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Abe reshuffles Cabinet, stepping up constitution revision drive

  • October 2, 2018
  • , Kyodo News , 07:52 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe retained key ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle Tuesday to maintain government stability as he has stepped up efforts to realize his long-cherished goal of revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

 

Abe, who was re-elected as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s president last month, reappointed six of his 19 Cabinet members including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as finance minister, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

 

Among the new faces, Takeshi Iwaya, 61, an eight-term House of Representatives member, assumed the post of defense minister.

 

At a press conference later in the day, Abe reiterated calls for the LDP to submit its constitutional amendment proposals to the extraordinary Diet session to be convened later this month, saying, “Without presenting concrete articles, we will not be able to gain support from Komeito and the public.”

 

Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, remains cautious over Abe’s plan to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 in the supreme law, specifically how to describe Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

 

Stressing the need to try and obtain widespread understanding regardless of party affiliation, the prime minister did not clarify when he would aim to call a national referendum needed to revise the Constitution.

 

In the latest Cabinet reshuffle, Abe picked 12 newcomers and one with previous ministerial experience. He also picked some new Cabinet members from among veteran lawmakers who had long wished to become ministers, apparently in a bid to appease frustration within the party.

 

Although Abe has touted female empowerment as one of his key policies, he named only one woman in his new Cabinet — one fewer than in the previous lineup.

 

The new Cabinet was formally launched following an attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace in the afternoon.

 

In the LDP presidential election on Sept. 20, Abe beat his sole rival, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, by a comfortable margin. The victory gave Abe another three-year term through September 2021 and a chance to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

 

Abe replaced farm minister Ken Saito, who backed Ishiba in the leadership race, but tapped three-term lower house member Takashi Yamashita, a 53-year-old former prosecutor and lawyer, from Ishiba’s faction as justice minister.

 

Prioritizing continuity in key policy areas, Abe also retained Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko and economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

 

Seko doubles as minister for economic cooperation with Russia and Motegi will be tasked with negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement with the United States, which Abe and President Donald Trump recently agreed to start.

 

From Komeito, Keiichi Ishii retained the post of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister.

 

Masahiko Shibayama, 52, one of the newcomers and a special adviser to Abe in the LDP, took up the position of education, culture, sports, science and technology minister.

 

Former Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto, 67, returned to the Cabinet as health, labor and welfare minister.

 

Upper house member and former Finance Ministry bureaucrat Satsuki Katayama, 59, the sole woman in the new lineup, became minister in charge of regional revitalization.

Earlier Tuesday, Abe also revamped the LDP leadership.

 

The LDP president appointed former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as head of the party’s panel promoting constitutional revision and welfare minister Katsunobu Kato as chairman of the party’s decision-making General Council. Both are known to be close aides of Abe.

 

LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and policy chief Fumio Kishida retained their posts

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