• Kyodo, Staff Report

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One of the newly appointed ministers in Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle has apparently holstered his criticism of the government’s nuclear policy, potentially exposing him to the charge that he traded his belief in exchange for a prestigious post.

Taro Kono, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who was named chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and minister in charge of administrative reform and disaster management, has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nuclear policy.

More than four years into the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Abe government is pursuing the restart of idled reactors to sustain the economy. Kono has specifically opposed the government’s attempt to promote the recycling of spent nuclear fuel, while calling for a staged reduction in the country’s reliance on nuclear power.

Asked at his inaugural news conference Wednesday night whether he will retain his criticism of Abe’s nuclear policy, Kono said he was “going in the same direction” as his boss.

Kono, a seventh-term Lower House member from Kanagawa Prefecture, also said he would sincerely work to fulfill his duties within the government.

“But I will say what I have to say,” Kono added.

Kono, who is generally viewed as a liberal within the LDP, was apparently trying to deny policy inconsistencies within the new Cabinet, but his comment Wednesday may draw fire from the opposition camp that he traded his soul in exchange for a Cabinet post, political observers said.

As of Thursday morning, Kono’s blog site was inaccessible due to “maintenance.”

Kono hails from a political family. His father, Yohei, is known as a political dove who was a former Lower House speaker. In 1993 as chief Cabinet secretary he issued a landmark apology statement over the “comfort women” issue affecting women and girls forced to provide sex for the wartime Japanese military.

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