Japan will keep its current ambassador to China in Beijing for another month as rising bilateral tensions over territorial disputes in the East China Sea have made it harder for Tokyo to appoint a replacement, Japanese media said.
Citing Japanese government sources, Kyodo news agency reported yesterday that Tokyo "began making arrangements" on Wednesday for Uichiro Niwa to remain ambassador to China until the middle of next month.
Niwa's previously announced successor, the career diplomat Shinichi Nishimiya, collapsed and died on a street last month.
Nishimiya, the head of the Japanese foreign ministry's North American affairs bureau, was regarded as a tough negotiator with Chinese officials.
Niu Zhongjun , a Japanese affairs specialist at the China Foreign Affairs University, said the territorial disputes created complications for Japan in naming a new ambassador to China.
"There are Japanese diplomats who are familiar with China," he said. "But appointing a China-friendly ambassador may trigger criticism among right-wing groups."
Tensions between the countries have been rising, resulting in terse remarks from Beijing and sometimes violent anti-Japanese protests in mainland cities.
Besides the continued presence of Chinese government ships in the vicinity of the Diaoyus, Japan's defence ministry said seven PLA warships were spotted yesterday evening in the international water northeast of Miyakojima, Okinawa prefecture, heading to the Pacific.
It is the first time they have been seen in the waters since the renewed dispute over the Diaoyus in September.
Pictures shown on broadcaster NHK suggested the warships, including destroyers, frigates, as well as a submarine tender, are of the North Sea Fleet.
Takehiko Nakao, Japan's Vice-Minister of Finance for International Affairs, said yesterday he expected that Chinese officials would participate in the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Tokyo next week.
The withdrawal of several major Chinese bank executives from the meeting raised concerns with IMF chief Christine Lagarde that the territorial row could affect the shaky global economy.
In Washington, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told a forum on Wednesday that the US should "not take a position on the sovereignty or any other aspect" of the dispute.
Meanwhile, China is expected to face pressure from Japan and other neighbours in the expanded meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations maritime forum in Manila today over various territorial disputes.