TOKYO — A woman with revisionist views of World War II history was named Japan’s defense minister in a Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, a move that could unsettle relations with Asian neighbors with bitter memories of wartime atrocities.
Tomomi Inada, who had served as reform minister and most recently held one of the top posts in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, will replace Gen Nakatani as defense minister. She’s the second female to fill the post.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed more than half of the 19-member Cabinet in a bid to support his economic, security and other policy goals.
Inada, a lawyer-turned-lawmaker and one of Abe’s favorite cronies, is a regular at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war dead including convicted war criminals, a gesture seen by neighbors as an endorsement of Japan’s militaristic past.
She has also made remarks defending Japan’s wartime atrocities, including forcing many Asian women into sexual servitude in military-run brothels, and has led a party committee to re-evaluate the judgment of war tribunal by the Allies.
Inada is also a supporter of Abe’s long-cherished hope to revise Japan’s postwar constitution. She has said parts of the war-renouncing Article 9 should be scrapped, arguing that they could be interpreted as banning the Self-Defense Forces.
Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga were among key Cabinet members who retained their portfolios, while 10 ministers were replaced in the reshuffle.
Abe, whose key policies include women’s advancement, will have two other female Cabinet members, including one who will serve as Olympic minister after being shifted from environment minister. Tokyo is set to host the 2020 Summer Games.
While campaigning for last month’s upper house elections, Abe promised to focus on economic revitalization in the short term, and to later seek to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Since he took office in late 2012, Abe has sought to boost growth by pumping massive amounts of money into the world’s third-biggest economy. But lavish monetary easing and public works spending so far have failed to reignite growth as much as hoped.
The reshuffle was the third since Abe took office, and the first since October.
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