Japanese PM Abe reshuffles Cabinet

This article is more than 12 months old

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday dumped arch-conservatives and embraced critical voices in a cabinet revamp he hopes will stem a decline in public support after a series of scandals and missteps.

Political blueblood Abe, in office since late December 2012, has pushed a nationalist agenda alongside a massive policy effort to end years of on-off deflation and rejuvenate the world's third largest economy.

But he has seen public support rates plummet in the past few months over an array of political troubles, including allegations of favouritism to a friend in a business deal - which Mr Abe strongly denies.

Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a drubbing in Tokyo local elections last month, which analysts and newspapers blamed on an increasing "arrogance" on the part of the prime minister.

"I deeply regret that my shortcomings have invited this situation," a chastened Mr Abe said earlier in the day ahead of the announcement of the cabinet changes.

Mr Abe reappointed former defence minister Itsunori Onodera after close ally and fellow nationalist Tomomi Inada resigned from the post last week following a scandal at the ministry over the handling of military documents.

He also tapped a pair of lawmakers who have opposed some of his policies.

New foreign minister Taro Kono is the son of a dovish top diplomat known for issuing a landmark 1993 apology as chief cabinet secretary over Japan's use of "comfort women" - a euphemism for sex slavery - in World War II.

The US-educated 54-year-old is known as an independent-minded, anti-nuclear power advocate, in sharp contrast to Mr Abe's support for atomic energy.

Mr Kono replaced Mr Fumio Kishida, who served as top diplomat since Mr Abe came to power and is often seen as a future prime minister. Mr Kishida moved to a top post in the LDP.

Meanwhile, Ms Seiko Noda, 56, at one time hailed as Japan's most likely first female prime minister and who in 2015 tried to challenge Mr Abe for the LDP leadership, was named internal affairs minister.

She replaced Ms Sanae Takaichi, another close Abe ally with strongly nationalist views.