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Japan's Kishida dumps pastor linked to church linked to Abe assassination

TOKYO — Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, apparently seeking to steer him away from the conservative Unification Church. His leadership has caused his approval ratings to plummet.

Just 10 months after Mr. Kishida took office, following his election victory in July, which was expected to ensure long-term stability until 2025. It was the second cabinet reshuffle of the But the shocking assassination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8 and its political implications have heightened uncertainty as public support for the Kishida government plummeted.

Kishida told reporters on Tuesday that a "rigorous scrutiny" of the candidate's relationship with the church would be a "prerequisite" for the new line-up of cabinet ministers and LDP officials. rice field.

He said he had instructed ministers and other senior officials to clarify their ties to the Unification Church. He called on lawmakers to unite and tackle the challenge with a sense of urgency.

READ MORE: Why Shinzo Abe Will Rule Japan Years After His Death

Abe Shot Dead while giving an election speech two days before the parliamentary elections held. Police and media reports said the arrested man had targeted Abe for his alleged ties to the Unification Church.

Kishida said the main purpose of the reshuffle was to deal with "one of the greatest post-war crises," including the coronavirus pandemic, inflation, rising tensions between China and autonomous Taiwan, and Russia's war on Ukraine.

The Kishida Cabinet's approval rating fell from 59% to 46%, according to a survey released by NHK Public Television on Monday.

Most of the respondents said they thought politicians did not adequately explain their ties to the Unification Church. Kishida's plan to hold a state funeral for Abe has also divided public opinion due to Abe's extremely conservative stance on national security and wartime history. Critics see state funerals as the government seeks to glorify Abe's legacy. announced a new line-up that is the first person.

Vehicles carrying remains of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Zojoji Temple after his funeral in Tokyo on July 12, 2022.

Hiro Komae/AP

Their church ties have been removed. Prime Minister Abe's younger brother, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, said church members were volunteers in past election campaigns, while Public Safety Commission Chairman Satoshi Ninoyu said that events organized by church-affiliated groups attended.

Kishi is replaced by former Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, while Taro Kono, who served as minister in charge of vaccinations during the pandemic and minister for foreign affairs and defense, returns to the cabinet as digital minister. did.

Along with Matsuno, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito, and Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki also retained their positions.

Economy and Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda, who had connections with the church, was replaced as chairman of the party's policy investigation committee, and was replaced by former Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. Katsunobu Kato has been appointed as Minister of Health and Welfare in charge of measures against the new coronavirus for the third time.

READ MORE: Reflecting on TIME's coverage of Shinzo Abe: "I am a patriot."

Amid growing speculation of a power struggle within Abe's faction, the new cabinet will consolidate its cohesion while carefully balancing power among factions, while adhering to important policies such as foreign policy, defense, economic security and pandemic control. Kishida suggested entrusting it to veterans.

Despite criticism that Japanese politics is dominated by older men, the majority of cabinet ministers are still men over the age of 60, and women are only two people.

They include Sanae Takaichi, an ultra-conservative close to Abe who was appointed Minister of Economy and Security, and Shinsuke Suematsu, who acknowledged his ties to the Unification Church. Keiko Nagaoka is included.

Founded in Seoul in his 1954 by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, this church came to Japan in the 1960s. His staunch anti-communist stance and family-oriented values ​​were endorsed by Abe's grandfather and former prime minister. Minister Nobusuke Kishi.

Since his 1980s, the church has faced accusations of fraudulently recruiting and brainwashing its followers into making large donations. The church denies the allegations, saying it has stepped up compliance.

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