Japan PM picks new foreign, defence ministers in reshuffle
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enters his official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday ahead of a cabinet reshuffle that has triggered speculation about his successor. [Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo]
Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, brought in new foreign and defence ministers and appointed a rising political star as environment minister in a cabinet reshuffle that has fuelled speculation about his successor.
Abe named Toshimitsu Motegi as the new foreign minister, replacing Kono Taro, who moves to the defence portfolio. The telegenic Shinjiro Koizumi, the 38-year-old son of much-loved former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was appointed environment minister.
“Abe intends to start an open race to pick the next prime minister or even the one after that,” said SMBC Nikko Securities chief market economist Yoshimasa Maruyama.
A darling of the Japanese media, the younger Koizumi received blanket coverage for his recent marriage to television broadcaster Christel Takigawa, which was announced at the prime minister’s office.
He is the third-youngest minister appointed to the cabinet in Japan since the end of World War II, in a country when seniority is prized in politics and many other walks of life.
Despite the intense media spotlight, he has been coy about expressing his views on the issues of the day and there will be close scrutiny over his policies on nuclear power, particularly on whether he will break with his father’s anti-nuclear stance.
Abe is set to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November but is expected to step down at the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election in 2021 and the jostling for position is already beginning.