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Japanese PM taps new Cabinet ministers to freshen image

By WANG XU | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-12 09:26

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference after reshuffling his cabinet at his official residence in Tokyo, Sept 11, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought in new foreign and defense ministers on Wednesday, and appointed a rising political star as environment minister in a Cabinet reshuffle as he prepares for a tax hike in October and aims to revise the nation's pacifist Constitution.

Emphasizing his new cabinet is characterized by "stability and challenges", Abe retained key allies and heavyweights while introducing 13 new ministers.

"This is a lineup to push hard for a new era nation-building," Abe said at a news conference after a certification ceremony at the Japanese Imperial Palace.

"From now on there will only be challenges, and I will always carry out bold reforms as a challenger," he said.

Former economy minister Toshimitsu Motegi was appointed as the new foreign minister, seen as a promotion for his recent work in achieving a trade deal with the United States as the top negotiator.

The 63-year-old lawmaker is a Harvard-educated political veteran who worked as a McKinsey consultant before winning a lower house seat in 1993.

Consequently, outgoing foreign minister Taro Kono was shifted to the defense portfolio, in a move seen as reinforcing Tokyo's hard line toward South Korea at a time of worsening ties between the two allies of the United States.

An eye-catching appointment on Wednesday was former Japanese prime minster Junichiro Koizumi's 38-year-old son, Shinjiro Koizumi, who was named environment minister. He is the third youngest Cabinet minister since the end of World War II in a country where seniority is prioritized in many sectors including politics.

As a rising political star, Koizumi had long enjoyed intense media spotlight in Japan with the latest focusing on his marriage to television broadcaster Christel Takigawa, which was announced by the prime minister's office.

Concerning Koizumi's appointment, Abe said, "We are looking forward to innovative initiatives unique to younger people on global issues such as marine plastics and climate change."

Although bringing in many new faces, Abe kept key allies and aides within his Cabinet and top layers of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to shore up his position for the next two years.

Taro Aso remains as deputy prime minister and finance minister. Yoshihide Suga kept his job as chief cabinet secretary while Toshihiro Nikai will still be LDP's secretary-general.

"The new Cabinet is Abe's final push to realize his dream of revising the pacifist constitution and to start an open race to pick the next prime minister," said Yu Qiang, a researcher of Japan studies at the University of International Relations in Beijing.

Set to become Japan's longest-serving prime minister in November, Abe had long-hoped to achieve his ambition of amending Japan's postwar constitution to change the status of the country's Self Defense Forces.

"We will strongly promote discussions on the constitutional amendment under the new system," Abe said, adding: "The LDP should demonstrate strong leadership at the Constitution review board."

AFP contributed to this story.

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