September 11, 2019 / 5:53 AM / 2 months ago

Factbox: Profiles of key Japanese cabinet ministers in new posts

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, keeping allies such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minister Taro Aso in their posts..

Japan's new Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi arrives at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Here are brief profiles of some of those with new jobs in the cabinet.

TOSHIMITSU MOTEGI, FOREIGN MINISTER

As economy minister, Motegi, 63, faced off with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer over a deal that President Donald Trump wants to help reduce the big trade imbalance between the two allies.

The Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker was trade minister under Abe when the latter returned to power in 2012, tackling negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

Educated at the University of Tokyo and Harvard, the English-speaking Motegi was first elected to the lower house in 1993 from the then-opposition Japan New Party. He joined the LDP in 1995.

TARO KONO, DEFENCE MINISTER

Kono, 56, has a reputation as a maverick but has toed the line on key Abe policies including a stern stance in a feud with South Korea over wartime history and trade.

Educated at Georgetown University and a fluent English speaker well-known in Washington, Kono served as minister for administrative reform and became foreign minister in 2017.

He has sought to differentiate his often more conservative stances from those of his father, former chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, who authored a landmark 1993 apology to “comfort women”, a Japanese euphemism for women forced to work in Japanese military wartime brothels.

SHINJIRO KOIZUMI, ENVIRONMENT MINISTER

Koizumi, the 38-year-old son of charismatic former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, is the third-youngest person to become a cabinet minister and regularly tops polls as the person most favoured to take over after Abe.

As environment minister, Koizumi could be in an awkward spot given Abe’s commitment to nuclear power. The elder Koizumi, now retired from parliament, became a harsh critic of atomic energy after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Regularly referred to as Shinjiro to distinguish him from his father, Koizumi last month announced he would marry Christel Takigawa, 42, a French-Japanese television presenter known as the face of Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

YASUTOSHI NISHIMURA, ECONOMY MINISTER

The 56-year-old Nishimura, a former trade official and deputy chief cabinet secretary, won a lower house seat as an independent in 2003 and later joined the LDP.

Nishimura graduated from Tokyo University and the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland in the United States. He has three daughters.

KATSUNOBU KATO, HEALTH, LABOUR AND WELFARE MINISTER

A close Abe ally and former finance ministry official, Kato, 63, has served as minister for health, labour and welfare as well as deputy chief cabinet secretary, when he was handled the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents decades ago.

The father of four daughters, Kato was tasked by Abe in 2015 to find ways to boost the rock-bottom birthrate.

He first won election to the lower house in 2003.

ISSHU SUGAWARA - TRADE AND INDUSTRY MINISTER

Sugawara, 57, is a Tokyo native who worked for one of Japan’s largest trading firms before becoming a local lawmaker and then winning election to parliament in 2003.

A former vice trade minister, Sugawara is known for his involvement in budget policies and is close to Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga.

SEIKO HASHIMOTO - OLYMPICS MINISTER

Hashimoto, 54, is a seven-time Olympian who has taken part as a speedskater and cyclist, winning a bronze medal at the 1992 Albertville Winter Games.

Born just days before Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Games, a pivotal point in modern Japanese history, she was named for the Olympic flame and will now oversee Tokyo’s second hosting of the games in 2020.

Hashimoto became the first upper house lawmaker to give birth while in office. Married to a policeman, she is the mother of six children, three from a first marriage.

Slideshow (7 Images)

KOICHI HAGIUDA - EDUCATION MINISTER

Hagiuda, 56, is a long-time Abe ally who has served as deputy chief cabinet secretary, vice minister for education and special adviser to Abe.

Hagiuda has on occasion made waves with outspoken remarks. In early 2014 he lashed out at then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration for expressing “disappointment” over Abe’s visit the previous month to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead.

Reporting by Linda Sieg and Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel

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