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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cost of five Aso trips overseas — ¥658 million


Staff writer

Travel isn't cheap, and the fees rise even higher when it's the prime minister heading overseas.

The government revealed Tuesday that Taro Aso's five foreign trips between September, when he took office, and January cost about ¥658 million.

They include his jaunts to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, the first G20 financial summit in Washington and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Peru.

Not counted were Aso's visits to Switzerland and Russia, or a third trip to the U.S. to meet with President Barack Obama. The government hasn't calculated the cost of those trips yet.

One total the government has tallied is the number of officials who accompanied Aso on his eight trips — 511.

A detailed account of the costs was not provided because various ministries shared the burden and "it would take a lot of work" to break down the figures, the government said.

The disclosure came after Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Shokichi Kina submitted a series of questions to the government in which he criticized Aso for taking so many overseas trips while neglecting domestic problems.

Kina's request that the government separate the costs into categories like travel, accommodations and party fees was denied.

"Why is Prime Minister Aso visiting foreign countries one after another when important domestic affairs are building up?" Kina asked.

"Some say (Aso) may be trying to win some points through diplomacy as the support rate (for the Aso Cabinet) continues to decline," he added.

The government issued a written statement defending Aso's foreign travel.



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The Japan Times

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