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Abe touts women in first Kennedy meeting

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

New U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the first time Wednesday in a courtesy visit, and Abe took the opportunity to highlight one pet initiative — promoting the status of women in male-dominated Japan.

Abe had his two female ministers, Tomomi Inada and Masako Mori, attend the luncheon, while excluding Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, his right-hand man and the Cabinet’s point man.

Inada is in charge of administrative reform and Mori is in charge of gender issues and consumer affairs.

During a press briefing later in the day, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko played up Kennedy’s mention during the meeting that she was familiar with Abe’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September stressing Japan’s efforts to promote women in the workplace to help achieve economic growth.

“(Kennedy) highly rated Prime Minister Abe’s (pledge) to create a society where women can play more active roles. I think the first meeting was a great success,” Seko said.

Kennedy and Abe agreed to “closely work on various issues” between the two countries, and to cooperate in helping the victims of the terrible typhoon that hit the Philippines this month, Seko said.

Asked for more specifics of what the two discussed, Seko said he had not received a report on the meeting’s details.

Usually, among senior officials in the prime minister’s office, it is the chief Cabinet secretary who acts as point man in dealing with the U.S. ambassador.

Asked about the exclusion of Suga from the meeting, a high-ranking official said Abe apparently made the decision and a separate meeting between Suga and Kennedy will be arranged. “Today’s meeting is that of the ambassador and the prime minister,” the official said.