The government plans to appoint Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama as new vice foreign minister, the top bureaucrat at the Foreign Ministry, a government source said Thursday.
Sugiyama, 63, who will replace Akitaka Saiki, 63, formerly served as director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and is known for his negotiating skills and expertise in international law.
Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Policy Takeo Akiba, 57, is likely to succeed Sugiyama in the personnel change, which is soon to be made official, the source said.
As deputy minister in charge of political affairs, Sugiyama helped organize the Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting in Hiroshima in April and the G-7 leaders’ summit in Mie Prefecture in May.
He was credited with realizing the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima. In a symbolic gesture, John Kerry offered flowers at the cenotaph in Peace Memorial Park.
Sugiyama will be the first person to reach the ministry’s top bureaucratic post from a private university; the others attended the elite University of Tokyo or other national universities. Sugiyama passed the Foreign Ministry’s exam in October 1976 while at Waseda University and joined the ministry the following April before graduation.
Among other achievements that apparently led him to win the trust of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was the registration on the U.N. World Cultural Heritage list in July 2015 of sites commemorating Japan’s industrial revolution in the Meiji Era, which began in the late 1800s.
Sugiyama, who formerly served as a minister at the Japanese Embassy in South Korea, conducted negotiations on the issue with Seoul, which was opposed to adding the sites to the World Heritage list because Koreans were forced to work at some of them when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.
Since entering the ministry in 1977, Sugiyama has worked as director of the Treaties Division and director-general for global issues before becoming deputy foreign minister in charge of political affairs in June 2013.