Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda chose former top government spokesman Yukio Edano as the new trade minister, media said on Monday, acting to limit the damage to his new cabinet after the previous minister quit over gaffes.
Edano will be heading the trade ministry that also oversees energy policy, a key role as Japan works to bring under control the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years after the March 11 tsunami set off meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Edano, former chief cabinet secretary, is considered to have a good understanding of the nuclear issues and became the government's face as the radiation crisis unfolded with the frequent broadcasting of his briefings on the plant's status.
"Public support for Noda's cabinet is unlikely to rise with Edano taking over, but the amount of damage has likely been minimised," said Tetsuro Kato, a political science professor at Waseda University, adding Edano was a safe choice for Noda.
"To fill this position with Edano, the previous chief cabinet secretary, shows that there is a lack of resources in the (ruling) Democratic Party ... This cabinet will have a weak foundation just like the two previous Democratic cabinets."
Yoshio Hachiro submitted his resignation on Saturday, eight days after he took office, following reports that he joked with reporters about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The resignation is likely to give opposition parties ammunition in a divided parliament for attack as Noda works to end the radiation crisis while tackling a wide range of challenges including rebuilding after the March disaster, attending diplomatic events and curbing huge public debt.
Noda is set to address parliament in a policy speech on Tuesday, which will be followed by questions from opposition leaders.
Edano has said that Japan will need to review its nuclear power policy from scratch after the Fukushima accident tattered public trust in atomic energy.
Currently, only 11 out of 54 nuclear reactors are operating after others have been unable to restart following maintenance checks due to heightened public worries.
Edano will be charged with overseeing power utilities' stress tests to see how well prepared their nuclear reactors are to withstand the impact of extreme events. Japan's nuclear safety watchdog will be under the trade ministry until April.