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Abe to appoint Foreign Minister Kishida to head LDP Policy Research Council

Fumio Kishida (Mainichi)
Seiko Noda (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to appoint Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to head the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Policy Research Council, party sources said.

Abe, who heads the LDP, will also name LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita, 70, as head of the party's decision-making General Council.

Prime Minister Abe is set to reshuffle his Cabinet as well as the LDP leadership on Aug. 3.

Kishida, who has served as foreign minister for four years and seven months since Abe's second Cabinet was inaugurated in late 2012, is widely viewed as a possible successor to Abe. There are growing opinions within the Kishida faction that the foreign minister should assume one of the top three party posts to gain appropriate leadership skills.

Abe is also considering appointing Seiko Noda, former head of the LDP General Council, to his Cabinet.

Noda, 56, has recently distanced herself from the Abe administration and hinted at her enthusiasm about running in the LDP presidential election in September next year saying, "I'm moving toward September 2018." However, the prime minister will appoint her to his Cabinet in a bid to help strengthen party unity.

Regarding arguments within the party that Noda should be committed to the Cabinet, Noda said, "I'd be glad if people say so, but it depends solely on the prime minister," suggesting that she would comply with any request from the prime minister to serve as a Cabinet minister.

Noda previously served as posts and telecommunications minister and consumer affairs minister.

Prime Minister Abe intends to avoid appointments that could give the public the impression that he favorably treats legislators close to him as he tries to strengthen party unity at a time when the approval rating of his Cabinet has plummeted.

Abe will thus let Hiroyuki Hosoda, who leads an intraparty faction the prime minister belongs to, step down as chairman of the General Council, and give the post to Takeshita who belongs to another faction.

Tamayo Marukawa, minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games who also belongs to the Hosoda faction, will also be replaced.

Still, Abe intends to retain close aide and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, 54, who doubles as minister in charge of economic cooperation with Russia, as the prime minister attaches importance to Japan-Russia ties.

The prime minister is also exploring the possibility of appointing 68-year-old Kazunori Tanaka, head of the LDP's International Bureau, to his Cabinet.

Former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hiroshi Moriyama, 72, and others have been named as a possible successor to Takeshita as chief of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee.

Abe will appoint former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, 57, to the same post. Currently, Foreign Minister Kishida doubles as defense minister after his predecessor Tomomi Inada resigned late last month.

Masayoshi Yoshino, 68, who replaced reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura after the latter stepped down in late April over gaffes, will likely stay on.

The prime minister is poised to retain Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, 76, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, 68, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, 78, and LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura, 75, as the "framework" of his administration.

Abe will officially appoint new top LDP officials at an extraordinary meeting of the party's General Council on the morning of Aug. 3. He will then launch a new Cabinet later in the day.

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