Abe to tap Toshihiro Nikai as LDP secretary-general to replace ailing Sadakazu Tanigaki


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to replace Sadakazu Tanigaki as secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party with Toshihiro Nikai, now chairman of the party’s General Council, while retaining Fumio Kishida as foreign minister, administration sources said Monday.

Tanigaki has been hospitalized due to a neck injury suffered while he was riding a bicycle, and whether to keep him in the key post has been the focus of the reshuffle that Abe is engineering for his Cabinet and party leadership on Wednesday.

Abe had asked Tanigaki to stay on, but he did not respond positively to the request due to his injury.

Abe then turned to Nikai, who accepted the offer when the two met at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday morning, sources said.

Facing reporters after the meeting, Nikai did not say directly whether Abe asked him about the post. But he did say the new LDP executive team will work closely with the Cabinet.

Nikai is serving his 11th term in the Lower House, representing a single-seat district in Wakayama Prefecture. He has previously been transport minister, trade and industry minister, and chairman of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee.

Nikai also heads his own faction within the LDP. As chairman of the LDP’s decision-making General Council, he contributed to hammering out agreements among party members on the controversial national security laws that were enforced in March.

He also supported Abe in the LDP leadership election in September 2015 and has made tolerant remarks about him extending his term as LDP president.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, a former LDP secretary-general, will be taking Nikai’s current position as chairman of the party’s General Council.

As for the Cabinet reshuffle, Kishida will retain his job as foreign minister, a post he has held since the launch of the Abe government in December 2012, at a time when the country faces a host of diplomatic issues requiring careful responses, the sources said.

Among the issues Kishida faces are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envisioned visit to Japan later this year, talks on a peace treaty to formally conclude World War II with Russia, the landmark deal with South Korea over Korean “comfort women” forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military, and China’s increasing maritime assertiveness.

Abe has already decided to retain Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who like Kishida have been in the Cabinet since the launch of his government, as he craves stability in his administration.

Meanwhile, informed sources have said Abe is considering appointing Tomomi Inada, the party’s policy chief, to a major post in the new Cabinet, while retaining Masahiko Komura as LDP vice president.

Inada said Sunday on a Fuji TV political talk show that although she has not received any request so far, she will work hard to push Abe’s reforms regardless of the post to which she is assigned.

Land minister Keiichi Ishii, a member of the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, is expected to retain his post at Komeito’s request.

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