After Cabinet ministers completed their annual year-end budget negotiations, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said his ministry’s focus is on “ashikoshi yosan,” which may translate as “mobility budget.”

Foreign Ministry officials use this uncommon term to refer to expenses for routine diplomatic activities, such as travels on official business and events at diplomatic missions abroad.

“Amid the current fiscal constraints on such expenditures, I would like to visit more countries and participate in more meetings abroad,” Kono said.

For that, he proposed that the government buy a dedicated airplane for use by the foreign minister.

“Just a small aircraft would do, and it doesn’t even have to be new,” he said. “All I want is that it will be able to get me to the U.S. eastern seaboard without a refueling stop.”

He named the Gulfstream G650ER model, made by Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. of the United States, as his choice.

It accommodates 19 passengers and comes with a price tag of a whopping 8 billion yen ($71 million), according to Marubeni Aerospace Corp., the Japanese distributor.

Among its owners are Terry Gou, chairman of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which acquired Sharp Corp., and Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, according to news reports.

Gulfstream Aerospace touts the aircraft’s ultimate comfort. Indeed, the roomy cabin offers more than ample legroom, and the seats can be folded out to become beds. In this lap of luxury, even a long flight shouldn’t be enervating.

Government ministries and agencies are battling for their shares of the fiscal 2018 budget.

The Defense Ministry, for example, is requesting 88.1 billion yen for six F-35A fighters and 45.7 billion yen for four Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

On the other hand, the nation’s welfare budget is being slashed, and all we hear are new tax and tax hike plans.

Kono is going to have a tough time convincing taxpayers that they should pay for his own jet.

Given U.S. President Donald Trump’s determination to sell weapons to Japan, the Japanese government had better brace itself for Trump’s hard sell.

How many more opportunities for diplomatic negotiations by the foreign minister will translate into meaningful savings on defense expenditures?

Figuratively speaking, would one fighter jet be equivalent to the diplomatic offensive that could be opened by an aircraft dedicated to the foreign minister?

This matter had better be examined and discussed more carefully.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 21

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.