(Reuters) - Japan’s next prime minister, Taro Aso, will form a cabinet after he formally assumes the post on Wednesday, as he confronts sensitive ties with neighboring China, a feisty opposition and an economy heading towards recession.
Aso, an outspoken former foreign minister, succeeds Yasuo Fukuda, who resigned abruptly this month. Some Japanese media have said Aso would retain many ministers, including Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe and popular female lawmaker Seiko Noda, the minister in charge of consumer affairs.
Below are profiles of other lawmakers who have been floated as possible new cabinet ministers in the ruling coalition led by Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Hatoyama is a grandson of a former prime minister and brother of main opposition Democratic Party Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama. The 60-year-old lawmaker has had a complex political career. He left the LDP in 1994, served briefly in an anti-LDP government, and took part in the formation of the precursor to the current Democratic Party before returning to the LDP in 2000.
Controversy dogged Hatoyama during his stint as justice minister under former prime minister Shinzo Abe and in outgoing premier Yasuo Fukuda’s first cabinet. He was rebuked by the top government spokesman for saying a “friend of a friend” was a member of al Qaeda who had entered the country on various passports, and was referred to as the “Grim Reaper” in a newspaper column for approving a record number of executions.
Nakagawa, 55, who has held the trade and agriculture portfolios, has courted controversy in the past. In 2006, he cause an uproar by saying Japan — the only country to have been hit by atomic bombs — should debate whether to acquire nuclear weapons, after nuclear and missile test launches by North Korea.
An outspoken critic of China, Nakagawa once likened Beijing to a “thief” stealing a wallet in a dispute over maritime energy resources and warned last year that China’s increasing military capabilities could result in Japan becoming just another Chinese province in the future.
As trade minister from 2003, he oversaw Japan’s push for free trade agreements despite worries from Japan’s long-protected farm sector. A graduate of the prestigious University of Tokyo, he worked briefly in a large bank before entering politics after the death of his father, an LDP heavyweight.
Abe became Japan’s first prime minister to be born after World War Two in 2006, but stepped down just after a year in office following a string of scandals and gaffes by his cabinet ministers. One committed suicide after an expenses scandal.
A staunch nationalist, Abe, 54, sought to rewrite Japan’s U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution and revive traditional Japanese values through education reform, although both ideas were seen out of touch with voters worried about the economy.
Despite tough talk towards China, Abe helped warm strained ties with Beijing as prime minister and stayed away from a shrine seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression.
As prime minister, Abe said there was no proof that Japan’s army or government kidnapped women to act as sex slaves for soldiers during World War Two, comments that sparked outrage in the United States and across Asia.
Yosano, a veteran politician and currently economics minister, ran against Aso in the party leadership race calling for a higher consumption tax rate to help fund rising pension and social security costs for Japan’s rapidly ageing society.
A fiscal conservative, Yosano, 70, is an advocate of restoring battered public finances and has said Japan should stick to its goal of balancing the budget by 2012 despite recent weakness in the economy.
The grandson of two well-known poets and a graduate of the prestigious University of Tokyo, Yosano started his political career in 1968 by joining the office of Yasuhiro Nakasone, who was prime minister in the 1980s.
Oshima, 62, has been the LDP’s point man on parliamentary affairs in recent years, leading talks with a highly confrontational opposition on issues such as appointing a new BOJ governor and extending a petrol tax.
Oshima, who worked for a newspaper before entering politics, has been farm minister, environment minister and education minister in the past. In 2003, he resigned as a farm minister over a money scandal involving one of his secretaries.
Having served two terms as defense minister, Ishiba, 51, is best known for what media call a “geeky” knowledge of security issues and military hardware and has written several books on defense.
He ran against Aso in the leadership race, arguing for the renewal of the legal mandate for marine refueling in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan.
A Christian, Ishiba has said Japan has a responsibility to take an active role in maintaining security in the Middle East, because it imports 90 percent of its oil from the region.
Reporting by Tokyo General News