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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 08:09 GMT
Cabinet blow for Koizumi
New Japanese FM Yoriko Kawaguchi
Yoriko Kawaguchi: Not the PM's first choice
The former head of the United Nations refugee agency, Sadako Ogata, has turned down an offer to become Japanese foreign minister - a further blow to the Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Instead he has appointed another woman, the Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

Koizumi with Sadako Ogata
Koizumi wanted experienced diplomat Sadako Ogata
The prime minister's approval rating has plummeted since his dismissal this week of the popular Makiko Tanaka.

Cabinet members made successive appeals to Mrs Ogata, the former chief of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees chief, to become foreign minister.

She is highly respected in Japan for her 10 years with the refugee agency and would have helped limit some of the damage caused by the sacking of Mrs Tanaka.

But she refused, and instead Yoriko Kawaguchi was appointed.

Easier ride

Mrs Kawaguchi is not a member of parliament but a former bureaucrat with little political clout.

Kawaguchi career
July 2000: Takes over environment portfolio
1993: First female director at Suntory - Japan's largest whisky distillery
1965: Joins Ministry of International Trade and Industry
Phd economics from Yale
Married with two children
Age: 61
Her appointment will be welcomed by officials in the foreign ministry, who felt threatened by her predecessor's efforts to root out corruption.

Prime Minister Koizumi has suffered enormous political damage following his midnight dismissal of Mrs Tanaka on Tuesday.

She was hugely popular with the public and was seen as a champion of reform, battling resistance from bureaucrats and conservative bosses in the ruling party.

Early opinion polls show very little support for the prime minister's decision.

Falling credibility

Some show his extraordinarily high approval rating has been cut in half.

Mr Koizumi said he had to sack Mrs Tanaka because her constant rows with officials were disrupting the government, but most Japanese believe he caved in to the old guard.

His credibility as a reformer out to change the way Japan is run may never recover.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Mr Koizumi's popularity is suffering a huge set back"
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See also:

01 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Koizumi's honeymoon ends
30 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi steps into foreign ministry
29 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Axe falls on Japanese foreign minister
26 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's controversial foreign minister
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
30 Jan 02 | Media reports
Japanese papers see trouble for PM
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