Kishida says new cabinet members will clarify ties to Unification Church

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Saturday he would ask future Cabinet ministers to review and clarify ties to a religious group that has come into the spotlight since the killing of a former Japanese prime minister, he reshuffles his cabinet with the aim of stimulating public opinion. trust.

Kishida has publicly confirmed for the first time that a reshuffle will take place next week. Natsuo Yamaguchi, who leads Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, revealed the prime minister told him the overhaul would take place on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Kishida said he wanted a fresh start with new cabinet members to tackle a host of challenges, ranging from COVID-19 and accelerating inflation to Russia’s war on Ukraine and heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

The overhaul will be the first since the ruling coalition won a landslide victory in national elections on July 10, the day after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated.

He was shot and killed during a campaign speech by a sniper, who investigative sources said resented the Unification Church and believed Abe had ties to the group.

“I had always thought about making a fresh start with new members, given the challenges,” Kishida said after attending a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

“I decided to go ahead with the plan now, at the exact moment I had in mind,” he said.

The LDP and other political parties are facing public scrutiny for their ties to the church, founded in South Korea in 1954 and now officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Kishida said he himself had ‘no connection’ with him, but added that cabinet ministers should be careful about their relationship with a group seen as ‘problematic in society’ to dispel any doubts from the government. audience.

“I will ask all cabinet members, not only those who will be appointed but those who already hold ministerial positions, as well as deputy ministers, to clearly verify their links with the group in question and to examine them appropriately” , did he declare.

Followers of the Unification Church have been arrested in Japan and given court orders in connection with money illegally obtained from people through the use of threats, including the invocation of “ancestral karma”.

In the planned reshuffle of the composition of the LDP leadership, Vice President Taro Aso and General Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi are expected to be retained. Chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno is also expected to keep his current post, senior administration sources said.

Meanwhile, Genjiro Kaneko, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and National Public Security Commission Chairman Satoshi Ninoyu, who did not contest the July 10 elections to the House of advisers, should be replaced because their mandate as legislators has expired.

The upper house election victory allowed a three-year period of stability for Kishida as no national election will take place unless he dissolves the House of Representatives, the most powerful lower house of parliament.

Yet Kishida has seen public support for his cabinet plummet in recent media polls amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and apparent dissatisfaction with the planned state funeral for Prime Minister Abe. oldest Japanese.

After the reshuffle, work on drafting a state budget for the next fiscal year from April will begin, with ministries and government agencies normally submitting their budget requests in late August.

Another priority for the government is to strengthen the country’s security and decide how much defense spending should be increased.

Abe’s state funeral is scheduled for September 27, with the public divided over the use of taxpayers’ money and whether it is appropriate for the government to hold it.

Japan will host a G7 summit next May in Hiroshima, a constituency of Kishida. The G-7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union – will discuss the war in Ukraine, nuclear disarmament, climate change and other global challenges during the summit, he said.

“Talking (to the world) about the realities of the devastation wrought by atomic bombings is the starting point for realizing a world without nuclear weapons,” he said.

Kishida, who is pushing for a nuclear-free world, did not say whether plans were underway for G-7 leaders to visit a peace memorial museum in Hiroshima.

“The G-7 must show that it will take the lead in creating an order for the new era based on universal values ​​and international rules,” he added.

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