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In a highly unusual arrangement, Foreign Ministry scandals and reform plans were at the fore of the so-called diplomatic Blue Book for 2002, released on Friday, with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi expressing resolve to regain trust in the ministry.

The annual review highlights the diplomatic events of the previous 12 months, but this year the book forsakes celebration for an apology to the public for building “abnormal relations” with disgraced lawmaker Muneo Suzuki and yielding to his pressure over a variety of issues, including aid projects for Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

At the outset of the book, submitted to Friday’s Cabinet meeting, Kawaguchi said the ministry must work harder to regain public trust, adding that the panel of experts set up to examine possibilities for ministry reform will form a focal point for her drive for change.

“Even without waiting for the (panel’s) recommendations, we will vigorously carry out what reforms we can, with all the ministry staff working as one team,” Kawaguchi said in the report, which vows to eliminate “inappropriate pressure” over the ministry.

The book also expresses “regret” over the ministry’s barring of certain nongovernmental organizations from an Afghan reconstruction conference, held in Tokyo in January, a decision also made under Suzuki’s pressure. “The confusion over the NGO participation left a dark spot on an otherwise successful conference,” it said.

On diplomatic issues, the blue book describes the fight against terrorism as the year’s key theme, describing the Sept. 11 attacks as a “shocking event that had the greatest impact on international relations in 2001.”

Japan’s antiterrorism measures included the passing of a new law that enabled Self-Defense Forces to be dispatched to provide logistic support for U.S. forces and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, it says.

Relations with China and South Korea deteriorated in 2001 due to the ongoing row over history textbooks and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines Japanese war criminals alongside the nation’s war dead. But the report concludes that, on balance, the ties had improved after Koizumi visited the two countries in October.

Ghana envoy named

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Friday that she will appoint lawyer Kazuko Asai as ambassador to Ghana in line with her efforts to reform the ministry.

The appointment will be formally approved at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Kawaguchi cited Asai’s achievements as a lawyer, her work in Africa, as well as her detailed knowledge of international issues as the reasons behind her appointment.

Kawaguchi has said that the ministry must strengthen ties between Japan and African nations so that Tokyo can host the third meeting on development in Africa in the latter half of 2003.

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