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Prime Minister Noda sacks two censured ministers

Date Posted: 2012-06-06

Japan’s Prime Minister has given his Cabinet a shaking up, dumping two ministers who’d been censured by the Diet as he tries to build a relationship with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Noda, who’s trying to woo the opposition into supporting his legislation to double the 5% Japanese sales or consumption tax, shuffled the Cabinet for a second time since he took office last September, getting rid of five of his 18 Cabinet ministers, including Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka and Takeshi Maeda, his Transportation Minister. Both had been censured by the Diet in April.

“The reshuffle aims to strengthen the Cabinet’s function,” Noda explained, “to create an environment to move forward various issues, such as the tax and social security reforms.” Noda called passage of the tax increase “most important” and the reason he’s working hard to get close to the LDP.

Noda’s Cabinet reshuffle came only one day after he failed to persuade former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa to back his tax hike. If Ozawa and most of his 100+ members delegation oppose it, the tax hike will fail, unless the Prime Minister can enlist support from the LDP. If the LDP agrees to back the tax hike, the controversial bill is predicted to pass.

LDP chief Sadakazu Tanigaki is signaling support for a sales tax increase, although he’s waiting for the DPJ to accept his party’s counterproposal on the tax issue in exchange for that support.

Satoshi Morimoto is the new Defense Minister, replacing Tanaka, who was often criticized for his lack of experience. Morimoto is not a politician, coming instead from a security issues background. Noda called him a “leading figure in the field of security”. Morimoto’s been with the Foreign Ministry since 1979, after serving with the Japan Air Self Defense Force.

The new Transport Ministry is Yuichiro Hata, formerly the DPJ’s chief negotiator for Upper House parliamentary proceedings. He replaced Maeda, who was charged with meddling in a recent local election. Noda promoted Senior Vice Justice Minister Makoto Taki to replace Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa. Toshio Ogawa was named Farm Minister after serving as Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

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