In Cabinet reshuffle, Abe considers tapping Koichi Hagiuda as education minister

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making arrangements to appoint Koichi Hagiuda, executive deputy secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, as education minister in his upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

In Wednesday’s revamp of the Cabinet, the first since October, Abe is also considering naming Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura, also a member of the ruling party, as the next economic revitalization minister, according to the sources.

Among other key ministerial posts, Abe is planning to appoint Foreign Minister Taro Kono as defense minister, while he has already made up his mind to name current economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi as foreign minister and retain Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as well as Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, the sources said.

Sanae Takaichi, a former internal affairs minister, Seiichi Eto, a special adviser to Abe, and Katsuyuki Kawai, the prime minister’s special aide on foreign affairs, are also likely to be Cabinet members, the sources said.

The prime minister is also considering bringing Katsunobu Kato, chairman of the LDP’s General Council, back to the Cabinet by assigning him to a key ministerial position, the sources said.

Some in the LDP speculate that Kato will be given the post of minister of economy, trade and industry or minister for social security reforms, or may be assigned again to the health, labor and welfare portfolio, in which he served until autumn last year.

Taku Eto, special adviser to the prime minister, is expected to become agriculture minister, the first ministerial post for him.

With the Cabinet reshuffle, he will also revamp the LDP’s leadership team, with trade minister Hiroshige Seko likely to become secretary-general of the ruling party’s Upper House caucus, according to the sources.

Former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, who now heads the LDP’s panel on promoting constitutional reform, is expected to assume the post of election chief.

Still, Abe is set to keep the backbone of the LDP executive team, retaining Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and policy chief Fumio Kishida. Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki will be an addition to the lineup as chairman of the General Council, the party’s decision-making body.

Ahead of the end in September 2021 of his final term of office as LDP president, Abe aims to maintain his clout by giving key ministerial portfolios to potential candidates for his successor, pundits said.

Hagiuda has a political stance close to Abe and is trusted by the prime minister. He plays a key role in communications between the LDP and the government.

Nishimura is considered to be a promising lawmaker from the LDP faction led by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, to which Abe belongs. He has worked at the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry, now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and is well versed in policies covered by the defunct and current ministries.

Kato is a close aide to Abe, having served in such posts as deputy chief Cabinet secretary and health, labor and welfare minister.

On Tuesday, ministers held news conferences after the Cabinet meeting, reflecting on their jobs in their current posts.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya stressed the importance of keeping security cooperation with South Korea amid intensifying row between the two countries.

In August, Seoul announced it will scrap its intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, adding fuel to already shaky ties over wartime labor issues and tightened export controls.

“There are various diplomatic challenges between Japan and South Korea, but it is very important to coordinate security policies between the two countries and among Japan, the United States and South Korea,” Iwaya said.

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