Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka kicked up some more dust Wednesday by ordering the former chief of the Financial Affairs Division to return to his post despite being named minister to France earlier in the week.

Tanaka, who called a news conference in the morning only to cancel it, told reporters later in the day that she has frozen the transfer of Masato Kitera because “it was against his wishes.”

The outspoken minister declared on Tuesday that she would put a freeze on all personnel changes and ordered the return of Jiro Kodera, the former head of the ministry’s Russia Division, to his post. Kodera had been named minister to Britain.

Tanaka said Kitera, who was a member of an internal team investigating an embezzlement scandal involving a former ministry bureaucrat, is the brother of a friend.

But Tanaka did not provide specifics about what she would do with other personnel shifts made as of Monday, including that of Tomoyuki Abe, former head of the secretariat which headed the ministry’s investigation into the fraud case. In another unusual step, Tanaka added Nobuchika Kanehara, chief of the Foreign Policy Bureau’s Policy Planning Division, to her team of secretaries, increasing the number of her aides to three. Although his title remains unchanged, the ministry usually only assigns two secretaries to the minister.

Press Secretary Norio Hattori later explained that Kanehara will assist in preparing the minister’s responses to Diet questioning.

Attempted interception

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka sought to block a meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the U.S. deputy secretary of state on grounds that the prime minister is not the official counterpart for the American visitor, sources familiar with the event said Wednesday.

Richard Armitage, in Japan to provide briefings on President George W. Bush’s missile defense policy, eventually met with Koizumi on Tuesday evening through the offices of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, the sources said.

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