Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Dec. 19 suggested that taxpayers should buy a dedicated airplane that will enable him to visit more countries for diplomatic purposes.

“Having the availability to use a dedicated plane whenever necessary would be significant because it would allow me to increase the number of countries to visit,” Kono told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

He said he has already instructed ministry officials to consider the need for a designated aircraft.

If such a plan is carried out, costs for the aircraft would be included in the fiscal 2019 budget, which will be compiled next year.

However, such an expenditure could provoke a backlash from the public because the ruling coalition has compiled a tax revision package that raises or introduces certain levies.

Aircraft managed by the Defense Ministry are used when the prime minister or imperial family members make trips overseas.

“The use of such aircraft for official visits abroad by foreign ministers is close to zero,” according to a high-ranking official at the Foreign Ministry.

Kono noted that Japanese foreign ministers have visited far fewer countries than their counterparts in other nations, such as China.

“Japanese foreign ministers have traveled to 97 countries over five years since January 2013, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has visited 262 countries, nearly triple the Japanese figure,” Kono said. “To travel around island nations, I currently need to return to a hub airport to use commercial routes.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the United States and Russia have designated aircraft for their foreign ministers.