London Welcomes Appointment of New Japanese Ambassador to Britain
J. Sean Curtin (GLOCOM, Fellow and Asia Times)
On Friday, the Japanese government announced the appointment of 62-year-old Yoshiji Nogami as Japan's new ambassador to Britain. For the last few years, Mr. Nogami has been based in London working as a minister in the capital's Japanese embassy and holding the post of a visiting fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA). He was a former Vice Foreign Minister at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1999-2002), a post that made him the ministry's top bureaucrat.
During his time in London, Nogami has been quite active in his capacity as a senior visiting fellow at RIIA. He has attended many conferences and seminars throughout Europe, where he has been both an eloquent speaker as well as a lively participant.
He is highly regarded in many European capitals where he is known for his keen intellect and ability to clearly articulate Japan's particular worldview, especially its Middle East policy.
Nogami is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs having served as Deputy Director General of the Middle Eastern and African Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1991-93) and was co-chairperson of the multinational Middle East Peace Negotiations (1992-94). He understands the region's complexities well and is familiar with all the major players.
The new ambassador speaks English fluently and is a truly awesome debater, a skill which allows him to display his phenomenal mastery of facts and details. In British political circles, he is considered a first-class choice for the post of ambassador to the UK. His appointment has also been warmly greeted by the business community in London.
His expertise in Middle Eastern affairs should greatly help Japan raise its European profile in this important foreign policy sphere at a time when world attention is focused on the region. His in-depth understanding of Middle Eastern countries should be of particular interest to Britain as its foreign policy is currently heavily focused towards the region.
In Britain, Nogami's appointment has been positively received, but some Japanese politicians have considered his promotion to ambassador as controversial. This is largely due to a highly public disagreement Nogami had when he was Vice Foreign Minister with the colorful former Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka.
In January 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi removed both Nogami and Tanaka from their respective posts because of the dispute which was over who was responsible for barring two Japanese nongovernmental organizations from a Tokyo-hosted international conference on aid for Afghanistan.
Nogami was never found to have actually done anything remotely wrong and resigned in order to draw a line under the embarrassing disagreement with his boss, who was renowned for her unconventional management style.
After stepping down as Vice Foreign Minister, Nogami advised the new Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Middle East affairs. He then headed for London where he has continued to pursue his research on the region at the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Nogami is married to a British woman and has three sons. He will replace Japan's current ambassador to Britain Masaki Orita.
Profile: Yoshiji Nogami
Appointed Japan's Ambassador to Britain on Friday 10 September 2004
Senior Visiting Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (2003-2004)
Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs (1999-2002).
Ambassador of Japan to the OECD (1997-99)
Consul General of Japan to Hong Kong (1994-96)
Deputy Director General of the Foreign Policy Bureau (1993-94)
Co-chairperson of the Multinational Middle East Peace Negotiations (1992-94).
Deputy Director General of the Middle Eastern and African Affairs (1991-93)
1969 joints Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1969 graduates from the University of Tokyo