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Kan shows few signs of resignation as he sets goals, revamps Cabinet

Date Posted: 2011-06-30

Prime Minister Naoto Kan isnít acting like a lame duck, as both his Democratic Party of Japan and opposition lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party would like him to, instead pressing forward with realigning his Cabinet and setting his agenda for the Diet, which is being kept in session a few weeks longer.

Calls have become louder in recent months for him to step down; even his own party lawmakers wanted him out before the end of this month to keep Kanís political troubles from negatively affecting upcoming elections this fall. Kan had said publicly he would step down, but has skillfully avoided picking a date. This week, heís been showing signs of being anything but a leader on the way out.

Kan has reshuffled his Cabinet, adding a top opposition party member to be his parliamentary secretary for internal affairs, leading political observers to view his actions as a step toward consolidating power. He appointed Kazuyuki Hamada, a LDP Upper House lawmaker whoís jumping parties, to be his parliamentary secretary within the Internal Affairs Ministry, a position that puts him in a lead role for reconstruction efforts in eastern Japan, where a devastating typhoon and tsunami March 11th has cost thousands of lives and billions of yen in damage.

Adviser Goshi Hosono was elevated to State Minister in charge of the nuclear power plant cris, serving also as head of the Consumer Affairs and Food Safety department. Kanís administrative reform minister, Renho, will turn over her duties to Yukio Edano, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and step up to being the Prime Ministerís special adviser. Kanís also chosen Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto to head the new reconstruction agency, with Justice Minister Satsuki Eda taking on the additional portfolio.

Also new to Kanís team is Shizuka Kamei, head of the DPJís coalition partner Kokumin Shinto, the Peopleís New Party. He rebuffed an offer to be deputy prime minister, and instead will become a special adviser.

Edano, who many see as Kanís right-hand man, is trying to reassure critics Kanís not just trying to stay in power. ďThe prime minister has said he intends to hand over responsibilities to the younger generation once measures dealing with the disaster reach a certain point,Ē he said, adding ďI donít believe thatís changed at all.Ē

The Chief Cabinet Secretary says there are three policy objectives in Kanís plans, including pushing through another supplementary budget through the Diet for fiscal year 2011. The others said to be keys to Kan walking away from the Prime Ministerís position are passing a bill that allows the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, and passage of a vote on use of renewable energy.

The Prime Minister hasnít shied away from the controversial Futenma issue, standing side-by-side with Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima at last weekís Battle of Okinawa 66th anniversary commemorations. At a meeting open to the news media at the Prime Ministerís office in Tokyo, Kan said any thoughts or consideration of moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station out of Okinawa Prefecture could further impede negotiations regarding base relocations. He made the comment knowing Okinawa Prefectural Government is demanding the controversial base be moved outside the prefecture.

ďThe people of Okinawa have been saying they want the base out of the prefecture, or out of the country,Ē Kan told Nakaima, ďbut if we look at ways other than the current plan, we could return to a state in which a relocation site will be undecided.Ē

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