Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa has named a veteran trade negotiator to replace Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe, who resigned earlier Tuesday because of failing health.
Kabun Muto, 66, a former farm and trade minister, told reporters he had accepted the position. He was to be formally appointed foreign minister today."It is a very tough time for Japan's diplomacy," Mr. Muto said on national television. "I would like to inherit the positive diplomacy of Mr. Watanabe."
Mr. Watanabe, 69, told Mr. Miyazawa he was stepping down as foreign minister and deputy prime minister because of his health. While Mr. Muto will fill the foreign minister portfolio, the deputy premiership will remain vacant, Mr. Miyazawa said.
Last year, Mr. Watanabe underwent gall-bladder surgery and was recently commuting to parliament from hospital after becoming ill in February.
The English-language Daily Yomiuri, sister publication of Japan's biggest daily, recently reported Mr. Watanabe had cancer and urged Mr. Miyazawa to look for a replacement.
Mr. Muto's immediate task is to co-chair, together with Finance Minister Yoshiro Hayashi, next week's crucial meeting of the foreign and finance ministers of the Group of 7 industrialized countries.