Kono in line for defense minister in Cabinet reshuffle

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, seen speaking at an international conference in Yokohama late last month, is tapped to become the new defense minister when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffles his Cabinet on Wednesday.

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to name Foreign Minister Taro Kono as defense minister to replace incumbent Takeshi Iwaya in the Cabinet reshuffle slated for Wednesday, according to informed sources.

Also in the reshuffle, Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, is expected to be appointed as secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Councillors.

The choice of Kono, who has served as foreign minister for two years, as new defense minister reflects Abe’s hope to pursue the strengthening of defense cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States at a time when the worsening of Tokyo-Seoul ties is spilling over into the realm of national security.

Since taking office as foreign minister in August 2017, Kono has built trust with counterparts around the world such as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, using his English skills.

The foreign minister took a consistently hard-line stance against South Korea over the issue of wartime labor. Abe hopes to keep him in the Cabinet so as not to send any wrong message to Seoul, the sources said.

Seko will succeed retired Upper House LDP Secretary-General Hiromi Yoshida, who enjoyed Abe’s trust during his tenure. Seko, a close aide to the prime minister, became minister of economy, trade and industry in August 2016 after serving as deputy chief cabinet secretary. He is also the minister for economic cooperation with Russia.

Abe seeks to stabilize his administration by strengthening his grip on the upper house through Seko, the sources said.

In other planned ministerial appointments, Toshimitsu Motegi, currently economic revitalization minister, is expected to fill the role of foreign minister. The prime minister is also considering bringing LDP General Council Chairman Katsunobu Kato back into the Cabinet.

Abe is apparently seeking to place his potential successors, including Kono, in important ministerial posts so that they can acquire experience.

The prime minister held talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso on Sunday at his private residence in Tomigaya, Tokyo. They are believed to have exchanged views on personnel affairs and government management.

Abe, who emphasizes “stability and challenge” as a theme for his last term in office as LDP president, is expected to drastically change cabinet ministers in the upcoming reshuffle. Only Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, viewed as the backbone of the Abe administration, are seen to stay in their current positions.Speech

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