TOKYO, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has chosen Yoriko Kawaguchi, his environment minister, to become his foreign minister after his first choice, Sadako Ogata, turned him down.
Kawaguchi, 61, has extensive diplomatic and business experience, serving as minister in the Japanese Embassy in Washington, and as a managing director with Suntory Ltd., one of Japan's leading brewers and liquor manufacturers. She is single and has a master's degree in economics from Yale University in the United States.
The government announced Kawaguchi's appointment after Ogata, who is in New York, declined Koizumi's offer to replace the popular, but strong-willed Makiko Tanaka, who was fired this week.
Reports said Ogata felt she was too old, 74, for the job and wanted to spend more time with her family.
Ogata is a fellow with the Ford Foundation and serves as Koizumi's special representative on Afghan affairs. She drew praise from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others for her successful co-chairing of the Afghan aid conference held in Tokyo last month.
Kawaguchi, who is popular with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, something Tanaka was not, has served as Minister of the Environment since January 2001, succeeding her appointment as Minister of State and Director-General of the Environment Agency in July 2000.
Aside from her cabinet position, she serves as a member of the Trilateral Commission and a special member of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives.
Prior to her appointment to the cabinet, she was a managing director of Suntory Ltd. since 1993, responsible for customer relations and environment.
At that time she was also serving on Japanese Government advisory boards, namely the Regulatory Reform Committee, the Central Council for Education, and the University Council. She was also on the board of directors of the Japan Center for International Exchange and on the advisory committee of the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation.
Before joining Suntory Ltd., she worked in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) of the Japanese Government. Her past assignments for MITI included Director-General of the Economic Cooperation Department and Deputy Director-General for Global Environmental Affairs. She also had worked for the World Bank as an economist and for the Embassy of Japan in the United States as Minister.
She has a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Tokyo.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said he expected Kawaguchi would be sworn in as foreign minister in time for Saturday's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who arrived in Tokyo on Friday for a two-day visit.