Japan PM to reshuffle cabinet
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Japan PM to reshuffle cabinet

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to reshuffle his cabinet today, with changes aimed at cooling a raging maritime dispute with China.

world Updated: Oct 01, 2012 07:53 IST

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to reshuffle his cabinet on Monday, with changes aimed at cooling a raging maritime dispute with China.

Commentators say that as well as helping soothe the diplomatic wrangle, Noda's reshuffle is a bid to boost his waning popularity and reinvigorate his government after a costly battle to pass tax legislation.

Noda may tap Beijing-friendly Makiko Tanaka, 68, as a new addition to the cabinet, the Asahi Shimbun daily has reported.

Tanaka, daughter of former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka who normalised diplomatic ties with Beijing 40 years ago, has warm links with China which has been jousting with Japan over disputed East China Sea islands.

Noda is considering appointing Tanaka to a ministerial post to signal to Beijing Tokyo's intention of repairing the damaged relationship, the Asahi said.

The prime minister will likely retain foreign minister Koichiro Gemba and defence chief Satoshi Morimoto in their current posts to provide continuity as Japan tangles with China and South Korea over separate territorial rows.

Noda and his new cabinet will face China, which has responded furiously after Japan bought three of the uninhabited islands n- known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China - from the private owner, in a rising row which set off violent protests in several Chinese cities.

South Korea has its own territorial dispute with Japan over islands called Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo, which flared after South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak paid a surprise visit to the islands in August.

Another highlight of the reshuffle is who will replace finance minister Jun Azumi, who is being propelled into a top party post.

Although Azumi has not been universally popular in financial circles, there have been concerns of a policy gap now that he is departing, although the minister has assured there will be no "political vacuum".

Noda has named Goshi Hosono, the 41-year-old telegenic environment minister who has dealt with the daunting task of overseeing the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, as the policy chief of his Democratic Party, a move seen as an effort to boost popularity in the upcoming general election.

Noda is under pressure to call an election this year after he offered his opponents a vague pledge to dissolve parliament "sometime soon" in exchange for their support on a pet project to raise sales tax.

But woeful opinion poll numbers have left many in his factionally-riven party fearing for their seats, with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party seen likely to win a national ballot.

Japan's main opposition party chose former premier Shinzo Abe as its new leader last week, in a vote that could see him reinstated as prime minister.

First Published: Oct 01, 2012 07:51 IST