Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is to reshuffle his Cabinet next week to address mounting issues including tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and COVID-19.
“We need to set off a new formation as soon as possible considering the various issues,” he told a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, yesterday after attending a commemoration for the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
Kishida did not give any details of the changes, but the Yomiuri Shimbun earlier reported that he would likely replace Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi, given his health issues, in the reshuffle scheduled for Wednesday.
Defense is in the spotlight with tension surging in the Taiwan Strait.
A record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases poses another problem for the Japanese government.
A reshuffle of the Cabinet and ruling party officials was slated for early September, after a memorial service for former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot and killed last month, but Kishida brought it forward to address falling approval ratings for his administration, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.
The reshuffle comes after Kishida’s conservative coalition government increased its majority in the upper house of parliament in an election held two days after Abe’s death.
Kishi, 63, the younger brother of Abe, has been defense minister since September 2020.
Jiji news agency on Friday reported that Japanese Minister of Finance Shunichi Suzuki would be retained and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda would either be kept or moved to another important post.
Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno would likely retain their positions, the newspaper reported.
At a news conference yesterday, Kishida was asked about the Unification Church, a religious group to which the mother of the man who allegedly shot Abe belonged and which has been reported to have had particularly close links with Abe’s faction of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Kishida said he would order the Cabinet to scrutinize any links between the church and Cabinet members, including deputy ministers.
“As far as I know, I personally do not have any ties with the group,” he said.
In a poll late last month by Kyodo news agency, more than 80 percent of respondents said the relationship between the Unification Church and politicians must be revealed and 53 percent expressed opposition to a state funeral for Abe.
Kishida said it was appropriate for the government to organize a state funeral given that Abe was modern Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and given the circumstances of his death during “the very foundation of democracy,” referring to the election campaign.
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