By Mei Jingya, Sina English
Shinichi Nishimiya, Japan's ambassador-designate to China, died Sunday morning at a Tokyo hospital, local media reported. Nishimiya was found unconscious on a street near his home Sept. 13 and was placed under intensive care after surgery. Government sources disclosed earlier that Nishimiya's conditions were not good.
There was no official explanation on what caused his death yet. Some speculated that he may have died from acute cerebral haemorrhage, citing the strain of overwork during the APEC summit. Nishimiya recently led Japan's preparations for the APEC forum in Vladivostok in a company with PM Noda. Police have ruled out the possibility of foul play, because there was no external injury.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he was very saddened by Nishimiya’s pass-away. Amid flared-up between the two countries, Japanese government has begun to find a new ambassador to China after Shinichi Nishimiya was hospitalized, in order to avoid the situation of having a vacant ambassador's post.
Nishimiya’s potential successor will be selected from current officials and those who once worked in Japan’s foreign ministry, a government source said. Japan’s cabinet will make a final decision for the replacement after the candidate is decided on and also obtains approval from the Chinese government.
As deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, Nishimiya participated in negotiations with foreign countries during the recent APEC summit in Russia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks representing Japan. Nishimiya went to the APEC summit with PM Yoshihiko Noda earlier this month.
Born in 1952, Nishimiya studied at the University of Tokyo and joined the foreign ministry of Japan in 1976. From 2005 to 2006, he served as a consul at the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Since 2007, he was the director of policy coordination division, in change of foreign relations with the United States, S.Korea, China and ASEAN nations.
Shinichi Nishimiya was deputy minister in charge of economic affairs since January 2011. He reportedly had wide connections in both the U.S. and China, which is why the Noda administration chose him to succeed the current Japanese ambassador to China in the first place.
Potential successor to be selected from the “China School”？
The Japanese government has begun looking for new candidates to fill the post. According to Japanese officials, major contenders include Mitoji Yabunaka, Japanese vice minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of administration, and Shigekazu Sato, also a career diplomat like Yabunaka and the late Nishimiya.
Mitoji Yabunaka, 64, is the current Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of administration. Prior to his current position, he served as Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affair's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.
Shigekazu Sato is 62, a member of the so-called “China School” in Japan’s foreign ministry. In 1995, Sato was the Director of the China and Mongolia Division of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau. From 2000 to 2002, he served as Deputy Director-General of the bureau. In August 2006, Sato was appointed Consul-General of the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong.
Kyodo News said it may take some time before Japan finally finds a successor to Shinichi Nishimiya, for all the potential candidates have to obtain approval of the Chinese government. And according to a rule of Japan’s foreign ministry, new ambassador will take office within 40 days after being appointed.
Other sources say the Noda administration is also considering the possibility of extending current ambassador Uichiro Niwa’s term.