Offering a positive assessment of Japan’s diplomatic achievements in 2008, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone on Friday praised Prime Minister Taro Aso for working tirelessly to raise Tokyo’s reputation within the international community.

“It was a hectic three months” since Aso became prime minister on Sept. 24, Nakasone told reporters during the year’s final news conference. “But Japan played its role and demonstrated its leadership to the world, especially on tackling the global financial crisis.”

Regarded as an outward-looking politician, Aso appeared at the U.N General Assembly in New York a day after taking office.

This was followed by the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing in October, and a two-day financial summit of the Group of 20 in Washington.

Aso also attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Peru in November and hosted the first trilateral summit involving Japan, China and South Korea earlier this month in Fukuoka.

“I am also glad that the antiterrorism bill cleared the Diet and our refueling mission can continue without any breaks,” the foreign minister said in ticking off the year’s diplomatic achievements.

Regarding the inauguration of Sen. Barack Obama as U.S. president next month, Nakasone said Tokyo and Washington must work closely on policies once Obama takes office.

“Obviously, it is crucial for us to watch closely how the new U.S. administration will operate,” he said.

Officials reshuffled

JIJI The government on Friday appointed Yoichi Otabe, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Affairs Bureau, as deputy foreign minister for economic affairs.

Otabe, 57, succeeds Masaharu Kono, who will be moved to the minister’s secretariat.

Yoichi Suzuki, 58, consul general in Boston, will succeed Otabe as director general of the Economic Affairs Bureau.

Kazuyoshi Umemoto, 57, who has been deputy director general of the Foreign Policy Bureau since August 2007, was appointed director general of the North American Affairs Bureau.

The appointments will take effect Jan. 5.

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