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Japan's Leader Taps New Cabinet Ministers to Freshen Image

Japan's Leader Taps New Cabinet Ministers to Freshen Image

Wednesday, 11 September 2019 04:38 AM

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday, adding two women and a son of a former leader to freshen his image while maintaining continuity on U.S.-oriented trade and security policies.

Getting the greatest attention was the new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, the 38-year-old son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He was the only appointment in his 30s in a lineup dominated by men in their 50s and older.

Koizumi's father was popular during his tenure. Expectations in the Japanese public have been high for years that the younger Koizumi is destined to be Japan's leader.

He told reporters that he saw the environment as leading to positive social change because of concerns about global warming, plastic waste and sustainability. He said that on Thursday he would head to Fukushima, the area in northeastern Japan devastated by a nuclear disaster in 2011.

"I want to go to Fukushima first and foremost," Koizumi told reporters. "The environment is one area where Japan can lead the world."

Besides the glamor of his famous father, Koizumi recently married a TV broadcaster and has an actor for a brother.

Abe, who has made cordial relations with President Donald Trump a pillar of his policies, kept the same faces in key positions.

Taro Kono, who had been foreign minister, was appointed defense minister, while Toshimitsu Motegi, minister in charge of economic policy, is now foreign minister.

Finance Minister Taro Aso, a veteran politician, kept his job.

Continuity in leadership was seen as critical because Japan is still trying to fine-tune a trade deal with the Trump administration.

Both sides have said a basic deal has been reached that will open Japanese markets to U.S. agricultural products and beef. The U.S. is an important trade and security partner for export-dependent Japan.

Japan is also embroiled in a dispute with neighboring South Korea, involving Japan's export controls on some material used for computer chips and displays. Seoul has countered with plans to downgrade Japan's trade status and terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

Yu Uchiyama, professor of political science at the University of Tokyo, said the appointments, besides Koizumi, showed Abe chose those who were very close to him.

Koizumi has tended to keep a distance from Abe, although both hold the conservative pro-U.S. policies of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"Abe wanted get the popular Koizumi under his control," Uchiyama said. "This is a big step for Koizumi toward becoming future prime minister, but he will also be tested for the first time in a major way."

Also in the limelight are two new female ministers, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympian speedskater who was appointed minister in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Women in the Cabinet tend to get attention in Japan, which is criticized as lagging in promoting females in jobs and politics.

Abe is the longest-serving prime minister in Japan's postwar history. Until he came to power in 2012, Japan tended to have a "revolving door" of one leader toppled after another, partly because of recurring corruption scandals. Abe also served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

Although he has had his share of domestic scandals, he has managed to stay in power.

The nationally circulated Asahi newspaper said the Cabinet appointments showed Abe was building his successors but, at the same time, having candidates competing with each other in an effort to maintain his influence.

"A strategy to create a post-Abe fight," a front-page headline said.

The opposition is divided and widely perceived as disorganized and weak by voters, and has not put up much of a challenge.

The opposition has wrested power several times in recent decades, but it has fumbled repeatedly, allowing the Liberal Democrats to nearly continuously rule Japan since World War II.

Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday, adding two women and a son of a former leader to freshen his image while maintaining continuity on U.S.-oriented trade and security policies.Getting the greatest attention was the new environment...
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Wednesday, 11 September 2019 04:38 AM
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