Taipei informed Tokyo yesterday that Representative to Japan John Feng (馮寄台) would be replaced by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳), a government statement said.
In an apparent departure from the government’s standard practice of announcing its designation of a top diplomat after it receives approval from the host country, the appointment of Shen was made public soon after it notified Japan yesterday morning.
The designation of Shen “did not require prior notice to or approval from Japan,” a precedent that has been followed since the two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1972, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said by telephone.
There is no mechanism in place for the two countries to consult each other over appointments of representatives, Yang said.
The starting date of Shen’s posting as envoy to Japan has not yet been decided, he said.
Rejecting Chinese-language Apple Daily’s criticism that questioned Shen’s competence because he “doesn’t speak Japanese,” Shen said he is capable of speaking and understanding Japanese, adding he would communicate with local people in Japanese after he assumes the position and vows to “deliver a public speech in Japanese in six months.”
The 58-year-old Shen joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1979 and is fluent in English.
Shen said he reads newspapers and journals in Japanese regularly, having learned Japanese while in college and attending Japanese-language training classes at the ministry’s Foreign Service Institute.
During his three decades in the nation’s foreign service, he has been posted to New York, Vancouver, Ottawa and Prague, and has also worked in the ministry’s North American, West Asian and international organization affairs departments.
Shen began tending to Japan-related affairs after he was promoted to vice minister in May 2010 to oversee affairs related to the Asia-Pacific region.
The 65-year-old Feng’s application to retire, citing his wish to care for his mother, had been approved, the ministry said.
Feng was rumored to be in line for the foreign minister post in an expected second-stage Cabinet reshuffle, which is expected to take place in early May before President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-inauguration on May 20.
While Feng could not be reached for comment yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞), who is in Japan with the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China to observe post-disaster reconstructions ahead of the March 11 anniversary of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, said Feng had denied the rumor.