TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to make personnel changes to his Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party leadership sometime around September, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
Abe, who is also LDP president, is said to be considering the creation of two new state minister posts-one charged with the revitalization of local economies and the other with security-related legislation.
To maintain stable management of his administration, Abe is expected to leave Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other key Cabinet members in their posts. In reshuffling his Cabinet and making personnel changes to the LDP leadership ahead of an extraordinary Diet session expected to be convened in October, Abe aims to strengthen the base for a long-running administration.
Ministers of the second Abe Cabinet, which was launched in December 2012, have remained in their posts. Abe expressed his intention to reshuffle the Cabinet after the ordinary Diet session, which ended Sunday. Discussions between the ruling parties over Japan's exercise of the right to collective self-defence reached the final stage just before the Diet convened, indicating that the Cabinet was close to realizing a new constitutional interpretation on the issue. Under such circumstances, Abe began considering personnel changes to his Cabinet and the LDP.
In regard to the new post of state minister for revitalizing local economies, the person appointed would be responsible for a new headquarters, which would be set up shortly and be headed by the prime minister, as well as the task of revitalizing local economies. The new minister would be expected to carry out measures that would reinvigorate local communities across government ministries and agencies, and tackle such issues as the excessive concentration of population and industry in the Tokyo metropolitan area and measures to address the declining birthrate and an aging society as well as the shrinking population. He would also aim at raising the level of regional economies.
The new state minister in charge of security-related matters will lead efforts to review security-related legislation regarding the constitutional interpretation on the nation's exercise of the right to collective self-defence. The government is seeking to realise Cabinet approval of its reinterpretation of the Constitution on the issue on July 1. By having the new minister deal with relevant questions in the Diet, the government aims to reduce the burdens on the defence minister who must deal with day-to-day security issues and the chief cabinet secretary, who has to pay close attention to the overall management of the administration.
Abe reportedly plans to keep the current number of Cabinet members at 18, and create the two new posts by rearranging tasks assigned to the respective ministries.
The prime minister plans to retain Suga in his current post for his central role in the administration. As Akira Amari, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, took the initiative in having Japan-US negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational free trade agreement reach a substantial accord, he is also expected to be kept on, especially as the TPP talks as a whole are entering a crucial stage.
With a decision on the proposed consumption tax rate hike from the current 8 per cent to 10 per cent scheduled to be made at the end of this year, a question mark hangs over Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who differs with Abe over economic and fiscal policies. However, there are strong calls to retain him in the administration.