File photo: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a press conference with Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen in Copenhagen. Photo: AP
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering replacing a majority of his Cabinet members in a planned reshuffle early next month, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, viewed as a front-runner to be Abe’s successor, intends to leave his current post in step with the shake-up and aims to secure a key post in the Liberal Democratic Party, according to the minister’s aides.
Abe is planning to overhaul his Cabinet and senior LDP posts possibly on Aug. 3 following its historic defeat in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election earlier this month, according to the sources.
The premier has started working on the new Cabinet lineup, as he returned home Tuesday from his roughly weeklong European tour that took him to Germany for the Group of 20 summit and other countries in the region.
On Sunday in Sweden, Abe told reporters that the government framework should “not be changed over and over again,” while stressing he would like to “actively promote” talent to the Cabinet and key party posts.
While Abe plans to retain key posts, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister is expected to change more than half of the 19 Cabinet members.
Political experts say Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda are likely to be replaced after they have faced questions about their competency.
Kishida, who has assumed the post of foreign minister since the beginning of Abe’s second term as prime minister in December 2012, has recently conveyed his intention to leave the Cabinet to his aides, telling them his term as foreign minister has been “long enough,” according to one of them.
The House of Representative lawmaker from Hiroshima Prefecture is not interested in extending his tenure as the second-longest-serving foreign minister in the post-World War II era, another aide said.
Kishida has not assumed any of the party’s three key posts of secretary general, general council chairman and policy research council chairman. In an attempt to prepare for the party’s leadership race in the future, he aims to solidify his support base within the party.
Still, while LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Toshimitsu Motegi is regarded as one of the leading candidates for the top diplomat post, one of Kishida’s aides said the foreign minister might not be able to refuse Abe if he asks him to remain in the current post.