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Japanese PM makes sweeping cabinet reshuffle

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who survived a bruising leadership challenge this week, named a new cabinet today, including a hawkish foreign minister to handle an escalating row with China.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2010 22:58 IST

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who survived a bruising leadership challenge this week, named a new cabinet today, including a hawkish foreign minister to handle an escalating row with China.

The shake-up in ministerial and party posts also aims to shore up Kan's authority on a year-old centre-left government and sidelines his vanquished rival, Ichiro Ozawa, in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

On the economic front, where the Kan administration Wednesday launched a massive currency intervention to stem the damaging rise of the yen, Kan bet on continuity and retained his Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

"I have to create a good team," Kan told reporters before a cabinet meeting where his ministers resigned en masse ahead of the reshuffle.

In a sweeping change, he appointed new ministers in portfolios including justice, trade, education, health, agriculture, tourism and consumer affairs.

The premier's right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, stayed on, as did Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

The reshuffle follows a turbulent first year in power following the DPJ's ousting of the conservative Liberal Democrats in a landslide election victory, ending their more than half-century of almost unbroken rule.

The first DPJ premier Yukio Hatoyama resigned for mishandling a dispute with Washington over a controversial US airbase and political funds scandals, and the DPJ suffered heavy losses in July upper house elections.

the yen's recent strength and Japan's slowing growth have meanwhile complicated Kan's early focus on slashing debt which is close to 200 per cent of gross domestic product and ending years of crippling deflation.

The premier today instructed his new cabinet to compile an extra budget to finance an additional stimulus package worth several trillion yen for the current fiscal year, Kyodo news agency reported.

On the yen, Kan signalled his government may intervene again if necessary, saying: "We cannot take our guard down when it comes to the economy."

The premier replaced outgoing foreign minister Katsuya Okada with former transport minister Seiji Maehara, a hawk on China and its recent military rise.

Maehara, a telegenic and relatively young politician at age 48, assumes the post as Japan and its Asian rival are embroiled in their worst diplomatic spat for years over the arrest of a Chinese fishing captain.

Beijing has launched a series of diplomatic protests and cancelled official visits to Tokyo over the incident, which took place last week near an East China Sea island chain that is claimed by both sides.