Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday announced a reshuffling of his Cabinet, appointing, among others, new foreign and defense ministers.

Kishida, who leads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has seen his popularity sink of late, with observers citing the potential of upcoming snap elections as well as next September’s LDP leadership elections as having prompted the move.

Japan appoints new foreign and defense ministers

Former Finance Minister Yoko Kamikawa, one of five women in the 19-member team, will take over the role of foreign minister from Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Minoru Kihara, who served as national security advisor under former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, has been appointed defense minister.

Both are key positions as Japan seeks to navigate the shifting regional security situation dictated by China's expanding military presence and ongoing North Korean provocations.

Pyongyang on Wednesday launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward Japan as leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia to pledge support for Vladimir Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine.

The reshuffling of the Cabinet is the second since Kishida took office in October 2021.

The prime minister, who was elected on the promise of bolstering Japan’s economy and defenses, has struggled to curb inflation amid rising energy prices and massive military spending.

Japan PM’s inner-party leadership calculations

The new Cabinet line-up reflects Kishida’s need to seek a balance of power among LDP factions one year ahead of party leadership elections.

Almost half of the positions are now held by the LDP’s two largest factions, boasting members from blocs associated with former leaders Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso.

Kishida’s faction is the fourth-largest within the LDP.

By appointing five women, or just over one quarter of the Cabinet, Kishida is seeking to prove his conservative party's commitment to the advancement of women in the male-dominated country.

Of the 19 ministers, 11 of them will step into such a role for the very first time.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tetsuro Nomura, who was recently forced to apologize for referring to radioactive wastewater released into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant as “contaminated,” was among those who lost their positions.

Voter approval sinking

The 66-year-old Kishida and his government currently have a 36% approval rating according to the latest polls by national broadcaster NHK — 46% of those polled said they disapproved of the government.

Beyond voter dissatisfaction over the economy, Kishida has also faced scandal. Earlier this year he was forced to fire his son — who served as his secretary — after the younger Kishida was accused of “inappropriate behavior” for organizing a party at the prime minister's official residence in which pictures of party-goers holding “press conferences“ and lounging on the residency’s steps became public.

js/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle. Read the original article here.

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TNL Editor: Kim Chan (@thenewslensintl)

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