Wednesday evening’s Yomiuri front-paged the disclosure by a source involved in Sino-Japanese relations that the Chinese government has informally decided to appoint Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou as the next ambassador to Japan. The Xi administration is reportedly keen to further accelerate momentum for reconciliation with Tokyo by tapping the seasoned diplomat whose expertise in Japan is as extensive as that of departing Ambassador Cheng Yonghua. Kong has previously served in Japan for more than ten years. While explaining that Kong’s current areas of responsibility include Asia and Korean Peninsula affairs, the daily projected that the Chinese government will shortly ask the GOJ for prior consent to his selection.
In a follow-up today, Yomiuri said that as Kong is a well-known member of the “Japan school” in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, his selection signifies Beijing’s attachment of importance to further improving ties with Tokyo. Since he is the chief delegate to the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s denuclearization, China is reportedly aiming to deepen coordination with Japan on this front. According to a Chinese government source, President Xi allegedly accepted Foreign Minister Wang’s recommendation to tap Kong as Beijing’s envoy to Tokyo. Other dailies ran similar stories, with Asahi saying Kong has already been playing a key role in managing relations with Tokyo, as he co-chaired the bilateral security dialogue held in Beijing in February.