Japan's New Foreign Minister Matsumoto Faces Challenges

Japan has named a new Foreign Minister, Takeaki Matsumoto, at a challenging time for ties with China and Russia.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano gestures during a news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo Wednesday, March 9, 2011. Edano said Wednesday that Takeaki Matsumoto, who currently holds a No. 2 spot in the foreign ministry, will replace outgoing Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who stepped down Sunday for accepting an illegal political donation from a foreigner.

Japan has named a new Foreign Minister, Takeaki Matsumoto, at a challenging time for ties with China and Russia.

The 51-year-old former banker has been the vice foreign minister in Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government, which is struggling to survive.

The country's new leading diplomat comes from an illustrious family - he is a great great grandson of Japan's first prime minister.

Mr Matsumoto replaces Seiji Maehara who resigned due to a donations scandal.

Mr Kan's spokesman, Yukio Edano, said Mr Matsumoto had been chosen for his "capability, knowledge and to ensure continuity of diplomacy".

Japan has in recent days protested against a Chinese overflight of a Japanese ship in the disputed East China Seas.

It was the latest in a series of diplomatic battles over maritime territory, reflecting growing tension over the region's realignment of roles as China's economy and armed forces grow.

Japan is also in a territorial dispute with Russia over the south Kuril Islands.

The resignation of the previous foreign minister, Mr Maehara, was seen as a blow to Prime Minister Kan, who has been struggling to get budget bills through parliament and hold on to his own job.

BBC