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Japan PM reshuffles his Cabinet, taps new defense, industry ministers
10 August 2022 10:45

Japan PM reshuffles his Cabinet, taps new defense, industry ministers

TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday reshuffled his Cabinet and party executive lineup, seeking to stem a decline in public support and cut any dubious links to a religious group in the spotlight due to the killing of former premier Shinzo Abe, Kyodo reports.

Kishida hopes the personnel changes, relying on a number of familiar faces, will pave the way for a long-term, stable administration to tackle what he has described as «the biggest challenges of the postwar era,» ranging from COVID-19 and inflation to Russia's war in Ukraine and heightened tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

The prime minister retained his right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki.

Japan is facing growing threats from China, North Korea and Russia, and downside economic risks from surging prices and COVID-19 cases.

Former Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada took the defense portfolio again, as Japan seeks to reinforce its defenses through increased spending.

Hamada, who was defense minister between 2008 and 2009, replaced Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of Abe who was fatally shot during a campaign speech in July.

The assailant has said he held a grudge against the Unification Church, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, and believed the former premier had connections with the group, according to investigators.

While Kishida apparently replaced Kishi due to his poor health, Kishi has admitted he received support from the religious group in past elections.

Followers of the church have been convicted in Japan in connection with money illegally obtained from people through the use of threats, including the citing of «ancestral karma.»

Kishida's new Cabinet includes LDP policy chief Sanae Takaichi, known for her hawkish security views that resonated with Abe, as economic security minister. The party's outspoken PR chief Taro Kono, who was foreign minister between 2017 and 2019, was named digitization minister.

In last year's LDP presidential race, Kishida defeated Takaichi and Kono, who was then seen as the favorite among the public to become prime minister.

From the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito, Tetsuo Saito will continue to serve as land minister.

Kishida's personnel choices reflect his desire to retain the support of conservative members who belong to the largest LDP faction formerly led by Abe, a necessity to shore up his support as party leader and therefore prime minister.

The shocking assassination of Abe is still reverberating within the party that, as part of the ruling coalition, secured a sweeping victory in the House of Councillors election on July 10.

Kishida entrusted Koichi Hagiuda with the key post of LDP policy chief, and gave the industry minister job that he had held to Yasutoshi Nishimura, a former economic revitalization minister who was in charge of the government's COVID-19 response. Both are members of the powerful faction.

«The biggest challenge is to bolster our diplomacy and security policy as the security environment around Japan is increasingly severe,» Hagiuda said at a press conference.

Hagiuda, who has admitted that he gave a guest speech at an event linked to the Unification Church, said he will carefully consider any participation in the future as public concerns have grown.

The roster of LDP executives has been closely watched for any indications of change in Kishida's approach to intraparty power dynamics.

Representing the second- and third-largest intraparty factions, Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi and Vice President Taro Aso retained their posts.

Hiroshi Moriyama, who supported former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga with LDP heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai, will be in charge of the election strategy committee.

The selection of Moriyama, known for his coordination skills gained as Diet affairs chief under Abe and Suga, means Kishida is also taking heed of members who have retreated to the sidelines and distanced themselves from the current government, in an apparent effort to keep the party united.

Slipping public support is causing concern for Kishida, with voters in recent media polls asking for clarity over the relationship between the Unification Church and the LDP as well as an explanation for why a state funeral on Sept. 27 for Abe is necessary.

Abe's assailant, Tetsuya Yamagami, has told investigators that his mother's donations to the religious group ruined his family's finances. This, along with revelations linking the group and some politicians, has led to public scrutiny.

To ease public concern, Kishida has said all members of the new Cabinet and LDP executive lineup will check and review any links to the Unification Church.

Kishida had enjoyed relatively strong public support since becoming prime minister last October. For the past 10 months, Kishida has been prioritizing the government's COVID-19 response and steps to fight accelerating inflation that he has blamed largely on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Key events after the personnel changes include work to draw up a budget for the next fiscal year from April, the state funeral for Abe and a review of national security strategy and defense policy documents.


Photo: english.kyodonews.net




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