After defeating Ichiro Ozawa in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan election, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has decided to shuffle the country’s leadership a bit. On the security side, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada is to move from the Foreign Ministry to act as the DPJ’s Secretary General. Toshimi Kitazawa will remain at his post at the Defense Ministry.

…Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada will take up a key post as the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) secretary-general, just as Tokyo is in the midst of a territorial spat with Beijing that is straining ties between the two Asian giants.

“I asked him to assume the post knowing I can depend on him for taking care of party affairs in this difficult time,” Kan told reporters on Thursday. (Link)

If Okada really was transferred because Kan thought he would be of better use to the DPJ than to Japan, that’s unfortunate. Okada has only been on the job for a year, but he’s met with various foreign leaders (annoying at least one of them) and building relationships. Okada hasn’t done a stellar job at the Foreign Ministry, but he hasn’t done that badly, either.

It’s hard to imagine an American President switching out a serving Secretary of State and sending her to, run, say, the Democratic Party. (Not that he has the power to do so.) Maybe this is a great move for the DPJ, but it’s a rotten deal for Japan’s image abroad. It really kind of speaks volumes as to the attitude of the country’s elites to foreign affairs. Now the new Foreign Minister has to start all over again–introducing himself to the international community, getting up to speed on policy, etc. Once again, a DPJ politician has placed his party above the interests of Japan abroad.

In the meantime, Transportation Secretary Seiji Maehara (official bio here) has been tapped to replace Okada at the Foreign Ministry. Maehara served as Shadow Minister for Security Affairs and Shadow Minister for the Defense Agency (before it became a Ministry.) Sounds like a solid choice. Born in 1962, he’s a Japanese Gen-Xer, too young to have been at university (and radicalized) like many of the DPJ leadership of the 60s.


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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch