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China may tap former envoy to Japan for foreign minister slot

Kyodo

China is considering former Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi, who currently heads the Taiwan Affairs Office, to replace outgoing Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, multiple Chinese government-related sources said.

The consideration of a seasoned diplomat well-versed in Japanese affairs as China’s next foreign minister appears to reflect the priority Chinese President Xi Jinping places on Sino-Japanese relations as the two countries continue to spar over ownership of the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Wang, having spent many years working in Japan, is known to have many contacts in domestic political and business circles.

China would likely want to make use of Wang’s persuasive skills, contacts and knowledge of Japan to convince Tokyo to officially acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute over the uninhabited islands, which are known in China as the Diaoyus.

Under Xi, the Chinese leadership is pursuing a tougher policy line toward Japan, and there is no indication that will change any time soon, considering domestic sentiment.

Wang, 59, has been head of the Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office since June 2008.

He served as China’s ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007. Before that, he also worked at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo between 1989 and 1995.

A Beijing native, Wang has also held such government posts as director of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department, assistant foreign minister and vice foreign minister.

He once headed the Chinese delegation for six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue in 2007, according to information carried on the Taiwan Affairs Office website.

The Communist Party’s Politburo is believed to have discussed personnel issues at a meeting Saturday, with a final decision on a new foreign minister to be made at a three-day meeting of the party’s Central Committee that was set to begin Tuesday.

That decision would then be approved at an annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp Parliament, which begins March 5.