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Politics

Unopposed Abe to keep finance, economy ministers

TOKYO -- Heading into an uncontested re-election as head of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzo Abe intends to retain his finance and economic policy ministers as well as his chief cabinet secretary when he reshuffles his cabinet next month, senior officials told The Nikkei on Tuesday.

     The prime minister sees Taro Aso, Akira Amari and Yoshihide Suga as crucial to continuing his economy-first agenda. He met with Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, on Tuesday to discuss economic policy. Abe later spoke with Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of ruling coalition partner Komeito, to seek that party's continued cooperation in government.

     "A strong economy is the fountainhead of all national strengths," Abe declared in a campaign flier for the LDP presidential election. Abenomics, his vision for reinvigorating Japan's economy, "is about to enter its second stage," he wrote.

     Abenomics "is a work in progress," the prime minister told reporters, vowing to "ensure a virtuous cycle of economic recovery reaches every corner of the nation." He said his government will work to revitalize small-town Japan and speed up the post-tsunami reconstruction.

     Abe's new term as LDP leader becomes official at a upcoming party congress and will last until September 2018. Including his first, brief stint as prime minister starting in 2006, it marks his third term. He becomes the first incumbent LDP president not to face a challenger since Junichiro Koizumi in 2001.

     Abe heads to New York later this month to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Upon returning to Japan on Oct. 2, he will make any changes to the lineups of cabinet ministers and LDP officers.

     Few cabinet portfolios are expected to change hands. Abe aims to pursue a no-nonsense, economic-policy-focused agenda until next year's upper house election.

     Amari, his minister for economic and fiscal policy, is charged with helping bring negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact to fruition. There is talk that Amari may get a different key cabinet post if the 12 countries at the bargaining table were to reach a deal by the end of this month. One question is whether Abe will retain his local revitalization minister, Shigeru Ishiba, who indicated Tuesday that he wants to form a new faction within the LDP.

     As for top LDP posts, Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki, who led the party's successful lower house campaign last year, and General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai enjoy broad support. Abe has the backing of all seven LDP factions and is expected to show deference to each in filling vice minister and parliamentary secretary posts.

(Nikkei)

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