Koizumi firm on reform backers as next ministers

Kyodo

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reiterated Thursday that he will appoint those who support his postal privatization drive when he reshuffles his Cabinet later this month.

“I will have to decide on the Cabinet lineup mainly with those willing to devote themselves to postal privatization,” Koizumi told Japanese reporters in the Brazilian capital. The reporters are traveling with the prime minister on his 11-day, three-nation tour.

A number of lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party, which Koizumi heads, remain opposed to the privatization process despite a Cabinet decision last week that the postal services will be split into four entities and privatized in 2007.

Koizumi added that he will allow New Komeito — the LDP’s ruling coalition partner — to choose a Cabinet member in place of Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi, who is expected to leave the Cabinet.

This virtually clinches a Cabinet berth for Kazuo Kitagawa, New Komeito’s policy chief, though he will not necessarily assume the health, labor and welfare portfolio.

Koizumi plans to reshuffle his Cabinet and LDP executive posts after returning next Thursday from his trip to Brazil, Mexico and New York, where he is scheduled to make a presentation to the U.N. General Assembly.

Regarding whether he will allow LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe to leave the party’s No. 2 post, Koizumi indicated he would do so, saying, “I understand the secretary general’s way of thinking.”

Abe on Monday told Koizumi he wants to leave the post when his term expires this month. Koizumi did not ask him to remain, but proposed that they discuss the matter again on Sept. 24, the day after his return from the trip.

Koizumi declined to name any specific person as a possible replacement for Abe, saying, “Everything is blank.”

The prime minister said he will decide on the date of the planned reshuffle after meeting with Abe on Sept. 24.

Koizumi meanwhile criticized LDP members opposed to his postal privatization policy.