New Japan cabinet includes 'maverick' foreign minister


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seeking to fix his tattered approval ratings by reshuffling his cabinet, said Thursday he would focus on bread-and-butter issues such as jobs, a pledge he's made in the past only to prioritize conservative issues such as amending the constitution.

Many ministers are being reappointed, such as Finance Minister Taro Aso, or are taking up posts they have held before.

He is also set to tap as ministers some who have opposed his policies, including Taro Kono, the son of a dovish former foreign minister known for issuing a 1993 apology as chief cabinet secretary over Japan's use of "comfort women" - a euphemism for sex slavery - in World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday appointed veteran allies close to him to key roles within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to help bolster historically low public support rates, while balancing factional influences within the party. He was also hurt by the LDP's defeat by a novice political party in a July assembly election.

As per the local media reports, Toshimitsu Motegi and Itsunori Onodera, the LDP's policy research council chairman and acting head of the body, respectively, are expected to be given key Cabinet posts.

Abe, dressed in formal attire after attending a ceremony with his ministers at the Imperial Palace, said he carried out the Cabinet changes to restore public confidence in his government.

New Foreign Minister Kono, a former administrative reform minister, has a degree from Georgetown University in Washington and worked as an aide for several US politicians. Kono has a degree from Georgetown University and worked as an aide for several politicians.

"In the current state of confusion and flip-flop in Washington, Kono's deep and broad network of personal connections will be a huge asset", Jesper Koll, head of equity fund WisdomTree Japan, said in an email.

"The recent launch of the ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] by North Korea clearly showed that the threat, posed by North Korea to both Japan and the United States, has substantially increased".

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who retained his post, announced the new lineup.

Onodera, 57, held the post for almost two years until September 2014, and has vowed to restore unity and confidence within the ministry.

"I will definitely run in the next (party election)", Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda told reporters.