Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka is planning a major reshuffle of senior ministry personnel — including the ministry’s top bureaucrat — after the July 20-22 Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, ministry sources said.
Tanaka’s plan stems from her dissatisfaction over disciplinary actions imposed on ministry officials in the wake of the recent scandal involving a logistics chief charged with swindling huge sums in discretionary government funds.
The radical shuffle could widen the rift between Tanaka and senior ministry officials that emerged soon after the outspoken minister assumed the post in late April.
The sources said on Saturday that incumbent Vice Foreign Minister Yutaka Kawashima and his three immediate predecessors will be sacked.
The three are Kunihiko Saito, president of the ministry’s foreign assistance body, the Japan International Cooperation Agency; Ambassador to Britain Sadayuki Hayashi; and Ambassador to the United States Shunji Yanai. The foreign minister is entitled to appoint the head of JICA.
Saito, Hayashi and Yanai all served as vice foreign ministers while Katsutoshi Matsuo, the subject of the fraud charges, was heading the ministry’s logistics division.
Matsuo, 55, is accused of using discretionary government funds for personal purposes between 1993 and 1999, while he headed the division supporting logistics arrangements for prime ministers’ overseas visits.
Matsuo was dismissed from the ministry Jan. 25 and indicted at the end of March.
The sources said Saito has already agreed to resign if doing so would benefit the ministry. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has reportedly given the green light to the changes.
Tanaka originally wanted the replacements to be made shortly after she assumed her post in early May but abandoned the idea after the Cabinet Secretariat opposed it because the Diet was in session.
Ryozo Kato, deputy foreign minister for political affairs, is the prime candidate to replace Kawashima as vice minister, the sources said.
The ministry in January penalized 16 of its senior officials, including the four, but Tanaka has complained the punishments were insufficient.
Six senior officials, including Kawashima, Yanai and another diplomat assigned overseas, received 20 percent pay cuts for between one and three months, while eight others were reprimanded.
Tanaka, who is considering appointing ambassadors from the private sector, decided to make the personnel changes after the G8 summit so that preparations for the summit can be prioritized.
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