• Kyodo

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U.S. President George W. Bush announced Friday the nomination of his longtime Texas friend Thomas Schieffer as ambassador to Japan, replacing Howard Baker.

The announcement came a day after Bush was sworn into office for a second four-year term.

Baker has announced he plans to step down as ambassador Feb. 17.

Schieffer, 57, has been ambassador to Australia since 2001. He has been a close friend of Bush since the Texas days, and they got to know each other well through their involvement in the management of the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Experts say Schieffer will probably be one of the closest friends of a president to hold the Japan post, making it easier to report directly to Bush. But other experts have expressed concerns about his absence of notable involvement in Japan affairs, and his relatively low-profile political background.

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