Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi yesterday picked outspoken conservatives as his new top ministers and then a hawkish successor, probably spelling more tension with Asian neighbors in his remaining year in office.
Koizumi, the longest serving Japanese premier in a generation, reshuffled his Cabinet after winning a landslide victory in an election he cast as a referendum on reforming the economy and bringing new faces into politics.
But he tapped two party stalwarts -- both grandsons of former prime ministers -- as his top aides.
Shinzo Abe, 51, was given the powerful post of chief Cabinet secretary, while Taro Aso, a hardliner on China, became foreign minister.
"The Cabinet has moved to the right with the reshuffle," said Sadafumi Kawato, a professor of Japanese politics at Tohoku University. "Japanese foreign policy will get closer to America and remain far apart from China and South Korea."
As chief Cabinet secretary, who is the government spokesman and becomes the acting prime minister when Koizumi travels abroad, Abe's position as a frontrunner to be prime minister when Koizumi leaves office next September has been strengthened.
Both Abe and Aso are staunch defenders of Koizumi's visits -- the latest being on Oct. 17 -- to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including notorious war criminals.
"If the prime minister, the chief Cabinet secretary and the foreign minister all turn up to visit Yasukuni, it is feared it would lead to a quite serious situation," said outgoing foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura, who was sidelined in the new Cabinet.
Mizuho Fukushima, head of the left-wing opposition Social Democratic Party, said Koizumi, who had run on a platform of economic change, was "promoting changes to the Constitution and Yasukuni pilgrimages, bringing Japan's relations with the rest of Asia to a very disastrous state."
In April, Aso was the only Cabinet member to pay a pilgrimage to Yasukuni for its spring festival, just as Koizumi was seeking a summit in Jakarta with Chinese President Hu Jintao (
Aso, addressing his first press conference as the incoming foreign minister, said the Yasukuni shrine was not the only issue between the neighbors and urged dialogue.
"Apart from that one particular issue, Japan-China relations as a whole are basically proceeding well in such areas as economic relations and exchanges of youth culture," he said.
Abe, known for his ease with the media, has won a public following for his strongly worded rebukes of North Korea, especially for its past abductions of Japanese citizens.
Abe said Koizumi was still committed to the reforms on which he ran in the election.
"I want to do my best to push forward the structural reforms currently proceeding under Prime Minister Koizumi's leadership. This Cabinet is one that will turn reform into reality," he said.
The US Department of State yesterday criticized Beijing over its misrepresentation of the US’ “one China” policy in the latest diplomatic salvo between the two countries over a bid by Taiwan to regain its observer status at the World Health Assembly, the decisionmaking body of the WHO. “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] continues to publicly misrepresent U.S. policy,” Department of State spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter. “The United States does not subscribe to the PRC’s ‘one China principle’ — we remain committed to our longstanding, bipartisan one China policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, Three Joint Communiques, and
FATES LINKED: The US president said that sanctions on Russia over Ukraine must exact a ‘long-term price,’ because otherwise ‘what signal does that send to China?’ US President Joe Biden yesterday vowed that US forces would defend Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese attack in his strongest statement to date on the issue. Beijing is already “flirting with danger,” Biden said following talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, in which the pair agreed to monitor Chinese naval activity and joint Chinese-Russian exercises. Asked if Washington was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, he replied: “Yes.” “That’s the commitment we made,” Biden said. “We agreed with the ‘one China’ policy, we signed on to it ... but the idea that it can be
INFORMATION LEAKED: Documents from Xinjiang purportedly showed top leaders in Beijing calling for a forceful crackdown and even orders to shoot to kill Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday held a videoconference with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet as she visited Xinjiang during a mission overshadowed by fresh allegations of Uighur abuses and fears she is being used as a public relations tool. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been accused of detaining more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region as part of a years-long crackdown the US and lawmakers in other Western nations have labeled a “genocide.” China denies the allegations. Bachelet was expected to visit the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar on a six-day tour. The US
SUBTLE? While Biden said the US policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ on Taiwan had not changed, the group targeted China and Russia without naming them Leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US yesterday warned against attempts to “change the status quo by force,” as concerns grow about whether China could invade Taiwan. The issue of Taiwan loomed over a leadership meeting in Tokyo of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) nations — the US, Japan, Australia and India — who stressed their determination to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of an increasingly assertive China, although Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the group was not targeting any one country. The four leaders said in a joint statement issued after their talks