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Japan: from diplomacy to a show-of-force?

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By Catherine Hardy
Japan: from diplomacy to a show-of-force?

Japan’s prime minister has unveiled his new cabinet in the wake of a reshuffle.

Shinzo Abe reshuffled more than half of his 19-member Cabinet in a bid to win backing for his economic and security policies.

He is also pushing for Japan’s postwar constitution to be revised before the end of his term in 2018.

New Defence Minister

Tomomi Inada will not have much time to settle into her new role as Japan’s Defence Minister.

Just hours before the 57-year-old lawyer was appointed, a North Korean missile reportedly landed in or near Japanese waters for the first time.

Inada is a conservative ally of Abe.

The former reform minister most recently held one of the top posts in the governing Liberal Democratic Party.

She replaces General Nakatani as defence minister, the second woman to fill the post.

Her support for his goal of revising Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution risks exacerbating tensions.

“It is important for us to reinforce the Japan-US alliance as well as the trilateral relationships between Japan, the US and South Korea who share the same strategic interests and values,” Inada told reporters.

Who is hot and who is not

Those who kept their posts:

Finance Minister Taro Aso
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko replaces Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Motoo Hayashi.

Reef rows

Tomomi Inada was one of three Japanese lawmakers who are said to have been denied entry to South Korea in 2011 because they planned to visit islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

The South China Sea is another site of potential friction.

Japan has no direct territorial claim. However, trillions of dollars in trade pass through annually, a large amount to and from Japan’s ports.

Tokyo is providing equipment and training to nations like Vietnam and the Philippines, which are most opposed to China’s territorial ambitions.

The US Seventh Fleet, seen by many as Japan’s most powerful adversary in the region, operates from bases in Japan and South Korea.

Japan’s annual defence review, published on Tuesday, warned of “unintended consequences” if China disregards international rules in the wake of a Hague arbitration court decision invalidating Beijing’s claims to most of the sea.

China has rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case.