By Hiroshi Maetani, Mainichi Newspapers
The government is now coordinating to have Katsutoshi Kawano, 64, chief of staff at the Self-Defense Forces’ Joint Staff, retire this spring, sources said. Kawano is the SDF’ top brass officer at the Defense Ministry and is now the longest-serving SDF chief of staff. Late last year the government revised its basic plan for Japan’s defense policy, the “National Defense Program Guidelines,” so the government judged that he should now be retired. Ground Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Koji Yamazaki, 58, is regarded as a likely successor. Maritime Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Yutaka Murakawa, 61, is expected to step down the same time.
Kawano became SDF chief of staff in October 2014. He was to have retired at the age of 62, but as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe highly trusts him, his retirement has been postponed three times. In May 2017, he said, “I’m grateful” to Prime Minister Abe for his plan to explicitly incorporate the existence of the Self-Defense Forces into the Constitution. This was regarded as a problematical statement.