CHIBA — Prime Minister Naoto Kan was rumored Thursday to have two key changes in mind for his looming Cabinet reshuffle, sources said.
One will replace Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku with his Democratic Party of Japan’s deputy secretary general, Yukio Edano.
The other will appoint Kaoru Yosano, who left Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) earlier in the day, to a new Cabinet post in charge of social welfare or tax reform, or a post as Kan’s adviser.
“Mr. Yosano was active in social welfare policies and fiscal reform (while a member of) the Liberal Democratic Party,” Kan said after a party convention in Chiba Prefecture. “I feel there is a common perspective with the DPJ.”
Yosano was an LDP member before he left to form Tachiagare Nippon last April.
Kan said he will reshuffle the Cabinet to create a new team Friday that will allow him to best “overcome the crisis the nation faces.”
In a separate news conference, Sengoku admitted he was being replaced and said Kan asked him to back him within the party, suggesting he will be given an executive DPJ post. Media reports said Sengoku is likely to serve as acting president, an honorary post for veteran lawmakers.
Opposition parties have said they will boycott Diet deliberations unless Sengoku and transport minister Sumio Mabuchi, who were targeted for nonbinding censure motions in the Upper House, are replaced. To avoid wasting time on gridlock when the Diet convenes Jan. 24, Kan apparently decided to replace the two ministers.
Media reports also said the DPJ was eyeing another veteran, Kozo Watanabe, as a candidate for Diet affairs chief, a key position that involves heavy negotiating with the opposition parties.
But since it has been only four months since Kan’s last Cabinet reshuffle, the prime minister is expected to retain much of his current lineup, including Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.
Renho, state minister in charge of government revitalization, and Koichiro Genba, the state minister in charge of national strategy who is also doubling as DPJ policy chief, are also expected to retain their posts.
During the DPJ’s convention earlier in the day, Kan called on both ruling bloc and opposition camp lawmakers to step up debate on how to reform social security, regardless of their differences.
“As the responsibility of our generation, we need to hold discussions beyond parties,” Kan said, adding that refusing to debate the topic would be tantamount to “treason.”
Kan called for holding a nonpartisan discussion on social welfare and tax reforms — including a sales tax hike — on Jan. 4. But the opposition camp, led by the LDP, has been reluctant. It wants the DPJ to offer a proposal first before engaging in debate.
Secretary General Katsuya Okada meanwhile said the DPJ plans to review the campaign pledges it made for the Lower House and Upper House elections in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The DPJ failed to make good on some of its promises, including one to remove a contentious U.S. air base from Okinawa.
At the convention, the DPJ also adopted policies for this year’s activities, saying it will do its utmost to clear the fiscal 2011 budget and related bills through the divided Diet.
Meanwhile, a string of nationwide elections for local assemblies in April will be important in securing local footing in local regions, the DPJ said in a policy paper.
However, during Thursday’s meeting, local DPJ members expressed concern that an internal conflict over the fate of party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa would negatively affect the local elections.
“I think the winds (of criticism) will also blow at the local election, but we’ll do our best,” said Yutaka Fukuma of the Tottori Prefectural Assembly after a party gathering in the morning.
Information from Kyodo added
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