Analysis: Abe's cabinet reshuffle

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday, bringing in 13 new faces. The key changes were at the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Environment and Defense.
At a news conference after the new line-up was unveiled, Abe said it was a cabinet that would offer stability, as well as the energy needed to take on challenges for Japan.


Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister (left), and Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary (right).

Abe is keeping in place two cabinet heavyweights. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have retained the portfolios they've held since Abe returned to power in 2012. Both are long-time Abe supporters. In politics, loyalty can be a rare thing, and Abe is rewarding it.

New Foreign Minister

Toshimitsu Motegi, Foreign Minister.

Abe has tapped Toshimitsu Motegi to be Japan's new foreign minister. Motegi made a name for himself as the top negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a Japan-US trade deal.

He'll be the man to deal with issues between Japan and South Korea, which have been strained recently over trade and historical dispute.

But he won't be relinquishing his old role entirely. Abe wants him to continue to lead trade negotiations with the United States, which are in the final stage. The Prime Minister praised his new foreign minister's diplomatic skills and said he will enhance Japan's diplomacy, including more proactive economic diplomacy.

Outgoing foreign minister Taro Kono is taking over at the defense ministry.

New energy for the cabinet

Shinjiro Koizumi, Environment Minister

The new Environment Minister is Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star in the LDP and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. At 38, he is the third youngest minister in post-war history.

Abe says he wants Koizumi and the other 12 new ministers to provide the energy needed to take on challenges.

Who's next

This reshuffle could affect the competition within the LDP to be Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's eventual successor.

Fumio Kishida, Policy Research Council chief of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Some lawmakers wanted to see Fumio Kishida elevated to LDP Secretary-General, but Toshihiro Nikai held onto that role. Kishida will remain the LDP's policy chief, though, which could still be a base for a run at the top job.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is another prospective candidate. He has been a key part of the Abe administration, and though he hasn't said anything officially about running, he is viewed as a possible future prime minister.

And finally, Shinjiro Koizumi's appointment could be seen as a vote of confidence from Abe, or a test to see what he is capable of. It may be too early for Koizumi to assume the prime ministerial post after Abe, but he is steadily climbing the ranks.