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Departing Japanese ambassador’s farewell dinners raise fear of COVID-19 infection in DC

  • February 10, 2021
  • , Sentaku
  • JMH Translation

During the period leading up to the change of administration, the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. fell into a state of chaos, according to a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It was a chaotic situation brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic combined with the boss losing his mind,” the source said.

 

Last year, several local employees at the Japanese Embassy got infected with the virus. “Starting toward the end of the year, a number of diplomats at the embassy also got the virus,” said the same source. “Other diplomats who had been in close contact with those infected had to be quarantined as well.” Amid this situation, Ambassador Shinsuke Sugiyama, who was scheduled to leave Washington by the end of January, was dining out every night with 10 to 20 guests, including U.S. government officials, business leaders, and media representatives, ostensibly to “say his goodbyes.” The dinner parties caused a stir among the Japanese business community: “If a cluster infection occurred, it would have been caused by Mr. Sugiyama.”

 

According to a reporter of a major news outlet, many expect that MOFA will regain control of Japan’s diplomacy as ministry-level negotiations resume under the Biden administration. However, the most urgent issue that awaits Koji Tomita, the new ambassador selected on account of his strong connections with the administration, will likely be to put COVID-19 countermeasures in place.

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