Tokyo: Katsuya Okada, a senior figure in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), is to be appointed the nation’s new foreign minister, newspapers reported on Saturday.
Japan’s next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has “decided in principle” on the appointment, which will be announced on 16 September when he takes office, the Mainichi Shimbun said, quoting sources close to Hatoyama.
Okada, the secretary-general of the party, has personal connections with influential figures in the United States and is also known as an advocate for Asian-oriented diplomacy.
News reports also said DPJ senior adviser Hirohisa Fujii is a likely candidate for the finance minister post, while former health minister Naoto Kan may be tapped for the head of the newly-formed National Strategy Bureau.
Hatoyama’s DPJ claimed a landslide win in last weekend’s general election, ending more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by outgoing Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party.
The 56-year-old Okada has said Japan must get out from underneath the United States after years in the shadow of its major ally and must reach out more to its Asian neighbours.
“It will be the age of Asia, and in that context it is important for Japan to have its own stance, to play its role in the region,” Okada said in an interview with AFP last month.
He is the second son of Takuya Okada, who remains honorary chairman of one of Japan’s two leading supermarket operators, Aeon. He joined the trade ministry in 1976 after graduating in law from the prestigious University of Tokyo.
Okada, who also studied at Harvard University, was first elected to parliament representing Aso’s LDP in 1990 but bolted for the new opposition party in 1993, when Japan saw its first non-LDP ruling coalition in 38 years.
Okada, dubbed the prince of the DPJ, was elected head of the party in 2004 but forced to step down following a massive defeat in the 2005 general election.
One of his more peculiar hobbies is collecting items that depict frogs. But there is a serious political point—“frog” in Japanese is a homonym for “change”—the slogan used by the DPJ during last month’s election campaign.