New Japanese PM Suga Names Cabinet, Many Carried Over From Predecessor

Yoshihide Suga spent nearly eight years as Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and is expected to become prime minister in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday

The chairman of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Wednesday voiced hope for improved South Korea-Japan relations ahead of the expected appointment of Yoshihide Suga as the new Japanese prime minister.

Mr Suga will replace Shinzo Abe, who has resigned because of poor health. He gained early support from party heavyweights on expectations he would continue Abe's line, and his election to lead the ruling party on Monday virtually assured he would be chosen prime minister by Parliament.

Outgoing Health Minister Katsunobu Kato is expected to become Chief Cabinet Secretary, as he is known to be a close ally of Mr Suga.

Suga's background, as the son of a strawberry farmer father and schoolteacher mother, sets him apart from the many blue blood political elites in his party and the Japanese political scene.

He has said he will pursue Mr Abe's unfinished policies, and his top priorities will be fighting coronavirus and turning around Japan's economy, which has battered by the pandemic. Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary. Of the Cabinet's 20 members, 15 had ministerial portfolios in the previous administration.

But while he has championed some measures meant to help rural areas like his hometown in northern Japan's Akita, his political views remain largely a mystery.

He is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need to break down administrative obstacles - so-called bureaucratic silos - than any grand guiding principles. More of the same, he says.

He also vows to prioritize administrative and regulatory reforms.

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There are only two women, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, and Olympics and Paralympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.

He will also take over a sweeping review of Japan's national security policy that was initiated by Abe after plans to introduce a US -developed missile defense system were scrapped due to technical issues.

Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since Abe's first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

Suga's cabinet is expected to bring few surprises, with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso expected to stay on in their jobs.

He has praised Abe's diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.

There too, experts say, he is likely to tread the path charted by Abe, prioritising the key relationship with the United States, whoever is president after November's election.

Abe will stay on as a lawmaker, with some mooting the possibility he could undertake diplomatic missions.

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