Japan's Abe reshuffles cabinet, LDP lineup amid waning public support

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-03 16:27:55|Editor: Yamei
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front C) and his cabinet members pose for photos at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 3, 2017. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) executive lineup on Thursday in a bid to restore public faith in a scandal-mired government. (Xinhua/Ma Ping)

TOKYO, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) executive lineup on Thursday in a bid to restore public faith in a scandal-mired government.

Taro Kono, former minister in charge of administrative reform, has taken over the foreign minister portfolio from Fumio Kishida.

Kono is the son of Yohei Kono who in 1993 as Chief Cabinet Secretary issued the landmark Kono Statement which admits the Imperial Japanese Army coerced and forcibly recruited "comfort women" to work in military brothels during World War II.

Kishida, for his part, widely believed to be a front-runner to take charge of the ruling party in the future, will henceforth chair the party's Policy Research Council.

Kishida had reportedly told Abe he wanted the senior party post, with sources adding that the experience he will gain from his new position will serve him well in a leadership push in the future.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga retained his position as the government's top spokesperson and Finance Minister Taro Aso will continue on in his role.

Following the abrupt resignation of Tomomi Inada as defense minister last week, to take responsibility for a coverup scandal involving concealing contentious activities records of Japanese troops on a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, lower house member Itsunori Onodera has been handed the portfolio, in a repeat of the role he held between 2012 and 2014.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, who previously served as agriculture minister, will take over the education minister's portfolio and former environment minister Shunichi Suzuki will serve as minister in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Former LDP policy chief Toshimitsu Motegi will concurrently serve as economic revitalization minister and minister in charge of human resources development, with the latter role part of Abe's new policy initiative aimed at creating more job opportunities for seniors in Japan's rapidly aging society.

Seiko Noda, who had served as chair of the LDP General Council, was picked by Abe to serve as internal affairs minister, taking over from Sanae Takaichi.

In terms of the LDP's junior Komeito party ally, Hiroshige Seko, who serves as Economy, Trade and Industry Minister as well as minister for economic cooperation with Russia, and Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii, both retained their posts in the reshuffle.

Upper house lawmaker Masaji Matsuyama will serve as minister for promoting dynamic engagement of all citizens, and LDP lower house member Yoko Kamikawa will continue as justice minister.

The new-look cabinet comprises 13 members who have either served in the former cabinet or had previous experience in ministerial positions, and sees six new faces, with the revamped lineup aimed at restoring public trust.

In his LDP executive lineup, Abe retained Masahiko Komura as vice president and Toshihiro Nikai as secretary general so as to ensure continuity in the top echelons.

Such continuity is in a bid to show a united footing when the administration has been publicly criticized as being in a state of scandal-plagued disarray, sources said Thursday.

Komura has the ear of a number of LDP factions' movers-and-shakers and is known to bring lawmakers with disparate opinions over contentious issues together.

This may be a boon for Abe who still plans to revise Japan's pacifist Constitution, which remains a highly contentious and divisive issue politically, socially and internationally.

Since assuming the post of secretary general last year, Nikai, for his part, has been a staunch advocate of Abe and has made no secret of his unwavering support for the prime minister.

He also has the ear of the LDP's junior Komeito coalition ally, which will be essential for Abe ahead of and during the next general election, the sources said.

LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita will now serve as head of the party's decision-making General Council and Hiroshi Moriyama, former agriculture minister, will assume Takeshita's former position in the Diet Affairs Committee.

Former Education Minister Ryu Shionoya, meanwhile, will chair the party's Election Strategy Committee.

In the selection of his new executive lineup, Abe has assigned roles to appease all major LDP party factions.

He has achieved this by appointing the top roles to their members, with each of the five top factions now being represented by either the vice president or the four next most important posts, political watchers pointed out Thursday.

The reshuffle comes a year since Abe last rejigged his cabinet and at a time when public approval ratings have sunk to their lowest since Abe retook office in 2012.

The LDP leadership and the cabinet had sparked widespread public mistrust according to a number of media polls, partly due to an influencing-peddling scandal alleging the prime minister used his position to ensure the construction of new veterinary school to be run by his friend in a special deregulated zone.

Public support also waned following an historic pummeling the LDP took in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, which is widely seen as a barometer of the future direction of national politics, by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's newly-formed Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party).

The reshuffle follows the resignation of the outgoing cabinet after an extraordinary cabinet meeting was held in the prime minister's official residence earlier in the day.

The new cabinet will be formally inaugurated in an attestation ceremony to be held at the Imperial Palace later in the day.