• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suggested he will retain Fumio Kishida as foreign minister in the Cabinet reshuffle planned for early next month, sources in the government and ruling party said Friday.

Kishida, viewed as the front-runner to succeed Abe as Liberal Democratic Party president and thus prime minister, had intended to leave the Cabinet in an apparent attempt to prepare for the LDP leadership race in September 2018 but has agreed to stay on.

During a one-on-one meeting at a Tokyo hotel Thursday evening, Abe is believed to have told Kishida he will give him an important post in the Cabinet, the sources said, adding that Abe asked for his help in achieving his quest to revise the war-renouncing Constitution.

At a news conference Friday, Kishida only said, “We have to support the administration as the party and the government are in a difficult situation.”

By retaining Kishida, Abe is aiming to secure party unity at a time when the Cabinet’s public support ratings have tumbled in the opinion polls.

Abe is expected to overhaul his Cabinet and the LDP leadership, possibly on Aug. 3, as a response to the LDP’s crushing defeat in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election earlier this month.

The Cabinet’s polling numbers have dived due in part to allegations that Abe used his influence to get the opening of Japan’s first new veterinary department in decades approved at a university run by his close friend.

Political experts say he plans to leave many key posts in the 19-member Cabinet unchanged, including deputy prime minister and finance minister, both held by Taro Aso, and chief Cabinet secretary, held by Yoshihide Suga.

On the way out are believed to be Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda, who have been embroiled in a series of controversies.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii, the only member of the Cabinet who belongs to junior coalition partner Komeito, is also expected to remain, the sources said. Ishii was appointed in October 2015.

Kishida, who assumed his post when Abe returned to power in December 2012, is the second-longest-serving foreign minister in the postwar era.

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