The secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Sunday that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is planning a Cabinet shuffle in September.

“Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is seriously considering whom he should appoint for the future management of national politics,” Taku Yamasaki said on a Fuji Television Network program. “I don’t think he has come to a conclusion yet, as the timing (of the shuffle) will be September.”

Yamasaki did not deny that Koizumi might dissolve the House of Representatives and hold general elections, saying the prime minister has a propensity to do the unexpected.

Yamasaki cited Koizumi’s recent decision to appoint reform-minded writer Naoki Inose to a new panel to study the privatization of road-related public entities. Koizumi “is not the type to be impulsive, but he makes unexpected decisions suddenly,” said Yamasaki. “I don’t want to say this because it may provoke public controversy, but considering his character, he does make decisions suddenly.”

Koizumi’s choice of Inose angered many lawmakers in the LDP who are backed by constituencies dependent on the road construction industry. Inose is known for his strong opinions about reforming public entities.

Yamasaki doesn’t believe a Cabinet shuffle will taking place immediately after the ongoing Diet session ends July 31. “The personnel shuffle of LDP executives and that of the Cabinet are always integral,” the secretary general said. The terms of LDP executives expire at the end of September.

Koizumi told reporters Thursday evening at the Group of Eight summit meeting in Canada that he will decide after the current Diet session whether to make Cabinet changes. He intends to consider the reactions of LDP members and the public toward the reform policies of the current Cabinet.

The issue of a Cabinet shuffle has been a major focus of recent political debate in Japan. Cabinet lineups change almost every year due to power struggles involving senior ruling lawmakers.

The prime minister firmly rejected calls from senior members of the LDP-led ruling coalition to alter the Cabinet since taking office in April 2001.

Recently, however, Koizumi has made a series of remarks suggesting such resolve has weakened. Plunging approval ratings and growing criticism of his economic ministers have apparently prompted his reconsideration.

Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani has also been under fire amid a recent scandal. His agency has been criticized for checking the backgrounds of individuals seeking information from the agency under the information disclosure law.

The fate of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda is likewise uncertain following a recent gaffe. He said the nation’s three principles opposing nuclear weapons — not producing, possessing or allowing them within Japan’s national borders — could be changed in the future.

Also, Farm Minister Tsutomu Takebe has long been under fire for his handling of the mad cow disease outbreak. Japan’s first infected cow was found last September.

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