Japan nominates currency expert Nakao to head ADB

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan will nominate its top currency official, Takehiko Nakao, to head the Asian Development Bank, succeeding incumbent Haruhiko Kuroda who has been tapped as Japan's next central bank governor, Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Thursday.

He announced MR Nakao's nomination about a week after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated MR Kuroda, an advocate of aggressive monetary easing, to become the next Bank of Japan governor.

The swift move underlines Tokyo's determination to expedite the selection of Mr Kuroda's successor and ensure Japan retains a leadership post it has held since the ADB was established in 1966.

The Manila-based ADB will hold an election among its members to choose a new president in time for its annual meeting in May.

"Nakao has gained extensive experience in international finance and development ... he has broad and in-depth knowledge of the Asian region," Mr Aso told reporters, citing Mr Nakao's close ties with policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region as well as among the Group of 20 advanced and developing economies.

"It is a shared understanding of the international community that heads of international institutions should be elected on an open, transparent and merit basis ... I will seek strong support from all ADB member countries for Nakao's candidacy."

Some officials in Tokyo worry that China and other countries may challenge Japan's dominance at the helm of the regional lender, in which it shares the status of largest shareholder with the United States.

Several emerging economies, emboldened by their rising clout and rapid growth, have begun questioning the tradition of advanced economies taking the top posts at global financial institutions, although Americans have managed to remain in charge at the World Bank and Europeans at the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Kuroda, 68, has served as ADB president since February 2005.

He will step down halfway through his term on March 18, the day before current BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa leaves the job.

Mr Nakao, 57, vice finance minister for international affairs, has represented Japan at Group of Seven and Group of 20 meetings of economic powers since his appointment to the post a year and a half ago. He oversaw Japan's currency market intervention several times in 2011 to stem the yen's rise.

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