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Politics

Abe reboots with sweeping Cabinet reshuffle

Japan's PM reassigns 17 of 19 portfolios as he eyes constitutional changes

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he picked his new lineup of ministers to ensure political "stability" and tackle new "challenges." (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe carried out a major Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday in a bid to create a fresh image and accomplish his administration's goals, including revising the Constitution.

The reshuffle, in which Abe replaced or moved 17 of his 19 Cabinet ministers, follows victory in the upper house election in July for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito.

Abe introduced 13 new faces, reinstated two with previous ministerial experience and retained two close allies and party heavyweights, while shifting two others.

In a surprising appointment aimed at boosting public support for his government, Abe picked Shinjiro Koizumi, a 38-year-old touted by the media as a future leader, as environment minister in his first ministerial post.

Ahead of the Cabinet shake-up, Abe revamped the LDP executive lineup but kept Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and policy chief Fumio Kishida in an effort to ensure stability in running party affairs.

In a party meeting in the morning, Abe vowed to achieve a first-ever amendment to the Constitution, saying, "We would like to strongly advance as one, our party's long-held desire to amend the Constitution."

Shinjiro Koizumi, a 38-year-old touted as a future leader, will handle the environment in his first ministerial post. (Photo by Karina Noka)

In explaining the purpose of his reshuffle, Abe has said he wants to form a new team that can ensure political "stability" and tackle new "challenges."

In the Cabinet, Abe kept familiar faces who have been key members of his team since his 2012 return to power -- Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Abe is seeking to rely on the veterans to deal with major challenges such as a planned consumption tax hike slated for next month, which is feared to dampen spending and cause the economy to deteriorate.

Abe appointed Foreign Minister Taro Kono as defense minister, while replacing him with economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The two will be expected to play key roles at a time when there is no end in sight to the sharp deterioration of ties between Japan and South Korea over wartime history and trade policy.

Toshimitsu Motegi has been made Japan's top diplomat after serving as minister for economic revitalization and state minister for economic and fiscal policy. (Photo by Yuki Nakao)

Abe appointed his confidants to Cabinet posts, installing Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary general of the LDP, as education minister and Katsuyuki Kawai, special adviser to the prime minister for foreign affairs, as justice minister.

Abe named Seiko Hashimoto, a House of Councillors lawmaker who is a former speed skater, as minister in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, doubling the number of women in the Cabinet from one to two.

From Komeito, Kazuyoshi Akaba replaced fellow party member Keiichi Ishii as minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism.

Abe is likely to become Japan's longest-serving prime minister in November. His term as LDP president and thus prime minister will end in 2021.

In the LDP, Abe picked Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki as chairman of the party's General Council and former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as head of the Election Strategy Committee.

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