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Politics

Abe to shake up ruling party's top ranks

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to replace the Liberal Democratic Party's secretary-general, the No. 2 man in the ruling party, in conjunction with a cabinet reshuffling next month, according to people familiar with the matter.

     Abe has approached Shigeru Ishiba before about taking a new cabinet post in charge of drafting national security legislation.

     The prime minister will raise the question again in an upcoming meeting with Ishiba, who told aides Thursday that he would decide whether to take the job after hearing Abe's rationale for choosing him.

     Many in the government and the ruling coalition expect him to accept. A refusal would likely mean being left out of both the cabinet and the LDP leadership.

     A former defense minister regarded as a national security wonk, Ishiba helped persuade New Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner, to back a recent cabinet decision easing constitutional limits on Japan's self-defense powers.

     Although Ishiba lost to Abe in the 2012 race for the LDP presidency, he won a bigger share of votes from local party cadres. Some aides worry that taking the proffered cabinet post would make it awkward for Ishiba to challenge Abe for the LDP leadership in next year's contest.

     Abe, meanwhile, is planning a major shakeup of his cabinet and the party's top ranks -- the first since his comeback as prime minister in December 2012. LDP Policy Research Council chief Sanae Takaichi is expected to be shuffled out, as is General Council Chair Seiko Noda, though Takaichi has been mentioned as a contender for an important cabinet post.

(Nikkei)

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