Abe cabinet reshuffle is another step toward the right for Japan

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/7 21:53:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Japan is becoming increasingly rightist. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet Wednesday, retaining eight out of 19 members, including chief cabinet secretary and ministers of finance minister, foreign minister and minister of internal affairs and communications. While the basic structure of the cabinet remains unchanged, Abe appointed Tomomi Inada, the former head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Policy Research Council, as defense minister. Now 14 cabinet members, Abe included, are connected to Japan Conference, the largest right-wing group in Japan.

Cabinet reshuffles generally take place once a year to expand the prime minister's influence in the ruling party. Members from different factions are introduced to the cabinet to balance each other and ensure the government's stability. Reshuffles can also refresh the cabinet's image and win more popularity in the public. Abe's cabinet is expected to see its approval rate rise after the latest reshuffle.

Specifically, the remaining of finance and foreign ministers reflects Abe's desire for continuity of his economic and foreign policies. Although Abenomics has had little effect, Abe still announced a 28.1 trillion-yen ($276 billion) stimulus package amid controversy earlier. Therefore, it is not surprising that the finance minister has stayed in the post.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has made lots of diplomatic achievements in the past years by facilitating the trilateral summit with China and South Korea, the bilateral summit with Russia, and US President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima. As Abe looks forward to Russian President Vladimir Putin's Japan visit and settling the disputed islands, Kishida remains an ideal choice to help Abe address more thorny issues.

Inada's appointment has attracted high attention from the Japanese media. As the second female defense minister, Inada has no defense-related experience. She has been elected as a Lower House member only four times since 2005, yet has been appointed as a cabinet member twice. It's hard for the public to accept that Abe appointed such an inexperienced person to the important position.

Inada's conservative view on history is another issue of heated discussion. As a right-wing politician, she denies the existence of "comfort women," questions the authenticity of the Nanjing massacre, supports revising the pacifist constitution and even advocates Japan acquiring nuclear weapons. She once visited the Yasukuni Shrine as a cabinet member. That said, Inada shares a number of similarities with Abe. Therefore, she was appointed not only to be a successor in the "post-Abe" era, but also to speak out Abe's views on sensitive issues that may be inappropriate for prime minister to say, for instance, the constitutional revision.

In Japan, the Ministry of Defense is no lower than others like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It regulates the Self-Defense Forces and compiles the annual Defense White Paper. After Abe dropped the ban on collective self-defense and relaxed arms exports in 2014, the defense ministry has seen a higher status and its budget has expanded. As the former two defense ministers are regarded as dovish, Inada's appointment certainly unsettles Japan's neighboring countries.

Some background information needs to be noted concerning the cabinet reshuffle. Abe faces no election pressure both within and out of the ruling party. And the ruling party has taken the initiative in the Diet, and those calling for constitutional revision have taken a majority in both houses. Given the above, Abe is expected to put revising the constitution on the agenda as soon as possible. In fact, he has already emphasized his intention to revise the constitution on Wednesday's press release. As Abe's cabinet turns to more rightist and Abe's agenda for revising constitution comes into shape, Japan is going to open up the Pandora's box of war.

The author is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Sociology at Toyo University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Asian Beat, Asian Review

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