• Kyodo News


Yoshiki Watanabe, the last top bureaucrat at the now-defunct Social Insurance Agency, was appointed Friday as ambassador to Sweden, making a quick comeback to government after being expelled apparently due to the agency’s slack management of pension records.

Watanabe, 57, had been widely expected to be named vice chairman of the Japan Pension Service, which was established in January after the agency was abolished. But welfare minister Akira Nagatsuma didn’t approve of his posting, citing disciplinary action taken against him more than 10 years ago.

But given the support from the prime minister’s office and his experience in working at the embassy in Sweden in his early 30s as a secretary, Watanabe made a comeback to official circles within just eight months, government sources said.

Watanabe, who joined the old welfare ministry in 1975, often disagreed as head of the ministry’s pension bureau from 2004 to 2009 with Nagatsuma, who was then in the opposition camp.

When Watanabe was not named as Japan Pension Service’s vice chairman, some in the welfare ministry sympathized with him, saying he was reprimanded for something that had nothing to do with the organizational scandals that led to the Social Insurance Agency’s demise.

But Nagatsuma, the health, labor and welfare minister, said the decision was based on a government policy of not recruiting someone for the new public institution who had been punished, and it would be difficult to explain if an exception was made for high-ranking personnel.

New envoys selected

The government on Friday named Seiji Kojima, 62, chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry, as the country’s new ambassador to Thailand, and Yoichi Suzuki, 59, chief of the Economic Affairs Bureau, as envoy to Singapore.

The Cabinet also endorsed the postings of ambassadors to Vietnam, New Zealand, Brazil, Portugal, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Syria, Denmark, Myanmar and other countries.

Yasuaki Tanizaki, 58, director general of the ministry’s European Affairs Bureau, was named ambassador to Vietnam, while Ambassador to Zambia Hideto Mitamura, 62, will become envoy to New Zealand.

Ambassador to Portugal Akira Miwa, 60, was named envoy to Brazil, while his successor will be Nobutaka Shinomiya, 60, the country’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Takashi Koezuka, 61, of the foreign minister’s secretariat, was appointed as new ambassador to the Netherlands, and Yuzo Harada, 60, former senior counselor at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., as envoy to Kazakhstan.

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