providing as much support as possible for Japanese nationals 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 promoting cooperation with the private sector in safety-related areas, and sponsors the "Week to Promote Safety of Japanese Nationals Overseas."

To enhance Japan's consular system, the Government is improving training for officials in charge of consulates, fostering consular experts and expanding its expertise on the execution of consular affairs.

2. Passport Law Amendments-Passports Now Valid for 10 Years

Under the amended Passport Law, which came into effect on 1 November 1995, one part of deregulation makes ordinary passports valid for 10 years. This has been widely welcomed by passport applicants aged 20 years and above. Looking at averages up to December 1996, around 70% of passport applicants after the amended law was put into effect (around 80% in November 1995, immediately after the amended law went into force) applied for passports with a 10-year validity period. In line with the increase of Japanese people traveling abroad, the number of ordinary passports issued has also expanded significantly, with 6,236,438 passports issued in Japan in 1996 (5,825,404 in 1995).

3. Japanese Communities Overseas

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. Second- and third-generation descendants of Japanese immigrants now form 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.

4. Foreigners in Japan

Ministry of Justice figures show that 3.73 million foreigners entered Japan in 1995 (3.83 million in 1994), and that the number of registered foreigners in Japan was 1.36 million at the end of 1995 (1.35 million in 1994), with signs of a slight deceleration. However, there is every reason to assume that the figures will increase steadily as Japan continues its internationalization process.

One negative development, though, is the recent rapid increase in foreigners who have overstayed their permitted period of stay in Japan and are living in Japan illegally (the majority of these are illegal workers). The Ministry of Justice estimates that there were around 285,000 such foreigners in Japan in May 1996, which represents a decline of about 14,000 from the peak in May 1993, but is still a large number. Some of these illegal workers are being exploited by ill-intentioned brokers and employers, while many tend to become involved in crime. This situation not only creates prejudice among some parts of the population against foreigners in Japan, but also seriously undermines the image of Japan in the countries from which the foreigners come, impeding desirable international exchanges.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeks as far as possible to prevent people from entering the country for the purpose of illegal work. At the same time, from the viewpoint of promoting interchanges with people from different countries, and as part of a general move toward deregulation, the Government of Japan has promoted simplification and acceleration of visa-issuing procedures. Reviews were conducted in 1996 of norms applied in issuing multiple visas to people from certain countries in Asia and other parts of the world and of inspection procedures for people from the former Communist bloc, with simplification and acceleration of 14 items in regard to these. To help enhance the development of the human resources of developing countries, the Government of Japan also supports training provided by the Japanese private sector and "The Technical Intern Training Program," which enables foreign trainees to receive on-the-job training practicing the skills and techniques they have gained through training.

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