Japan PM to replace foreign and defence ministers in cabinet reshuffle -media

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to replace his foreign and defence ministers, public broadcaster NHK reported on the eve of a planned cabinet reshuffle, as the beleaguered premier looks to boost his sagging popularity.

NHK reported on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi will be succeeded by Yoko Kamikawa, a former justice minister who oversaw the execution of the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult that carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

Kamikawa would be one of five women in the new government line-up, NHK reported, a record high and up from two currently. Nevertheless, a World Economic Forum report measuring gender parity ranked Japan 125th out of 146 countries in 2023, with a particularly poor showing in political empowerment.

Elsewhere, Minoru Kihara will replace Yasukazu Hamada as defence minister. Kihara currently heads a Japan-Taiwan interparliamentary group. Ruling party lawmaker Yoshitaka Shindo will become economy minister, replacing Shigeyuki Goto.

Most other key cabinet ministers are seen retaining their posts in a sign there will be no drastic overhaul of economic policies. Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura are set to remain, NHK reported.

Recent opinion polls show Kishida, who became prime minister less than two years ago, scoring lower approval than disapproval ratings. He has said he plans to reshuffle his cabinet and make changes in the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as early as Wednesday.

Hirokazu Matsuno will remain chief cabinet secretary, a key position that involves being the main government spokesperson and coordinating policy among ministries. Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga, Kishida's immediate predecessors, both served in the post before becoming premier.

Kishida appointed Suzuki as finance minister when he formed his first cabinet in October 2021. Continuity at the finance ministry would underscore his administration's focus on keeping sharp yen falls in check, and compiling a fresh package of measures to cushion the blow from rising living costs.

Nishimura's time in charge of Japan's trade, industry and energy policy has coincided with tense bilateral ties with China following the decision to release treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Sakura Murakami, Kantaro Komiya, Kaori Kaneko and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Christopher Cushing, Simon Cameron-Moore, Alexandra Hudson)