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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto conferred with the Liberal Democratic Party’s most influential men late Sept. 10 to try to forge the framework for his third Cabinet.

The new Cabinet will be launched this evening, tasked with carrying through his six major reforms. As with the current Cabinet, formed Nov. 7, Hashimoto’s new decision-making body will be an all-LDP affair, with the two allies — the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake — opting to remain outside.

But this time, Hashimoto is reshuffling his Cabinet with his party full of confidence and strength, having regained a simple majority in the powerful House of Representatives for the first time in four years. Hashimoto is considering reappointing Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma and Kabun Muto, chief of the Management and Coordination Agency as well as acting chairman of a governmental reform panel, in the reshuffle expected Sept. 11, LDP sources said.

The reappointments are intended to form a Cabinet capable of pursuing such top-priority policy issues as administrative and other reforms that Hashimoto has pledged, and the updating of the 1978 guidelines on Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, due to be completed Sept. 24, the sources said.

Hashimoto has already decided to retain Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka to continue implementing the ongoing reform of Japan’s fiscal structure, they said. Hashimoto is also pondering the reappointment of Junichiro Koizumi as health and welfare minister amid the pending reforms to the medical insurance system, they said.

Hashimoto held talks Sept. 10 with former Prime Ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone, Noboru Takeshita, Kiichi Miyazawa, and former LDP president Yohei Kono. The prime minister needs the full consent of those and other influential LDP men, including the faction leaders, to make his appointments because the LDP is a de facto coalition.

Hashimoto consulted with Koichi Kato, the LDP secretary general, at his Official Residence about the final details of the Cabinet restructuring, and they also discussed the LDP’s executive lineup. Reportedly, the two will seek to get the party’s support to keep current personnel in place.

That would mean retaining Kato as LDP secretary general and Taku Yamasaki as chairman of the party’s Policy Affairs Research Council.

But retaining Yamasaki could be a controversial decision in the wake of comments made Sept. 8 by Junichi Izui, a oil wholesaler now on trial for fraud and tax evasion charges who said he made a large political donation to Yamasaki. There have been expressions of concern from some quarters about possible repercussions in Diet proceedings if Yamasaki stays on.

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