Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
Date of Birth: 24/10/1969
Place of Birth: Kamo City
West Africa is only a recent target of Tokyo’s donor diplomacy and commercial overtures, and just last year Japan opened embassies in Mauritania and Mali. Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Kikuta toured the region in January. In Nouakchott, Kikuta joined Ambassador Hiroshi Azuma and Mauritanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamdi Ould Naha Mint Mouknass in celebrations to mark the embassy’s first anniversary.
In Senegal, Kikuta met Foreign Affairs Minister Madicke Niang and Health Minister Modou Diagne Fada, attended a maternal health seminar at the Ecole Nationale de Développement Sanitaire et Social and inspected Japanese-funded health and training projects. In Mali, she met Foreign Affairs Minister Moctar Ouane and Mines Minister Abou-Bakar Traoré and also stopped off at the Ecole de Maintien de la Paix, the peacekeeping school which Japan partly funds.
Kikuta was born in 1969 in Kamo City, Niigata Prefecture. She attended Heilongjiang University in north-eastern China, then returned to Japan to open a Chinese language school. She entered politics in 1995, winning a seat on the Kamo city assembly, which she held for two terms. A 2000 run for the House of Representatives – for the now-defunct Liberal Party – failed. In 2003, she had more success after the LP merged with the Democratic Party of Japan. Kikuta has represented Niigata’s fourth electoral district for three consecutive terms.
Along the way, Kikuta has risen in the DPJ hierarchy. She was briefly Vice-Secretary General before being chosen by Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara to serve as Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs in September 2010. Her selection reflects the importance Japan places on its often testy relations with China and at the time balanced Maehara’s reputation as a China-hawk.