Japan names new foreign minister

March 10, 2011 - 0:0

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan's centre-left government on Wednesday named as its new foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto, who hails from a powerful political family but faces tricky relations with the U.S., China and Russia.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan picked the former banker and great great grandson of Japan's first prime minister because of his ""capability, knowledge and to ensure continuity of diplomacy"", said Kan's top spokesman Yukio Edano.
Matsumoto, 51, replaces Seiji Maehara, an outspoken security hawk who resigned this week after just six months on the job over a donations scandal, dealing a blow to the embattled Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government.
The newcomer is due to make his debut next week in Paris at a foreign ministers meeting of the Group of Eight industrialised nations, and then host his counterparts from China and South Korea later this month.
Japan's new top diplomat, who most recently served as a vice foreign minister, takes the post at a time when his government must deal with a series of diplomatic headaches with key allies and powerful neighbours.
China, which has just overtaken Japan as the world's number two economy, last year fought its most heated diplomatic battle in years with its traditional rival, sparked by sea collisions near a disputed island chain.
A series of tense confrontations between their vessels and aircraft has continued in and over the East China Sea, where the Asian giants have competing territorial claims, including over areas rich in oil and gas.
A long-running territorial dispute is also at the heart of a row that has flared up again in recent months between Japan and Russia.