Local media said Tuesday former Ambassador to China Yuji Miyamoto has emerged as a possible successor to Shinichi Nishimiya, who died Sunday just days after being appointed Japan’s top envoy to China.
Miyamoto, 66, with his working experience in China and connections with Chinese senior officials, may prove the best candidate to take up the post at a time when tensions between the two neighbors are mounting due to territorial rows over the Diaoyu Islands.
Kyodo quoted Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba as saying that “we are in the middle of coordination right now. It’s better to make it fast.”
As ambassador to China from 2006 to 2010, Miyamoto was tasked with mending the fences when bilateral relations have markedly deteriorated by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which is used to honor dead soldiers, including Class-A war criminals.
Miyamoto was succeeded by Uichiro Niwa, the private-sector appointee who was scheduled to be replaced by Nishimiya.
On Monday, the Foreign Ministry said Nishimiya, who had been hospitalized since collapsing on a street in Tokyo on Thursday, died from “acute heart failure”.
Other candidates being considered for the position include 64- year-old Mitoji Yabunaka, a former high-ranking diplomat, as well as 62-year-old Shigekazu Sato, the newly appointed Japanese Ambassador to Thailand. The new ambassador is widely hoped to cool things down and improve ties between the two biggest Asian economies.