Abe set to carry out major revamp of Cabinet in bid to ensure ‘stability’ and tackle new ‘challenges’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to carry out a major reshuffle of his Cabinet on Wednesday as Japan faces a host of challenges, including the impact from the planned consumption tax hike scheduled for Oct. 1.

The prime minister is expected to replace 17 of 19 Cabinet ministers in the shake-up — his first since October — after his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito secured a victory in July’s Upper House election.

In an apparent bid to boost public support for his government, Abe plans to appoint Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising political star touted as a future leader, as environment minister. The portfolio would be Koizumi’s first ministerial post.

In explaining the purpose of his revamp, Abe has said he would like to form a new team that can ensure political “stability” and tackle new “challenges.”

Abe will keep familiar faces who have been key members of his team since his 2012 return to power, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who concurrently serves as finance chief, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Abe plans to shift Foreign Minister Taro Kono to the defense post, while economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi is likely to become the nation’s top diplomat.

Kono and Motegi are expected to play a central role in Abe’s security team as Tokyo grapples with sharply deteriorating ties between Japan and South Korea over wartime history and trade policy — a row that appears to have no immediate end in sight.

Abe is also likely to appoint confidants to Cabinet posts, installing Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP, as education minister and Katsuyuki Kawai, a special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, as justice minister.

As part of his government’s efforts to promote female empowerment, Abe plans to name Seiko Hashimoto, an Upper House lawmaker and former Olympic speed skater, as minister in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Games and Paralympics.

From Komeito, Kazuyoshi Akaba is set to replace fellow party member Keiichi Ishii as minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism.

In the wake of his July electoral victory, Abe has enjoyed relatively solid public approval ratings and has a good chance of becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November.

With his term as LDP president and thus prime minister ending in 2021, he appears eager to accelerate work toward attaining his long-cherished goal of revising the country’s pacifist Constitution.

In the morning, Abe will also rejigger the LDP’s executive lineup, although he will keep its core members — Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and policy chief Fumio Kishida — in their current posts.

Abe is set to pick Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki as chairman of the party’s General Council and former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as head of its Election Strategy Committee.

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