Suga reshuffles LDP leadership; likely to retain key ministers, except Kono

Yoshihide Suga, who is set to become Japan's next prime minister, is considering appointing health minister Katsunobu Kato as Chief Cabinet Secretary while retaining others in key cabinet posts, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso are among those who will keep their jobs when Suga forms a cabinet on Wednesday to carry out his policies focusing on fighting the coronavirus pandemic while shoring up the economy, the sources said.
But Defense Minister Taro Kono loses his job, being replaced by Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Suga, who was picked to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Monday, is set to be named premier in an extraordinary Diet session on Wednesday. He beat two rivals with an overwhelming majority, supported by five major intraparty factions including one helmed by Aso.
Land minister Kazuyoshi Akaba, who belongs to the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito, and Olympics and Paralympics minister Seiko Hashimoto will also be retained in the new cabinet, the sources said.
Norihisa Tamura, who served as health minister between 2012 and 2014, is set to return to the post, while former Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa is also being considered for a ministerial position, the sources said. Lawmakers Katsuei Hirasawa and Tetsushi Sakamoto are expected to receive their first cabinet posts.
Suga, who has served as Chief Cabinet Secretary under Abe for seven years and eight months, said on Monday he plans to appoint someone who is "well-rounded" as his successor to a post that serves as both a policy coordinator and the government's top spokesman.
In a press conference, he said he would choose cabinet ministers who align with his passion for administrative reform regardless of faction affiliations.
As minister of health, labor and welfare, Kato has helped shape the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. He also served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary under Suga between 2012 and 2015.
Suga, meanwhile, reshuffled the LDP's leadership on Tuesday, retaining Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai while naming former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as policy chief.
Tsutomu Sato, a former minister of internal affairs and communications, was appointed chairman of the General Council while Hiroshi Moriyama will remain head of the Diet Affairs Committee.
Later Tuesday, Suga is scheduled to meet with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi to affirm the continuation of the governing coalition.
Nikai, who has served in the party's No. 2 post since 2016, is known as a power broker and played a key role in Suga's victory over current LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.
The LDP's presidential election, triggered by Abe's sudden announcement in late August that he would resign for health reasons, was criticized for not having any female candidates despite the government's supposed push to create a "society in which women can shine."
Suga appointed Seiko Noda and Tamayo Marukawa, two female lawmakers, as the party's executive acting secretary general and head of its Public Relations Headquarters, respectively.
Taimei Yamaguchi, head of the Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters, was chosen to lead the Election Strategy Committee. His old job will be taken up by former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
Positions in the LDP leadership reshuffle were spread between the five factions that backed Suga in the presidential election with the exception of Noda, who is unaffiliated.

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