Ihara to become new head of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau

The government has decided to promote Junichi Ihara, chief of the Foreign Ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, to director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, government sources said Friday.

Ihara, 57, will replace Shinsuke Sugiyama, 60, who has already been tapped to become deputy foreign minister in place of Akitaka Saiki, 60. Saiki will become vice foreign minister, the top bureaucrat at the ministry.

Kuni Sato, 58, will be promoted to press secretary, becoming the first woman to assume the ministry's director general-level position, in line with the policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to promote women.

The current top bureaucrat, Chikao Kawai, 60, will leave his post, while Koji Tsuruoka, 60, current deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, who doubles as Japan's top negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, will also leave his ministerial position to focus on the TPP negotiations.

The personnel reshuffle at the ministry will be effective as of June 28 except for Tsuruoka, who will be transferred to the Cabinet Secretariat for the TPP talks on July 22.