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Japan's Cabinet posts get thumbs-up
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Chinese analysts say Japan's soon-to-be prime minister has thoughtfully assembled a "suitable" team for his new Cabinet.

Japanese media said that Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), who is due to take over as prime minister on Sept 16, has selected 56-year-old Katsuya Okada to be his foreign minister, the second most powerful position in the Cabinet.

The third big Cabinet post will be filled by former health minister Naoto Kan, 62. Kan will be the party policy chief and lead a new agency called the National Strategy Bureau, which will set government priorities and strategies.

The National Strategy Bureau, which will include both public- and private-sector officials, will be tasked with reforming what the DPJ says is a cumbersome policy-making system that had relied heavily upon recommendations from bureaucrats. The DPJ also believes the current system, if left unchanged, would let the outgoing Liberal Democratic Party undermine Cabinet decision-making.

Nominees key to reforms

Gao Hong, an expert on Japan studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the incoming government has worked hard to "put the right person in the most suitable position", which will help the DPJ fulfill its promise to focus spending on consumers, cut waste and reduce the power of bureaucrats.

"Naoto Kan's heading of the National Strategy Bureau is a very innovative step to make well-designed policies, budgets and economy-related reforms," he said.

Gao said Okada's nomination was a "highlight" for Sino-Japanese relations and something that will help promote dialogue on controversial issues and create a favorable environment to strengthen the strategic reciprocal partnership between China and Japan.

Hatoyama plans to form a coalition government with two smaller parties - the People's New Party and the Social Democratic Party - and will likely also include talent from those parties in his Cabinet.

Hatoyama said yesterday that he would not formally announce his choices for further key cabinet positions until after coalition talks have wrapped up. Media reports claim veteran lawmaker, 77-year-old Hirohisa Fujii, is likely to take the top job at the finance ministry - a role he held briefly in the early 1990s. Also on the list of probable Cabinet ministers are veteran lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa, who may get the nod for the role of party secretary-general, and Hirofumi Hirano, who is tipped for the job of chief Cabinet secretary.

Chinese experts have described the probable new lineup as "influential, appropriate and balanced" and dubbed Hatoyama's choices as "tactical".

Zhou Yongsheng, an expert on Japan at China Foreign Affairs University, said the new government offers an opportunity to address important issues, including the economy and the sensitive three-way relationship between China, Japan and the US.

"Okada's appointment to the top diplomatic post is likely to be welcomed by China and South Korea," said Zhou.

Zhou said he "is keeping a low-profile, calm, balanced, efficient and historically objective approach, for which he is being well-received by Chinese diplomats."

Zhou also said the new foreign minister, Okada, will reassure Washington that there will not be a major shift in bilateral ties after the DPJ takes control.

(China Daily September 8, 2009)

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