Ambassador from Japan: Who Is Kenichiro Sasae?
Challenged in recent years by territorial disputes with China and South Korea and the bellicose rhetoric of nuclear-armed North Korea, Japan late last year replaced its ambassadors to China, South Korea and the U.S. with senior Foreign Ministry officials. Despite an anti-corruption rule adopted in 2002 barring high ministry bureaucrats from becoming ambassadors, the new ambassador to the U.S. is Kenichiro Sasae, most recently vice minister for foreign affairs, who succeeded Ichiro Fujisaki, who was Tokyo's man in Washington starting in June 2008.
Born circa 1952, Sasae joined the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974. Career highlights from the first 25 years of his diplomatic career include service at the Japanese embassy in Washington, DC, at the embassy in London, U.K., and at Japan's Permanent Mission to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ascending to the top of the Foreign Ministry bureaucracy, Sasae served as deputy director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau from 1999 to 2000, as executive assistant for Foreign Affairs to Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori from 2000 to 2001, deputy director-general of the Foreign Policy Bureau from 2001 to 2002, and director-general of the Economic Affairs Bureau from 2002 to 2005.
From 2005 to 2008, Sasae served as director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, where he was Japan's representative to the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds (held between July 2005 and September 2007) of the “six-party talks” among South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia, that sought to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns that arose when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty in 2003 and developed a nuclear weapons program.
Sasae served as deputy minister for foreign affairs from 2008 to 2010, and as vice minister for foreign affairs, the top civil service job at the Foreign Ministry, from 2010 to 2012.
His wife, Nobuko Sasae, is a professional translator specializing in simultaneous translation. The couple has two children.
To Learn More:
What Lies Ahead for Japan and the United States (by Kenichiro Sasae)
Veteran Diplomats Dominate Key Envoy Posts (Asahi Shimbun editorial)
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