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Diplomatic Shift Shows Tokyo’s Tensions

Author: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
September 13, 2012
Global Times

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A new set of faces is about to emerge on the frontlines of Japan's diplomacy. Three top career officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) will rotate to manage the country's most important strategic relationships. All three are seasoned diplomats, and their skills will be much needed at this most difficult moment for Tokyo's foreign policy.

Kenichiro Sasae, MOFA's current vice minister, is heading for Washington. Sasae has spent the last decade in Tokyo, leading the ministry's bureaus of economic and Asian and Oceanic affairs and serving as deputy minster. He is well known in Washington for his deft role in the Six-Party Talks with North Korea, and for his steady hand in the strategic management of Tokyo's important adjustment to China's rise.

Shinichi Nishimiya, the current deputy foreign minister, will serve in Beijing. Interestingly, Nishimiya is one of Tokyo's star North America hands, reflecting again the new generation of Japanese diplomats who work across regional lines. He has headed the North American Affairs Bureau and served as the consul general in New York. Likewise, Koro Bessho, the new ambassador to Seoul, is not a Korea hand, but rather brings to the table his considerable experience in Japan's global strategy formulation.

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