Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dumped two censured Cabinet members on June 4 in a reshuffle intended to win support from opposition parties to double the consumption tax rate.
The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party said it could not enter Diet deliberations on the tax-hike legislation and other bills as long as the two Cabinet members--Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka and Takeshi Maeda, the land minister--remained in office.
Replacing Tanaka will be Satoshi Morimoto, a professor specializing in national security issues at Takushoku University who once worked in the Defense Ministry. He will be the first non-politician to serve as the Cabinet minister in charge of defense matters.
Noda was under pressure to find an expert on defense and security for that portfolio.
A graduate of Japan's National Defense Academy, Morimoto, 71, served in the Air Self-Defense Force before working in the Defense Ministry. In 1979, he entered the Foreign Ministry, where he worked as a diplomat at the Japanese Embassy in the United States as well as in the intelligence and analysis bureau. He became a professor at Takushoku University in 2000.
One reason the opposition-controlled Upper House passed a censure motion against Tanaka was his apparent lack of knowledge on security matters, as shown by his responses to Diet questioning. He was also criticized as lacking crisis management skills in dealing with North Korea’s launch of a long-range ballistic missile.
Tanaka had only become defense minister in January because his predecessor, Yasuo Ichikawa, also had a censure motion passed against him for being an amateur in the eyes of the opposition.
Succeeding Maeda as land minister will be Upper House member Yuichiro Hata, the son of former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata. The censure motion against Maeda was passed because he issued a document asking voters to support a candidate in a local election, a violation of the elections law.
Noda also replaced Michihiko Kano as farm minister. The LDP was preparing to attack Kano over suspicions he was involved in leaking sensitive information to a first secretary at the Chinese Embassy.
The new farm minister is Akira Gunji, a former senior vice minister.
Makoto Taki was promoted to justice minister from senior vice minister to replace Toshio Ogawa, who was also a target of LDP criticism for viewing a horse-racing Internet site in the Diet as well as for some of his actions as a lawyer.
Tadahiro Matsushita of the People's New Party will replace Shozaburo Jimi, the PNP leader, as state minister in charge of financial services and postal reform.
With the Cabinet reshuffle, Noda is expected to call on the LDP to enter into discussions on the legislation in the Diet to raise the consumption tax rate from the current 5 percent to 10 percent by 2015.
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