A lot of familiar faces . . .
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe re-shuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, fresh off his party’s impressive win in Upper House elections in late July. Among the key changes are Toshimitsu Motegi replacing Kono Taro as foreign minister, with Taro moving over to the defence portfolio, and Shinjiro Koizumi, son of popular former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, becoming Japan’s new environment minister. Although the shake-up does not signal dramatic policy changes, it will kick off the race to succeed Abe, who is expected to step down after his party’s next leadership election in 2021.
Continuity and change . . .
With an eye on cementing his legacy, Abe will try to shore up support for his signature economic plan, ‘Abenomics,’ which has had mixed results since its introduction in 2012. On the environment, Koizumi’s views on nuclear energy will come under greater scrutiny. His father wanted Japan to lessen its dependence on nuclear power, but the younger Koizumi, a rising political star, has been tight-lipped on whether he shares those views. The issue has implications that reverberate beyond Japan. Yesterday, the outgoing environment minister announced that in 2022 Japan will run out of storage space for water that has been contaminated since the meltdown of nuclear reactors in Fukushima in 2011. Japan is exploring options, but warned that it may have no choice but to release the contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
No silver lining on South Korea . . .
What is not expected to result from this cabinet shuffle is any improvement in Japan’s rapidly deteriorating relations with South Korea. In fact, one issue could inflame the dispute even further: Abe is expected to reaffirm his intention to amend Japan’s Constitution, specifically Article 9, a postwar commitment to limit the role of Japan’s military. Abe has stated that revisions should clarify the legal status of the country’s Self Defense Forces, but he’ll face an uphill battle, as there is still ample opposition within Japan to changing the status quo.
- The Guardian: Shinzo Abe promotes rising star Koizumi in cabinet reshuffle
- Japan Times: With cabinet reshuffle, Abe confirms intent to seek change to Constitution
- Nikkei Asian Review: Five things to know before Japan’s cabinet re-shuffle