PM Abe names new defence, foreign ministers in cabinet revamp


TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday named new defence and foreign ministers as part of a cabinet revamp he hopes will stem a decline in public support after a series of scandals and missteps.

Itsunori Onodera, a former defence chief, is to return to the defence ministry — rocked by the resignation last week of close Abe political ally Tomomi Inada.

Taro Kono, the son of a former foreign minister, will become the country’s new top diplomat.

Political blueblood Abe, in office since late December 2012, has pushed a nationalist agenda alongside a massive policy effort to end years of on-off deflation and rejuvenate the world’s third-largest economy.

But he has seen public support rates plummet in the past few months over an array of political troubles, including allegations of favouritism to a friend in a business deal — which Abe strongly denies.

“I deeply regret that my shortcomings have invited this situation,” a chastened Abe said earlier in the day ahead of the formal announcement of the cabinet changes.

The new cabinet was announced by Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman.