Asia Minute: Japan’s Cabinet Reshuffle

Aug 4, 2017

Taro Kono
Credit Richter Frank-Jurgen / Flickr

A government leader with falling popularity shakes up his inner circle. It’s a familiar story to listeners in the United States, but it also describes what’s happening this week in Japan. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.

The results were not shocking, many local media used the word “moderate” to describe a lot of the familiar faces in the new cabinet.

But there are some changes.

Most noteworthy is a new foreign minister with ties to the United States—Taro Kono.

He’s the son of a longtime politician Yohei Kono who himself was foreign minister—twice—with his latest term ending in 2001.

The younger Kono is a graduate of Georgetown, and a fluent English speaker.

Reuters also says he is “known for his willingness to criticize the ruling party and a frankness unusual for a Japanese politician.”

Abe also named a new economy minister who will pursue further structural reforms.

The prime minister told a news conference “the economy remains our top priority.”

Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund was pessimistic on that score—pronouncing the main goals of his so-called “Abenomics” program of economic revival “out of reach.”

Abe has been in office since late 2012, and this is his fourth cabinet as he hopes for a boost in popularity.

Late last month, approval ratings for his last cabinet dipped to 26 percent.