August 29, 2014 11:50 am JST

Japanese Foreign Ministry seeks 10% increase in FY 2015 budget

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Foreign Ministry on Friday requested 738 billion yen in its budget for the fiscal year from next April, up 10.8 percent from the initial budget for the current year, to strengthen efforts to disseminate information overseas about territorial and other diplomatic issues.

     Planned outlays for Japanese official development assistance, which account for two-thirds of the total requested, came to 462.1 billion yen, up 9.2 percent from the initial fiscal 2014 budget, or an increase of 39.1 billion yen.

     Of the roughly 50 billion yen additionally sought to strengthen communications overseas, the ministry plans 5.2 billion yen on building public relations and culture promotion facilities called "Japan House" in six locations -- London, Sao Paolo, Los Angeles, Istanbul, Jakarta and Hong Kong -- to boost Tokyo's public diplomacy.

     The 50 billion yen also includes increased subsidies to Japanese think tanks, costs related to the hosting of an international conference on women's empowerment and outlays for cultural exchange events, which will be aimed at promoting "washoku," or Japanese cuisine, traditional arts and other "Cool Japan" elements more widely abroad.

     To promote Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy of conducting "diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map," the ministry plans to allocate 5.95 billion yen to open nine new embassies in such countries as Turkmenistan, Liberia and Maldives, and six consulates general, including in Leon in Mexico and Bangalore in India.

     The ministry plans to set aside 5.86 billion yen to increase its workforce by 114 from the current 5,787.

     Through the efforts laid out in its fiscal 2015 budget request, the ministry hopes to win "accurate understanding" of the country from the international community on such issues as territory and perceptions of history, a ministry official said.

     The Finance Ministry set Friday as the deadline for initial budget requests from ministries and agencies for fiscal 2015. The ministry will screen the requests in the coming months.