• Kyodo

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Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi requested Monday that the party’s policy chief, Keiichi Ishii, replace veteran Komeito lawmaker Akihiro Ota as transport minister in Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle, sources said.

Yamaguchi made the request in a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the sources said. After speaking with Abe, however, Yamaguchi said that he would “leave personnel affairs to the prime minister.”

Ishii, who is serving his eighth term as a Lower House member, is chairman of the Policy Research Council for Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

According to the sources, Yamaguchi initially sought to retain Ota as transport minister but decided to replace him amid calls from Soka Gakkai, the lay Buddhist organization that backs Komeito, that the party have a younger lawmaker in the Cabinet.

Ota, a former Komeito president, has been transport minister since Abe returned to power in December 2012.

Abe said last week he will retain the party’s top five executives in their current posts when he reshuffles the Cabinet and LDP leadership Wednesday.

The five party executives are Vice President Masahiko Komura, Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki, Policy Research Council Chairwoman Tomomi Inada, General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai and Election Strategy Committee Chairman Toshimitsu Motegi.

Abe has hinted that he will also retain key Cabinet ministers, fueling speculation that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Akira Amari, minister of economic and fiscal policy, will all keep their positions.

Sources have said Abe will also retain Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, one of the four female ministers in the Cabinet, and that he plans to have at least four women in the Cabinet after the reshuffle as part of his initiative to promote female empowerment.

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