Japan’s PM picks hawkish defence minister in limited reshuffle

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed a conservative ally as defence minister today, in a cabinet reshuffle that left most key posts unchanged, and he promised to speed up the economy’s escape from deflation and boost regional ties. New Minister of Defence Tomomi Inada, previously the ruling party policy chief, shares Abe’s goal of revising the post-war, pacifist constitution, which some conservatives consider a humiliating symbol of Japan’s World War Two defeat.She also regularly visits Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, which China and South Korea see as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have often been frayed by the legacy of Japan’s military aggression before and during World War Two.Abe told a news conference the economy was his top priority and he would devote himself to lifting the country out of deflation, but that he also aimed to mend regional relations in the face of the threat posed by North Korea.”We will steadily strengthen ties with neighbouring countries such as China and South Korea, and proceed with talks with Russia for a peace treaty,” he said, referring to the fact that Japan and Russia never signed a treaty after World War Two because of a territorial dispute.”Today, North Korea yet again carried out a ballistic missile launch. It appears to have fallen within Japan’s EEZ, which poses a grave threat to Japan’s security and is an unforgivable outrage,” he said.A Japanese defence official said earlier the main body of the missile that North Korea launched, which followed a series of missile tests by the isolated country, landed in Japan’s offshore exclusive economic zone (EEZ).Abe is expected to travel to China in September for a Group of 20 summit, where he may meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to help mend ties also strained by a row over tiny isles in the East China Sea and China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.China is North Korea’s main ally but it disapproves of the North’s nuclear programme and missile tests.Inada, a 57-year-old lawyer, is the second woman to hold the defence post.
The first, Yuriko Koike, who held the job briefly in 2007, was recently elected Tokyo governor.The foreign ministries of China and South Korea had no immediate comment on her appointment.GOING FOR GROWTHAbe is trying to rekindle growth as he ponders the possibility of staying in office after his term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ends in 2018.

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