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Personnel change at Defense Ministry creates stir

A digital story in the weekly magazine FRIDAY delved into what was behind the decision by the Kishida administration on June 17 to appoint Suzuki Atsuo, Commissioner of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, as administrative vice minister of Defense to succeed outgoing Vice Minister Shimada Kazuhisa. Shimada had been an assistant to former Prime Minister Abe for six and a half years and as the vice minister, he advocated the ministry’s goal of raising Japan’s defense spending to 2% of GDP. Shimada had been expected to remain in the post because the ministry needs his expertise in updating the nation’s three key security documents by the end of this year. Although Defense Minister Kishi, the brother of former Prime Minister Abe, strongly opposed replacing Shimada, the Kantei did not change its decision.


A source connected to the Kantei said: “Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kuryu Shinichi flatly rejected the Defense Ministry’s request to retain Shimada by saying that replacing a vice minister every two years is the regular practice and that the decision to replace Shimada had already been made. Kuryu, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kihara Seiji, and Finance Ministry officials are behind the Kantei’s decision. Shimada was the leading actor in Abe’s maneuvering to urge the government to set a goal of boosting the nation’s defense budget to 2% of GDP in five years. The Finance Ministry didn’t like this and hopes to oust Shimada from discussions on the defense budget. Prime Minister Kishida yielded to pressure from Abe and changed the wording of his ‘Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform,” known as the ‘big-boned policy,’ to say that Japan will ‘drastically strengthen its defense capabilities in five years. Kishida resented this and decided to retaliate by replacing Shimada. Although Abe summoned Kishida to his office to lodge a protest, Kishida flatly replied that the decision had already been made.”


A source close to the LDP said: “Kuryu acted in response to Kishida’s intention to purge bureaucrats who are under Abe’s influence. This was a blatant move because Defense Minister Kishi is the brother of Abe. Although Kishi is trying to retain Shimada as a special advisor of his, Kuryu and Kihara may also block this idea.”


An LDP lawmaker familiar with defense issues said: “Prime Minister Kishida may have intended to replace Kishi in the coming post-election cabinet shuffle. He is said to be planning to appoint Terada Minoru, a six-term House of Representative member from Hiroshima who currently serves as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister and belongs to the Kishida faction, to the post of defense minister.”

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