Japan to appoint Okamura as top financial diplomat - sources

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is set to appoint international policy veteran Kenji Okamura as its top financial diplomat representing the country at international forums such as G7/G20 meetings, five government sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday.

Okamura, 58, currently international bureau chief at the Ministry of Finance (MOF), will replace Yoshiki Takeuchi, who will retire this month after serving in his post for one year in a mid-year personnel reshuffle, the sources said on condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to media.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet will decide on the personnel change next week, which will take effect as early as July 20, they said.

The appointment of Okamura comes at a delicate time when Japan needs to closely coordinate with the Group of Seven advanced nations and Group of 20 major economies to respond to the global downturn wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Okamura is expected to fill the bill given his experience as the MOF international organisations division chief in 2008-2010 spearheading Japan’s efforts to battle the global financial crisis by coordinating with G7/G20 and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Okamura’s duty as vice finance minister for international affairs would include overseeing any currency interventions if necessary to prevent Japan’s export-led economy from slipping deeper into a recession.

Japan has not intervened in the currency market since the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear crisis, although authorities tend to verbally intervene to stem spikes in the yen that risk hurting the export-reliant economy.

Takeuchi has served in his post for just one year, a relatively short period compared with some of his predecessors.

Takeuchi’s predecessor Masatsugu Asakawa, now the head of Asian Development Bank (ADB), served for four years, the longest serving financial diplomat. Asakawa’s term exceeded the previous record set by Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who was vice finance minister for international affairs for 3-1/2 years to January 2003.

The government will also name Mitsuru Ota, 60, as vice finance minister - the top bureaucrat at the finance ministry - to replace Shigeaki Okamoto who is retiring, the sources said.

Reporting by Takaya Yamaguchi and Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, William Maclean