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Aug. 10, 2022, 9:18 p.m. EDT

Japan’s Kishida purges Cabinet after support falls over church ties

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By Associated Press

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Seven ministers who acknowledged their ties to the church were removed. They include Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, who said that church followers were volunteers in his past election campaigns, and Public Safety Commission Chairman Satoshi Ninoyu, who attended an event organized by a church-related organization.

Several newly appointed ministers said they had given donations and had others links to the church in the past, triggering criticism from opposition leaders.

Japanese Communist Party senior lawmaker Akira Koike said the reshuffle failed to cover up the Unification Church ties. “It only showed the LDP’s deep ties to the church because they cannot form a Cabinet if they exclude lawmakers linked to the church.”

Kishida said the main purpose of the reshuffle was to “break through one of biggest postwar crises” such as the coronavirus pandemic, inflation, growing tensions between China and self-ruled Taiwan and Russia’s war on Ukraine. He said that bolstering Japan’s military capability and spending was a top priority.

Kishi was replaced by former Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, and Taro Kono, who previously served as a vaccination tsar during the pandemic as well as foreign and defense minister, returned to the Cabinet as digital minister.

Along with Matsuno, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, Transportation Minister Tetsuo Saito, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki also kept their jobs.

Economy and Trade Minister Koici Hagiuda, who also had church ties, was shifted to head the party policy research committee and replaced by former Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. Katsunobu Kato was appointed health minister for the third time, tasked with coronavirus measures.

The new Cabinet suggested Kishida tasked veterans with key portfolios such as diplomacy, defense, economic security and pandemic measures while carefully keeping a power balance among party wings to solidify unity amid growing speculation of a power struggle within Abe’s faction.

Despite criticism that Japanese politics is dominated by older men, the majority of the Cabinet members are still men older than 60, with only two women.

They include Sanae Takaichi, an ultra-conservative close to Abe who was appointed economic security minister, and Keiko Nagaoka, a first-timer who became education minister and replaced Shinsuke Suematsu, who also acknowledged his Unification Church links.

Gender Minister Seiko Noda, who admitted to sending a message to a church-related group’s event in 2001 that was attended by her aide, was replaced by Masanobu Ogura in his first Cabinet post.

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