Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi named a new Cabinet on Monday, putting outspoken conservatives, and potential successors, in top positions and retaining his economic team. Koizumi, who has said he will step down at the end of his term next September, named right-leaning Shinzo Abe as his top government spokesman and Public Management Minister Taro Aso as foreign minister.
The popular prime minister had been expected to put his favorites for next premier in leading positions. He also was expected to favor supporters of his reform agenda, including the privatization of the postal service.
"This is a Cabinet to actually implement the reforms," Abe, in his new position, told reporters in announcing the list of ministers.
Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party won a landslide victory in Sept. 11 elections, but the Cabinet reshuffling was postponed to allow parliamentary passage of the privatization bills, a Koizumi pet project.
The Cabinet lineup reflected the prime minister's aims: a conservative, more assertive foreign policy, and a steady financial policy as the economy is making a firm recovery from more than a decade of sluggish performance.
Toward that end, Koizumi retained Heizo Takenaka, the main architect of the postal plan, as his top economics minister, and kept Sadakazu Tanigaki as finance minister.
Abe, deputy secretary general of the LDP, has favored a hard line with North Korea, and has championed the cause of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the communist regime in the 1970s and 80s.
Often named as a possible successor to Koizumi, Abe also favors visits to a Tokyo war shrine that Japan's neighbors consider a glorification of the country's wartime past.
Another conservative, Aso was formerly Koizumi's top policy planning chief and has previously served in the Cabinet as economy minister. A grandson of the late Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, Aso is also considered a possible Koizumi successor, reports Newsday. I.L.