Former Vice Foreign Minister Yoshiji Nogami is advising employees at the ministry on Middle East affairs, despite his demotion to the ministry’s secretariat, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Friday.

Nogami is not actually involved in the decision-making process, which is being handled by the division directors and bureau directors general, she said.

“Middle East issues are currently fluid,” Kawaguchi said. “The former vice minister has some networks in the area and so he is providing advice” to bureaucrats in charge of the region.

Nogami previously held senior posts in the Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau.

Kawaguchi said she will keep Nogami on in an unspecified post at the foreign minister’s secretariat for the time being. Nogami was assigned to the secretariat after being replaced as the ministry’s top bureaucrat by Yukio Takeuchi on Feb. 19.

The foreign minister, who in late February expressed her intention to use Nogami’s knowledge in dealing with Middle Eastern affairs, has apparently given up on her plan to assign him to a specific position. Her about-face comes amid calls by some in political circles that Nogami should have been fired from the ministry altogether — not just from the post of vice foreign minister.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided in late January to dismiss Nogami and then Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, saying they had held up Diet business with their dispute over whether lawmaker Muneo Suzuki had pressured the Foreign Ministry to prevent two Japanese nongovernmental groups from attending a Tokyo international donors conference on Afghanistan in January.

Tanaka is among those who claim that Nogami should have been fired altogether.

Cabinet OKs envoys

Sophia University professor Kuniko Inoguchi was named Friday as Japan’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, while Consuls General Kazumi Dekiba, in Pakistan, was appointed top envoy to Tanzania and Toyojiro Soejima, in Portland, Ore., was assigned to Slovakia.

The Cabinet approved the appointments at its morning meeting, putting them into effect immediately.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi selected Inoguchi, 49, as Japan’s top representative at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, in line with her decision to assign qualified outside experts to senior posts.

Inoguchi, an international relations expert, is a professor in the faculty of law at Sophia University and has worked for some government entities in Japan, including the Defense Policy Review Council. She graduated from Sophia University in 1975.

It is the first time in 40 years that an academic has been named to a Japanese ambassadorial post, and Inoguchi will be the youngest active ambassador, according to Kawaguchi.

The foreign minister has said she will try to appoint “outstanding” personnel from the private sector and other government organizations to 10 senior ministry posts by this summer.

The plan is part of Kawaguchi’s drive to reform the ministry’s personnel policies to make them fairer and more competitive, such as by assigning personnel to certain posts based on merit rather than seniority.

Inoguchi replaced Seiichiro Noboru, who was named Japan’s envoy to the Paris-based international organization in mid-March. Last week, Kawaguchi admonished Noboru for sending a private e-mail over the ministry’s network.

In late March, Noboru sent the e-mail to a female ministry employee at the Japanese Embassy in Kenya, according to media reports. The letter somehow found its way onto the ministry’s local area network, which can be viewed by all ministry personnel.

Dekiba, 62, worked as a consul at the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu before taking a leave of absence to work for the Foreign Press Center in Tokyo for about three years.

He served as director of the ministry’s division overseeing security at the government’s overseas establishments until being assigned as consul general in Karachi in March 1999.

Soejima, 59, held posts at Japanese embassies in France, Germany and Hungary before taking leave to serve as head of the Refugees Headquarters for the Foundation for the Welfare and Education of Asian Peoples from 1997 to 1999.

He was assigned as consul general in Portland in May 1999, the ministry said.

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