World News

Factbox: Japan's new foreign minister Maehara

TOKYO (Reuters) - Seiji Maehara took over as Japan’s new foreign minister in a cabinet reshuffle on Friday, replacing Katsuya Okada.

Following are some facts about Maehara:

- Maehara, 48, is considered a defense policy expert who favors close ties with Japan’s biggest ally the United States.

- In 2005, as head of the Democratic Party -- the main opposition at the time -- he expressed concern over China’s military modernization, a comment which Japanese media said prompted Chinese President Hu Jintao to decline to meet him on a subsequent visit to Beijing.

-- But he has said that if he became prime minister he would build good ties with China and reorient Tokyo’s diplomacy toward Asia while staying on good terms with the United States.

-- Maehara has served as transport minister since last September, taking a hands-on approach to policy such as the government’s push to sell infrastructure projects abroad.

- He has also doubled as minister in charge of issues for the southern island of Okinawa, so is well-versed on a row over the relocation of a U.S. airbase on the island that risks potential friction with Washington.

- Maehara ended his brief stint as the Democrats’ leader in 2006 after backing what turned out to be unproved allegations against an executive in the then ruling party. His hobbies include taking pictures of steam locomotive trains, and one of his photos was published in a calendar.

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Michael Watson