Who will speak as Japan’s foreign minister at the U.N. General Assembly meeting Sept. 23?
The question has been hovering over Tokyo’s Nagata-cho and Kasumigaseki districts in connection with the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election on Sept. 20 and a reshuffled Cabinet.
The events soon to take place may not all be favorable to incumbent Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, 62, who holds no Diet seat.
She would be a cinch to represent Japan at the world body if Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is re-elected party president and keeps her in her post.
Koizumi himself is likely to skip the U.N. session to reorganize his Cabinet around Sept. 23.
Foreign Ministry sources said Kawaguchi has been preparing for the trip to New York.
But there have been strong calls for her ouster from some elements within the LDP.
“People with power in the Diet should be named Cabinet ministers and bear responsibility for people in tackling diplomatic and economic (issues),” said Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the LDP’s House of Councilors caucus. Aoki has expressed his support for Koizumi’s bid for re-election as party president.
Kawaguchi, a retired bureaucrat of the defunct Ministry of International Trade and Industry, became foreign minister 19 months ago after her popular predecessor, Makiko Tanaka, was dismissed by the prime minister.
For a long time, Kawaguchi, a University of Tokyo graduate, was mainly in charge of compiling industry statistics at the trade ministry.
She is currently on a 17-day tour of Europe and Mexico.
Political sources said that should someone other than Kawaguchi be named foreign minister, it is possible he or she will be unable to deliver the scheduled speech Sept. 23.
They said the new minister would have to be present at the attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace and go through the ritual of a formal change of command at the Foreign Ministry.
If Kawaguchi leaves for New York to carry out the Sept. 23 commitment, she still faces the possibility of losing her foreign minister’s title in the Cabinet reshuffle before she reaches New York.
There was a similar case in October 1999 when ministers submitted their resignations to allow the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to reshuffle his Cabinet.
Then Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, now a candidate for LDP chief, resigned as foreign minister but attended a Vienna meeting of the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a Japanese government representative.
Sources said such a step could be taken as the last resort for Kawaguchi to attend the U.N. assembly to give her a chance to make a final high-profile exit as a Cabinet minister.
Kawaguchi has been busy, taking only four days off in August. She will visit South Korea and deliver two lectures a day while touring abroad until Sept. 16.
She has also appointed Sadako Ogata, former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, as head of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is due to become an independent administrative corporation in October.
Ogata will be the first private-sector individual to occupy the top JICA post. Previously, it had been held by former Foreign Ministry senior officials.