Photo/Illutration Wu Jianghao, one of China’s assistant foreign ministers (Captured from Chinese Foreign Ministry website)

BEIJING--An experienced Japan hand will shortly take over as China’s ambassador to Tokyo, according to diplomatic sources.

Wu Jianghao, 59, an assistant foreign minister, is set to replace Kong Xuanyou, 63, who is expected to leave Japan this month, the sources said.

Kong took up the post in 2019 amid moves by the two countries to improve bilateral ties. He was at the center of negotiations to arrange a state visit to Japan in 2020 by Chinese President Xi Jinping. But the visit, deemed vital by both countries, fell through because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and is still pending.

Wu is no stranger to Japan, having worked twice before at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo for roughly 10 years in total. He went on to serve as ambassador to Sri Lanka and director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asian affairs bureau. He became assistant foreign minister in 2020.

Recent Chinese ambassadors to Japan have also served concurrently on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Both Kong and his predecessor, Cheng Yonghua, were members.

Wu was named as one of the new members of that conference in January. But because he turns 60 in September, Wu would have reached the mandatory retirement age for Chinese bureaucrats if he remained in his current post. For that reason, it is believed that Wu was named the next ambassador to Japan at this point.

Wu, taking part in an online dialogue last November involving businesspeople and former high-ranking government officials from Japan and China, said: “We are paying close attention to the activization of the economy and a positive spiral of economic growth and distribution of benefits that the Kishida Cabinet is emphasizing. China and Japan should seek to expand its areas of cooperation and strengthen regional cooperation.”