Japan's prime minister picks hawkish ally as defence minister

World Wednesday 03/August/2016 15:39 PM
By: Times News Service
Japan's prime minister picks hawkish ally as defence minister

Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed a conservative ally as defence minister on Wednesday, in a cabinet reshuffle that left most key posts unchanged, and he promised to speed up the economy's escape from deflation and boost regional ties.
New Minister of Defence Tomomi Inada, previously the ruling party policy chief, shares Abe's goal of revising the post-war, pacifist constitution, which some conservatives consider a humiliating symbol of Japan's World War Two defeat.
She also regularly visits Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, which China and South Korea see as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Japan's relations with China and South Korea have often been frayed by the legacy of Japan's military aggression before and during World War Two.
Abe told a news conference the economy was his top priority and he would devote himself to lifting the country out of deflation, but that he also aimed to mend regional relations in the face of the threat posed by North Korea.
"We will steadily strengthen ties with neighbouring countries such as China and South Korea, and proceed with talks with Russia for a peace treaty," he said, referring to the fact that Japan and Russia never signed a treaty after World War Two because of a territorial dispute.
"Today, North Korea yet again carried out a ballistic missile launch. It appears to have fallen within Japan's EEZ, which poses a grave threat to Japan's security and is an unforgivable outrage," he said.
A Japanese defence official said earlier the main body of the missile that North Korea launched, which followed a series of missile tests by the isolated country, landed in Japan's offshore exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Abe is expected to travel to China in September for a Group of 20 summit, where he may meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to help mend ties also strained by a row over tiny isles in the East China Sea and China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
China is North Korea's main ally but it disapproves of the North's nuclear programme and missile tests.
Inada, a 57-year-old lawyer, is the second woman to hold the defence post. The first, Yuriko Koike, who held the job briefly in 2007, was recently elected Tokyo governor.
The foreign ministries of China and South Korea had no immediate comment on her appointment.
Abe is trying to rekindle growth as he ponders the possibility of staying in office after his term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ends in 2018.
On Tuesday, his outgoing cabinet approved 13.5 trillion yen ($133.58 billion) in fiscal steps to try to revive the economy.
Abe, who took office in December 2012, will retain his right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, along with Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
Economics Minister Nobuteru Ishihara will also be kept on along with Health, Welfare and Labour Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko will become trade and industry minister.
Tamayo Marukawa, who served as environment minister in the previous cabinet, was appointed minister in charge of overseeing preparations for Tokyo's 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Abe also appointed a new LDP executive line-up.
The appointment of Toshihiro Nikai, 77, as LDP secretary general was seen as signalling Abe's hopes for a third term. Nikai has said he would support an extension for Abe, which would require a change in party rules.
But Abe said there was plenty of work to do over the next two years and he was not thinking of extending his term.