Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, brought his closest allies and right-wingers into his Cabinet in major Cabinet reshuffle Wednesday, changing 17 out of 19 Cabinet members. Abe’s confidants, who have been making reckless remarks on war-time history and territory, and right-wingers, who have led the retaliatory economic measures against South Korea, have been appointed to Cabinet posts, raising the prospects of more strained South Korea-Japan relations.
Koichi Hagiuda, who has advocated Japan’s conservative swing, has been appointed as the education minister. He has been paying a tribute every year to the controversial Yasukuni shrine on behalf of Abe and caused a stir for saying, “The Kono Statement is over.” Sanae Takaichi, who regularly visits the Yasukuni shrine as an incumbent member of the Cabinet and denies the Kono Statement, reassumed her position as the interior minister. Shinjiro Koizumi, one of the “post-Abe” candidates, has been appointed the environment minister. He visited the Yasukuni shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in 1945, demonstrating his conservative political views.
Abe has sent a clear message to South Korea by appointing the three figures (Koichi Hagiuda and Hiroshige Seko), who led the export control measures against South Korea, to key Cabinet posts. Kono Taro, who created a controversy for his diplomatic discourtesy to South Korea, has been named the defense minister. Their appointment is to stress that the export control measures against South Korea have been successful, according to some observers. These three, who have led the “South Korea-bashing,” are likely to serve as sycophants to the Abe administration down the road. Meanwhile, Abe has replaced Takeshi Iwaya, defense minister, who has been stressing the importance of defense collaboration with South Korea.
Prime Minister Abe is expected go to extremes as his long-held goal is to amend Japan’s constitution. Japan is trying to distort its history of invasion and change the history by denying the Kono Statement and Murayama Statement. Abe aims to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution before his term ends in 2021 in order to change the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution. It is deeply regrettable to see the Abe administration’s old way of thinking and actions that are out of sync with the times.