Axed bureaucrat back as envoy to U.K.

Yoshiji Nogami, who was sacked as vice foreign minister in 2002 at the end of a dispute with then Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, has been appointed Japan’s new ambassador to Britain, the government said Friday.

The government also promoted Toshiro Suzuki, 50, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad since July, to ambassador, making him the first Japanese ambassador to Iraq since the Persian Gulf War.

Ministry officials said naming an ambassador to Iraq will help demonstrate Tokyo’s commitment to supporting the country’s reconstruction.

Japan’s last ambassador to Iraq, Kunio Katakura, made extensive efforts to protect Japanese nationals in Iraq during the Persian Gulf crisis. He left Iraq shortly before the U.S.-led coalition forces attacked the country in January 1991. He was relieved of his post in September that year.

The 62-year-old Nogami, currently a minister at the Japanese Embassy in London, will replace Masaki Orita.

He was fired as the ministry’s top bureaucrat by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in February 2002 following a dispute with Tanaka, who was simultaneously sacked by the prime minister.

Some lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties criticized Nogami’s “revival,” saying it was inappropriate for Koizumi to reappoint him to a high-profile post without a clear explanation.

Koizumi defended his decision, telling reporters Friday, “I appointed an appropriate person to the appropriate post.”

Kyoji Komachi, 58, secretary general of the Cabinet Office’s International Peace Cooperation Headquarters, was named ambassador to the Netherlands. Ambassador to Kuwait Sumio Tarui, 57, will replace Komachi.