A TBS noontime program reported on Prime Minister Abe’s plan to change his cabinet lineup next week, with two prominent political analysts projecting that Foreign Minister Kono will not be reappointed since his “candid” remarks have apparently exacerbated tensions with South Korea. One of the commentators said that even though Kono has traveled to more than 120 countries over the past two years, there have been no major foreign policy accomplishments under his stewardship. The analyst also noted that the minister has many “enemies” within the ruling LDP because of his instructions to his ministry deputies that diplomats posted abroad should refrain from attending upon lawmakers who travel overseas in a personal capacity. The two pundits projected that the prime minister is likely to replace Kono with Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Motegi because he is deemed to be extremely skillful in delivering results in such difficult areas as trade negotiations with the U.S. However, Motegi is reportedly unpopular among fellow lawmakers because he is “short-tempered.”
The two analysts predicted that Abe will probably retain Trade Minister Seko because replacing him would send to South Korea the message that Tokyo is ready to compromise on the issue of stricter export controls. They added that Defense Minister Iwaya will probably be replaced.