Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka formally gave in to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s ministry personnel requests Friday, agreeing to appoint Deputy Foreign Minister Ryozo Kato as the next ambassador to the United States, replacing Shunji Yanai.
In the list of personnel changes agreed to Friday, Yoshiji Nogami, deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs will become the next vice foreign minister, replacing Yutaka Kawashima.
Tanaka, who yielded Thursday night to Koizumi’s demands to replace four recent vice foreign ministers, including Yanai, over a string of ministry scandals, told a news conference Friday evening she still thought it best that Yanai stay on as ambassador to the U.S. to handle U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to Japan in October.
“President Bush’s first visit to Japan is a very big issue, and I wanted to make the best preparations with the current ambassador to U.S.,” she said. “But the prime minister’s determination (to have Kato take Yanai’s place) was very strong, and I have accepted it.”
Tanaka also decided to name Ambassador to Singapore Toshiyuki Takano as the new deputy foreign minister, and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Shotaro Oshima as the new deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs.
Yutaka Iimura, deputy vice foreign minister, will be replaced with Kyoji Komachi, head of the European Affairs Bureau.
At a separate news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the new personnel lineup will be approved at a Cabinet meeting Friday.
“My understanding is that there was a difference of opinions ironed out in the end,” Fukuda said.
Earlier Friday, Tanaka tried to make a last stand, naming Kato as next vice foreign minister and Nogami as ambassador to the U.S., government sources said. But Koizumi wanted Kato to fill the U.S. post because he has close ties with senior officials of the U.S. administration, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a key policymaker on Japan issues, they said.
Tanaka’s plan was to remove Kawashima first and draw up a new senior personnel lineup with Kato, whom she feels more comfortable with, the sources said.
The foreign minister explained that she thought Kato, the No. 2 bureaucrat in the ministry, was the best choice for vice foreign minister as many senior officials told her his extensive experience in diplomacy and “warm personality” made him the most appropriate choice.
But observers said she stuck to the idea of having Kato as vice foreign minister because of her ill feelings about Fukuda and Koizumi taking the lead in ministry personnel matters. “There are various issues going on at the ministry, and the prime minister’s side also had thoughts about them,” Tanaka said, indicating her annoyance toward Fukuda, who had frequently discussed ministry personnel matters with Kawashima and rejected Tanaka’s ideas about Kato’s post when they met Thursday.
Regarding Nogami, Tanaka said “it is good to have someone with a unique character as vice foreign minister.”
Nogami, who served as head of Economic Affairs Bureau and Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development before taking his current post, is known to be a tough negotiator and an expert on economic affairs.
He also served as a Sherpa for the Group of Eight summit meeting this year and last year.
While Tanaka has had little contact with Nogami since taking office in April, she said she is “confident” about her and Nogami making a good team.
Fukuda, who Friday morning called Tanaka’s original plan “unsatisfactory,” said in the evening, “I expect the foreign minister to be able to concentrate on diplomacy from now on.”
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