Will Change at Japanese Embassy in USA Hurt US-Japan Relations?

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Reported by the BUNGEI SHUNJU (Page 236, July 2008 Issue)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) picked new senior officials at the Japanese Embassy in the United States.

Ichiro Fujisaki, former ambassador at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva, who joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1969, has arrived at the post of ambassador to the United States, succeeding Ryozo Kato, who served in the post for six and half years.

Kenji Shinoda, former consul general in Chicago, who entered MOFA in 1976, has assumed the post of deputy chief of mission, the no. 2 post at the Embassy. The appointments of Fujisaki and Shinoda have now filled the two vacancies there.

But the future will not be easy for them. The reason is that Fujisaki was unexpectedly appointed ambassador because the ministry had failed to promote Ambassador to Britain Shin Ebihara to the post of administrative vice minister. There is a rumor that in picking his successor former Vice Administrative Minister Shotaro Yachi, who has a reputation of being a patriot, gave priority to protecting the order in the ministry over national interests.It is said that Fujisaki pays too much attention to such minor points as schedules and procedures and that he is a typical diplomat who cannot see the forest for the trees. The Embassy is in mortal fear of him. Reportedly, his first concern has been to throw the first ball at a Major League baseball game in which a Japanese player is on the team. He is vying with his predecessor, Kato, a baseball fan who will now be appointed Japan’s baseball commissioner.

Although Shinoda has experience serving in the United States, he is basically a member of the Russia School in the ministry. He served as Russian Division director during the final period of Lower House member Muneo Suzuki‘s overwhelming influence over the ministry. He received a punishment for his Suzuki ties. He is a contemporary of such talented officials as Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Akitaka Saiki, his predecessor, and Koji Tsuruoka, who, it is rumored, will be promoted to the post of director general of the International Legal Affairs Bureau. The impression of Shinoda is that he cannot hold a candle to Saiki in running the Embassy in Washington as deputy chief of mission.

Minister Yutaka Yokoi, the third ranking officer in the Washington Embassy, jointed MOFA in 1979, and is a China School member. He served as director of the China and Mongolia Division.

Therefore, the top three posts at the Embassy in the United States are served by those who are not U.S. experts!” (Source: AET)

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