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Japan's Abe reshuffles Cabinet in bid to regain support after election defeat

Japan's Abe reshuffles Cabinet in bid to regain support after election defeat

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revamped his ailing government with a Cabinet shakeup that put conservative political stalwarts in top posts, an attempt to win back voter confidence following a key election setback last month.
But analysts doubted whether Monday's reshuffle would rekindle support for Abe's government, which has seen its popularity plunge after a spate of gaffes and scandals involving key ministers.
Abe appointed experienced conservatives as new ministers for foreign affairs, defense, finance, and replaced his right-hand man, the chief Cabinet secretary.
Abe said his new Cabinet would press on with administrative and fiscal reforms introduced by his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.
"Reforms must not stop," Abe said. "Japan cannot survive without reforms."
Veteran Nobutaka Machimura, 62, returned to the foreign minister post he held under Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. Former justice and foreign minister Masahiko Komura, 65, returned as defense chief.
Kaoru Yosano _ also a ruling party heavyweight _ was appointed chief Cabinet secretary, replacing Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a close Abe ally.
Both Machimura and Komura should fit easily with Abe's right-leaning, pro-U.S. government: Under Koizumi, Machimura pushed to phase out development aid to China, while Komura supports a hard-line against North Korea.
"The U.S.-Japan relationship remains the cornerstone of our foreign policy," Machimura told reporters after his appointment. He added he would work to extend Japan's mission to refuel coalition warships in the Indian Ocean to support U.S.-led efforts in Afghanistan.
Machimura also vowed to pressure North Korea to come clean on its abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
Fukushiro Nukaga, 63, a former defense minister and supporter of a joint missile defense with the United States, was appointed to lead the Finance Ministry.
"Abe is bolstering his defenses by surrounding himself with experienced politicians who won't make blunders," said political analyst Eiken Itagaki.
"But there are no striking appointments and I doubt he has impressed anyone with his choices," Itagaki said.
Opposition lawmaker Yukio Hatoyama questioned whether Abe could really renew his government.
Abe also made key changes in the leadership of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, moving his conservative foreign minister, Taro Aso, to LDP secretary-general, the No. 2 post. He also filled two other top LDP posts.
Abe's government has been riddled with scandals and missteps. Three of Abe's ministers have been forced to resign, and one committed suicide amid a money scandal.
In the July 29 elections for the upper house of parliament the opposition Democratic Party of Japan seized control of the chamber.
Abe _ at 52 the youngest postwar Japanese premier _ has resisted calls for his resignation vowing to push through reforms.
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Associated Press writer Hiroko Tabuchi contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-02-28 21:46 GMT+08:00