TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday (Aug 6) he will reshuffle his cabinet next week to address mounting issues including Taiwan tensions, COVID-19 and economic stimulus measures to counter inflation.
"We need to set off a new formation as soon as possible considering the various issues," he told a news conference in Hiroshima after attending a commemoration for the 77th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing in the city.
The earlier-than-expected staff change also comes as his administration faces increasing public scrutiny on the relationship between the religious group Unification Church and ruling party lawmakers, including slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Kishida's ruling coalition partner Komeito party, said in a Saturday news conference that Kishida had informed him the cabinet reshuffle would be announced on Wednesday.
Kishida did not give any details of his cabinet changes but the Yomiuri daily reported earlier that he would likely replace Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, given his health issues.
Defence is in the spotlight with tension surging between self-ruled Taiwan and mainland China in recent days.
A recent surge of COVID-19 to record-high infection numbers poses another problem for the government.
A reorganisation of the cabinet and ruling party officials was slated for early September, after a memorial service for Abe who was shot dead last month, but Kishida brought it forward to address falling approval for the cabinet in polls, the Yomiuri said.
The reshuffle comes after Kishida's conservative coalition government increased its majority in the upper house of parliament in a July election held two days after Abe's death.
Kishi, 63, the younger brother of Abe, has been defence minister since September 2020.
Jiji news agency reported on Friday that Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki would be retained, and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda would either be kept or moved to another important post.