Japan's new Foreign Minister Taro Kono leaves Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence to attend an attestation ceremony by Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace, in Tokyo, Japan August 3, 2017. REUTERS
TOKYO - 3 August 2017: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to reshuffle his cabinet on Thursday and tap Taro Kono, former minister in charge of administrative reform and a political blue-blood, as foreign minister, The Japan Times reported.
In a move that may be seen as positioning for a future leadership tilt, current Foreign and Defense Minister Fumio Kishida, who is viewed as a front-runner to succeed Abe, is expected to become chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council.
Kishida’s potential new assignment would give him time in a high-level internal party role, experience that is traditionally required of all leaders and something he lacks.
He took on responsibility for the defense portfolio temporarily following Tomomi Inada’s abrupt resignation Friday.
The personnel overhaul comes a year since the last and as Abe’s approval ratings have plummeted to the lowest level seen since he returned to power in 2012. Abe has seen the popularity of his leadership and Cabinet suffer due in part to claims he influenced the approval process for construction of a new veterinary school to be run by his friend.
In a bid to preserve a semblance of continuity in his government, Abe, who serves as the president of the ruling LDP, plans to retain key ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, as well as LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.
Veteran LDP lawmaker Itsunori Onodera is set to return to the defense minister position, having held the post for nearly two years from December 2012.
Former agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi will likely become education minister, while LDP policy chief Toshimitsu Motegi is expected to double as economic revitalization minister and take on the newly created post in charge of human resources development.
Newcomers will likely include Upper House lawmaker Masaji Matsuyama.
Abe is expected to appoint Seiko Noda, who once chaired the LDP General Council, as internal affairs minister. The former postal minister challenged Abe for the party leadership in 2015.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko and transport minister Keiichi Ishii, the only minister from Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, are likely to retain their posts.