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Abe to retain economic, health, foreign ministers, won't give rival Ishiba key role

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes his seat at a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 21, 2018 at the prime minister's office in central Tokyo, flanked by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, right, and Toshimitsu Motegi, minister for economic revitalization. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering retaining his ministers of economic revitalization, health and foreign affairs in an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, but won't give an important role to Shigeru Ishiba, who ran against him in the Sept. 20 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election, according to people close to him.

Abe will reshuffle his Cabinet and senior party posts for his third term as party leader and prime minister as early as on Oct. 1, after returning from a trip to the United States to meet President Donald Trump and speak at the United Nations General Assembly.

In the Cabinet reshuffle, Abe intends to retain Toshimitsu Motegi, 62, minister in charge of economic revitalization; Katsunobu Kato, 62, minister of health, labor and welfare; and Foreign Minister Taro Kono, 55. He will also try to keep Fumio Kishida as LDP Policy Research Council chairman, as Kishida gave up on a bid to stand in the presidential election and supported the premier.

Abe will not recruit Ishiba, former LDP secretary-general, for a senior portfolio as the party heavyweight clashed head-on with Abe in the party leadership race over such issues as constitutional revision and the Abe administration's economic policy mix, dubbed "Abenomics."

Abe already has decided to retain Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, 78, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, 69, and LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, 79.

Meanwhile, the LDP and its junior ruling coalition partner Komeito have begun preparations to convene an extraordinary session of the Diet on Oct. 26. Abe plans to visit China on Oct. 23 and intends to have Kono lay the groundwork for the important diplomatic event. Abe wants to keep Motegi, as he is involved in trade negotiations with the U.S.

During the extraordinary Diet session, Abe will submit a supplementary budget bill for fiscal 2018 to support the recovery of areas hit by deadly torrential rains in western Japan in July and an intense earthquake that caused a widespread blackout in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido earlier this month.

The opposition camp intends to grill the administration over the padding of the number of employees with disabilities at central government ministries and agencies. Abe plans to let health minister Kato handle the matter by keeping him in his current post.

The prime minister is also considering keeping Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, 55, who is promoting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade agreement initiative for 16 countries in Asia and the western Pacific, from India to Japan and New Zealand.

Besides keeping Ishiba out of an important role, the premier is considering replacing Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ken Saito, 59, who disclosed that a pro-Abe Diet member said he should resign for supporting Ishiba in the presidential race.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka and Jun Aoki, Political News Department)

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