TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday that he would reshuffle his cabinet next week to address mounting issues including Taiwan tensions, COVID 19 and economic stimulus measures to counter inflation.
He said at a news conference in Hiroshima that a new formation needs to be formed soon after attending the 77th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing in the city.
The earlier-than-expected staff change comes as the administration faces increasing public scrutiny of the relationship between the religious group Unification Church and ruling party lawmakers, including former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Kishida's ruling coalition partner Komeito party, said in a Saturday news conference that Kishida had informed him that a cabinet reshuffle would be announced on Wednesday.
Kishida didn't give any details of his cabinet changes, but the Yomiuri daily reported earlier that he would replace Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, given his health issues.
The tension between self-ruled Taiwan and mainland China has been the focus of the defence in the past few days.
A recent surge in COVID 19 to record high infection numbers poses another problem for the government.
A reorganisation of cabinet and ruling party officials was scheduled for early September after a memorial service for Abe, who was shot dead last month, but Kishida brought it forward to address falling approval for the cabinet in the polls, the Yomiuri said.
The reshuffle comes after Kishida's conservative coalition government stepped up its majority in the upper house of parliament in a July election held two days after Abe's death.
Kishi, 63, the younger brother of Abe, has been defence minister since September 2020.
Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki would be retained, Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda would either be kept or moved to another important post, according to the Jiji news agency on Friday.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, as well as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party LDP vice president Taro Aso and secretary-general Toshimitsu Motegi would likely retain their positions, according to the Yomiuri.
Kishida was asked about the Unification Church, a religious group to which the mother of the man who shot Abe belonged, and has been reported to have had close links with Abe's faction of the LDP at the news conference.
Kishida said he would order the cabinet to look at the links between the church and cabinet members, including deputy ministers, and review them into appropriate forms to seek the public's understanding.
He said that I personally do not have any ties with the group.
More than 80 per cent of respondents said that the relationship between the Unification Church and politicians must be revealed, and 53 per cent expressed opposition to a state funeral for Abe, according to a July 30 to 31 poll by Kyodo news agency.
The poll found support for Kishida's cabinet fell 12.2 points to 51.0 per cent, its lowest in Kyodo polling since his inauguration in October.
Kishida said it was appropriate for the government to organise a state funeral, given that Abe was modern Japan's longest-serving prime minister and given the circumstances of his death during the very foundations of democracy referring to the election campaign.