Structures Supporting Japan's Diplomatic Functions
Diplomatic activities in many different fields are becoming much more important in the current international situation. Furthermore, the expansion of Japan's international role has been paralleled by a constant expansion in recent years in the volume of work handled by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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 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 to the extent possible under the current severe fiscal conditions:
- 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 Ministry 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, enhancing crisis-management functions and strengthening measures for the safety of Japanese nationals abroad; and
- Promoting further information management of Ministry functions.
In recognition of the above-mentioned requirements, the Ministry took the following steps throughout FY1997 to enhance its organization, personnel and budgetary allocation with a view to strengthening the structures it needs to implement Japan's foreign policy.
With regard to organization, the Ministry established a new Councillor position to handle Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) matters, etc., as well as a Senior Assistant for Dispute Settlement under the WTO to handle work related to consultations and dispute settlement under the WTO Agreement, etc. In terms of overseas diplomatic and consular establishments, a consulate in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, was upgraded to a consulate-general, while in February 1998, an embassy was established in Croatia, a state equaling the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in economic and political importance in the former Yugoslav region, and one which could have significant impact on the restoration of peace in the years to come. The total number of overseas diplomatic and consular establishments of Japan at the end of FY1997 was therefore 184: 113 embassies, 65 consulates-general 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 144 during FY1997: 42 at the Ministry itself and 102 at overseas diplomatic and consular establishments. This brought staff totals to 5,094: 1,985 at the Ministry itself and 3,109 at overseas establishments. Even so, the number of permanent Ministry staff remains low compared to that 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 constraints, 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 enhance crisis-management systems and ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad; 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) improving and strengthening diplomatic measures (by increasing bilateral assistance; cooperating for peace and disarmament; responding to global issues; and strengthening international cultural and personnel exchanges). The Ministry's FY1997 budget was 774.8 billion yen, up 2.5 percent (19 billion yen) from the previous fiscal year.
(Despite organizational changes such as an increase in the number of State Secretaries for Foreign Affairs, from one to two, and the establishment of a new consulate-general in Denver and, in terms of personnel, an overall increase in staff to 5,165, the Ministry's FY1998 budget will decrease 3.5 percent [26.9 billion yen] compared to the previous fiscal year, to 747.9 billion yen. This reflects the tight fiscal situation, including a cut of more than 10 percent in ODA.)
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 Local Area Network (LAN)-based computer system for intra-Ministry and overseas functions on the basis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Plan for Enhancing Administrative Information Management. 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.
During 1996, the number of Japanese traveling overseas was an all-time high of 16.69 million, up 9.1 percent compared to the previous year. As of 1 October 1996, a total of 492,942 Japanese nationals were classified as long-term residents overseas (non-permanent residents staying abroad for three months or longer), while the number of Japanese residents classified as permanent residents abroad rose to 271,035. Thus, the total number of Japanese nationals residing abroad was an all-time high of 763,977, an increase of 4.9 percent over the previous year.
As the number of Japanese people traveling overseas increases, the number falling victim to crimes and accidents is also growing, as seen in the terrorist attack on tourists in Luxor, Egypt. Responding to this situation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reviewed the travel and evacuation information it provides and subsequently integrated "Toko Joho" ("Travel Information"), which provides information related to overseas travel under the categories of cautionary points, recommendations for tourists and recommendations for travelers, with advice for Japanese nationals staying abroad as to when and how to evacuate. The result was a five-part publication titled "Kaigai Kiken Joho" ("Travel Advice and Warning"). The five parts are: "Travel caution" (level of security risk: 1); "Recommendation to defer non-essential travel" (level of security risk: 2); "Recommendation to defer all travel" (level of security risk: 3); "Departure advice for residents staying for non-essential purposes" (level of security risk: 4); and "Evacuation advice for all residents" (level of security risk: 5). This publication has been available since 18 December 1997.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also working on public relations for and dissemination of "Kaigai Kiken Joho," and is strengthening provision of information to the public through, for example, publication of the entire document on its home page. It is also working with the Ministry of Transport on public relations for and dissemination of "Kaigai Kiken Joho" to travelers through travel agencies.
With the great increase in the number of Japanese abroad and the diversification of their activities, etc., consular work in diplomatic establishments and consulates abroad is becoming increasingly complex and diverse. To strengthen consular functions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is engaging actively in the rationalization of consular work through, for example, office automation and the fostering of consular experts.
With the use of forged travel documents in transnational organized crime, etc., enhancement of safeguards to prevent the forgery of travel documents is being emphasized in international fora such as Summits of the Eight as an issue which transcends national borders. From the viewpoint that organizing an effective mechanism for cooperation with other countries is vital in handling this issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working to improve the quality and security features of passports in the Asian countries and to establish an information network among passport issuing authorities. As a first step in this regard, Japan held a seminar in November 1997 on the prevention of passport forgery, inviting representatives of passport-issuing authorities from six countries in Asia.
Due to steady emigration to Latin America soon after the war, the number of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in this region is now estimated to have reached 1.5 million. New generations are growing up, with second- and third-generation descendants now beginning to form the majority of Japanese communities there. 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 continued importance of supporting their activities.
In 1997, 4.67 million foreigners entered Japan (compared to 4.24 million in 1996), while the number of registered foreigners in Japan was 1.42 million at the end of 1996 (compared to 1.36 million in 1995). Figures are, therefore, on the increase, and there is every reason to assume that these will continue to grow steadily as Japan continues its internationalization process.
While the number of foreigners who had overstayed their permitted period of stay in Japan and were living here illegally had decreased to around 277,000 as of January 1998, down 22,000 from the peak in May 1993, this figure is still large. Some of these illegal workers are being exploited by ill-intentioned brokers and employers, while many tend to become involved in crime. The 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 sound 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 Japanese Government is promoting simplification and acceleration of visa-issuing procedures. In 1997, Japan simplified and accelerated 10 items, including simplification of visa application forms for Eastern and Central European countries, etc.
Back to Index