Japan shuffles diplomatic cards in US, China and S. Korea

Featured - August 21st, 2012
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Japan will shuffle its diplomatic deck in an attempt to play the right cards; tensions from territorial disputes and negotiations with the US, China, and South Korea have prompted the government to seat three new ambassadors.

Japan’s relations with long-time rival China have been damaged by tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Following the arrest of Hong Kong activists defending Chinese claims over the Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyu, Japanese activists waved their own flag from the island, stirring a massive anti-Japan protest across China.

Uichiro Niwa, Japanese ambassador to China, was previously called back home because of his remarks on Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to buy the islands. His dismissal reflects Japan’s assertive stance on the dispute. According to the Financial Times, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Shinichi Nishimiya, a career diplomat, will take Niwa’s place.

Japan is also facing tensions from South Korea over the disputed Dokdo Islands after President Lee Myung-bak flew to the island. Japanese Foreign Minister, Koichiro Gemba, said that he would take the case to the International Court of Justice and recalled Ambassador to South Korea, Masatoshi Muto. Koro Bessho will take the South Korea desk.

The US’ deployment of the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft despite local protests has threatened to create a rift between the two countries. According to the Japan Times, Vice Foreign Minister, Kenichiro Sasae, will succeed Ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki.