Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reshuffled his Cabinet for the third time Monday. Although he changed 10 of the 18 Cabinet members, Mr. Noda has failed to present a long-term policy goal or a future vision for Japan as it faces a rapidly graying population and difficult diplomatic issues.
Only short-term goals are clear — to prepare the Democratic Party of Japan for the next Lower House election, expected within a year, and to prevent Diet members from leaving the DPJ. If nine more leave the party, it will lose a majority in the Lower House.
Mr. Noda picked DPJ policy chief Seiji Maehara as national strategy minister and former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka as education minister.
Apparently he hopes that Mr. Maehara, popular with some people because of his polemic ability, and Ms. Tanaka, known for her outspokenness, will help the DPJ get votes in the coming election. But in the past, Mr. Maehara unnecessarily increased friction with China by stressing a China threat theory or by saying, as foreign minister in 2010, that no agreement existed between Japan and China to shelve the Senkaku Islands dispute. He needs to be careful about what he says, especially on diplomatic issues.
Ms. Tanaka, who became foreign minister in April 2001 under the administration of Liberal Democratic Party Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, clashed with bureaucrats time and again over personnel affairs and other matters and was dismissed in January 2002. Because she tends to speak without reserve, the possibility cannot be ruled out that her behavior and language may cause Mr. Noda trouble with some issues.
He dropped from his Cabinet Mr. Goshi Hosono, who, as environment and nuclear minister, was actively involved in solving the aftermath in Fukushima Prefecture of the Fukushima nuclear accident, and made him DPJ policy chief. He apparently hopes to prevent further attrition of DPJ Diet members by having Mr. Hosono, popular with young DPJ Diet members, write a new election manifesto for the DPJ. In Mr. Hosono’s place, Mr. Noda appointed Mr. Hiroyuki Nagahama, who has to familiarize himself with the Fukushima situation from scratch. This appears to run counter to Mr. Noda’s declaration that he will attach importance to overcoming the effects of the nuclear accident.
Mr. Noda punished former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi, former farm minister Hirotaka Akamatsu and former farm minister Michihiko Kano, who vied for the position of DPJ chief in September, by not appointing anybody from their groups as a Cabinet minister. This could cause discord within the party.
Mr. Noda said that his administration faces a mountain of policy problems that must be solved. But what he did is illogical. He changed such important Cabinet members as finance minister and health and welfare minister. New Finance Minister Koriki Jojima has no experience in the management of state finance.
The new Cabinet composition seems to reflect various attempts to fit a square peg into a round hole.