Akiba tapped as Japan’s next national security chief

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
Shigeru Kitamura, left, and Takeo Akiba

The government plans to retire Shigeru Kitamura, secretary general of the National Security Secretariat (NSS), this summer and appoint Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba as his successor.

Kitamura, now 64, is a former National Police Agency official with a long career in the security field. After rising through the ranks at the agency, he earned the trust of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as a secretary during Abe’s first stint in office from 2006 to 2007, before serving as director of Cabinet Intelligence for nearly eight years. In September 2019, he assumed his current post as NSS secretary general during Abe’s fourth cabinet, replacing inaugural NSS chief Shotaro Yachi.

During his tenure at the secretariat, Kitamura promoted economic security policies to stem the outflow of

advanced Japanese technology to foreign powers, and stewarded the establishment of an economic policy division within the NSS in April last year.

Akiba, 62, will become the second former vice foreign minister to serve as NSS chief, after Yachi, in a reshuffling poised to consolidate the ministry’s influence on the NSS. Cabinet approval of the nomination is expected as early as this week.

A highly trusted member of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s circle, Akiba took over as vice minister in January 2018. During his tenure, he served as a driving force behind the “free and open Indo-Pacific” initiative proposed by Japan and adopted by the United States.

On April 16, Akiba became the longest-serving vice foreign minister in the postwar era, surpassing the 1,183 days in office logged by Nobuhiko Ushiba during the Eisaku Sato administration.

As Akiba’s successor, the government plans to appoint Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori, 60, a former director general of the North American Affairs Bureau.