Gildas Le Lidec, the French Ambassador in Tokyo, is an old Japan hand, on his third tour here. He has spent most of the rest of his career in South and Southeast Asia, and Africa. (Most recently, he was been ambassador to Ivory Coast and Liberia.) He did have three tours back home, twice in science, technology, and cultural affairs, and once in humanitarian activities. 60 years old, he will be transferred to Mozambique in January.
According to a Yomiuri dispatch from Paris by Michio Hayashi, Ambassador le Lidec will be replaced by the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Europe*. As Mr. Hayashi assures us, “it is unusual for the Ministry of Foreign Affair to see a Deputy Minister being appointed as Ambassador to Japan.” To him, “it appears that the objective of the Sarkozy administration, having fewer contact points than the previous President Chirac, who was pro-Japan, is to advertise a stance that puts a high value on relations with Japan.”
How nice. However, Mr. Hayashi mentions later in the article that “[the] Deputy Minister is known as a friend of former Prime Minister de Villepan**.” Yes. Mr. de Villepin, career diplomat, President Chirac’s protégé and intended successor, whose dislike for Mr. Sarkozy － the feeling is apparently mutual － is well documented.
So, has Mr. Hayashi has fulfilled his journalistic responsibilities? The Yomiuri international desk? I report, you decide.
* His name is rendered phonetically in Japanese characters, and I have been unable to trace it on the Internet; help me here, RD.
** Wikipedia as of 8 December 2007 notes that Mr. de Villepin “has a Chinese friend, Catherine Cheng.” This is yet another contact point with Japan. You see, I am Japanese, and I have three Taiwanese friends myself, and all of them happen to be women. None of them, however, are named Katherine Cheng. And my name is not, of course, Dominique de Villepin.