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Yuji Sato, the Japan Coast Guard’s vice commandant of operations, will soon be promoted to commandant, becoming the first officer from within the Coast Guard to hold the top post, a government source said Thursday.

Until now, the commandant has always been a civilian from the transport ministry.

The planned appointment is apparently based on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated intention to bolster maritime security operations against China and its claim to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Sato is a former head of the 10th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, which covers the seas near Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures.

During a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga did not confirm the reported appointment but did say Abe has a policy of appointing people who have first-hand experience to lead government bodies.

“We haven’t made any Cabinet decision (on the Coast Guard post) yet, but that’s the vision of Prime Minister Abe,” Suga said.

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