The Strategist

Shinzo Abe rearranges Cabinet of Japan

09/12/2019 - 03:06

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arranged large-scale reshuffling in his government. One of the newly introduced officials may replace Mr. Abe after his resignation in 2021. Foreign Minister Taro Kono is leaving his current position for the post of Defense Minister; Toshimitsu Motegi will take his place, having proved himself during the negotiations with the US Presidential Administration of Donald Trump. The youngest member of the new cabinet is the son of the former Prime Minister, 38-year-old Shinjirō Koizumi. His promotion to the high office came as a surprise since in the last internal party elections, he supported Mr. Abe’s opponent.

The White House via flickr
The White House via flickr
The new cabinet has received 13 new ministers. Many changes, however, were purely internal. For example, Foreign Minister Taro Kono will now become Minister of Defense. The Japanese newspapers Yomiuri Simbun and The Japan Times assume that he was transferred to this post because he is able to hold tough negotiations, as shown in the recent confrontation with South Korea. The country's new foreign minister is Toshimitsu Motegi, a former journalist, consultant and manager at Marubeni Corporation, who was first elected to parliament in 1993. He was Deputy Foreign Minister and oversaw issues related to the Kuril Islands dispute with Russia. Back in 2012, he, as Secretary of Commerce, oversaw negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Last year, Mr. Motegi showed himself as a skillful negotiator, having achieved conditions for bilateral trade with the United States acceptable to Tokyo; his opponent was extremely tough White House sales representative Robert Lighthizer.

The youngest minister of the new cabinet is 38-year-old Shinjirō Koizumi. His appointment was a real surprise for observers. First, according standards of Japanese politics, he is very young for such a post: the average age of his colleagues in the cabinet is 63 years. Since 1945, there have been only two ministers younger than Shinjirō Koizumi. Second, in the September 2018 election of Head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Mr. Koizumi did not support Abe's Prime Minister, but went for his opponent, former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba.

Koizumi, Jr., who will now hold the post of Ecology Minister, is the son of Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s Prime Minister in 2001-2006. Koizumi Jr., according to polls by Asahi Shimbun newspaper, won 71% of the country's citizens votes as a defender of the interests of young Japanese, and often opposed the image of the ruling LDP as a "party of boring old ideas." He, unlike most other ministers and deputies, often appears in gossip columns of Japanese newspapers. The last time was on August 9, when he announced an imminent wedding with TV presenter Christel Takigawa right in the office of the Prime Minister of Japan.

In 2021, due to internal party restrictions, Shinzo Abe will have to resign as Prime Minister, and the current cabinet is the first, whose ministers have a chance to politically outlast the Prime Minister. Moreover, many of his appointees this time may well compete for leadership in the country, including the young and popular Shinjirō Koizumi.