Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will dispatch opposition heavyweight Yoshiro Mori to Russia as a special envoy to lay the groundwork for summit talks on the bilateral and other issues.
Except for ceremonial cases, it is extremely rare to appoint an opposition party lawmaker in such a capacity. Mori served as prime minister from 2000 to 2001.
Mori is expected to visit Moscow in May when Vladimir Putin assumes the post of president.
Noda signaled his intentions April 25 during a meeting at the prime minister’s official residence with former Lower House lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, now head of Shinto Daichi-Shin Minshu (New Party Daichi and true democrats).
Suzuki played a central role in efforts to solve territorial disputes with Russia when Mori led the nation.
Suzuki said Noda told him that he wants to send Mori to Russia. Mori plans to accept the request.
As prime minister, Mori established friendly relationship with Putin, a self-professed Japanophile. The two men would call each other by their first names.
Even after he resigned, Mori visited Russia on more than 10 occasions. Some of those meetings were held in a private capacity.
Mori will meet with Putin before the Group of Eight summit meeting in mid-May, sources said.
Appointing Mori to the high-profile post is seen as a reward for Mori's support of Noda's plans to raise the consumption tax.
Noda intends to gain Mori’s cooperation in securing Diet passage of the related consumption tax legislation.
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