All national papers reported extensively on a press conference by Prime Minister Abe last night following the launch of his new cabinet. He vowed to amend the Constitution “without fail” and announced a plan to form a new government taskforce to create a viable and sustainable social security system. Asked about his decision to retain Deputy Prime Minister Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, LDP Secretary General Nikai, and Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida, the premier said he wanted to create a “stable political foundation” for implementing constitutional amendment.
While pointing out that many of the new cabinet members are close confidants of Abe, Asahi and Mainichi said he probably tapped the LDP’s Shinichiro Koizumi as environment minister in a bid to deflect potential criticism that his new cabinet is mainly composed of his friends and allies. The dailies noted that TV coverage of the cabinet reshuffle was largely focused on Koizumi’s appointment.
Mainichi asserted that the appointment of Motegi as foreign minister and Kono as defense minister signaled the premier’s determination not to make concessions to Seoul. The daily said Motegi is known as a “tough negotiator,” so he is expected to pressure the Moon administration to change its position on the bilateral dispute over compensation for requisitioned workers. On U.S.-Japan relations, the liberal paper said that while the two nations are expected to sign a new trade accord later this month, they will need to launch separate negotiations in the near future on Japan’s host nation support for the U.S. military.
Nikkei speculated that PM Abe’s decision to keep Kono in his cabinet was based on public opinion, claiming that the prime minister took note of the many messages posted on social media supporting Kono’s use of strong language against the Moon administration. The premier reportedly gave Kono a different post based on the assessment that his departure from the cabinet would send the “wrong signal” to Seoul. The business daily separately reported that FM Motegi will make his diplomatic debut when he attends the UN General Assembly in New York in late September, forecasting that he may hold talks with his foreign counterparts, including Secretary of State Pompeo, on the sidelines. The paper added that the Motegi-Kono team will be tasked with figuring out how Japan should respond to the U.S.’s call for participation in a coalition to protect strategic waterways in the Middle East.