TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked two veteran lawmakers with friendly ties to China for top party posts yesterday in an apparent signal of hope for a thaw in chilly ties with Beijing and a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The change in executives in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is part of a broad leadership rejig, including a cabinet reshuffle, aimed at strengthening party unity and polishing Abe’s image 20 months after he surged back to office.
In a move welcomed by Tokyo stock market players, Abe drafted Yasuhisa Shiozaki, 63, a proponent of an overhaul of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), to head the ministry of labour, health and welfare.
The fund is finalising plans to boost the weighting of domestic stocks in its portfolio. Abe, however, has retained core cabinet members such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Finance Minister Taro Aso, 73, Economics Minister Akira Amari, 65, and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, 57, signalling policy continuity.
Abe’s new line-up faces a number of challenges, including how to repair ties with China that have been frayed by rows over disputed territory and Japan’s wartime history, and whether to go ahead with a planned sales tax rise next year despite signs the economy is faltering.
In a bid for party unity, the hawkish Abe tapped outgoing Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, his predecessor as LDP leader, for the key party post of secretary-general, the LDP’s de facto election campaign chief.