Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley left Narita airport on Sunday for the United States after more than three years as the top U.S. diplomat in Japan.

U.S. President George W. Bush has nominated as Foley’s successor Howard Baker, a former Republican Senate majority leader and one-time White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan.

After returning to Washington, Foley is due to resume work at his old law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.

Foley had initially planned to leave Japan in late February but postponed his departure to deal with the Feb. 9 collision between a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine and the Japanese fisheries training ship Ehime Maru.

Foley, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, assumed his Tokyo post in November 1997 as the 25th U.S. ambassador to Japan.

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