Japan`s new PM scrambles to form cabinet

Japan`s new leader Naoto Kan huddled with aides to choose a cabinet lineup that will help him tackle pressing challenges.

Tokyo: Japan`s new leader Naoto Kan on Saturday huddled with aides to choose a cabinet lineup that will help him tackle pressing challenges from reviving the economy to mending strained US ties.

Kan replaced Yukio Hatoyama on Friday to become Japan`s fifth prime minister in four years, after Hatoyama stumbled over a dispute about a US airbase and became mired in political funding scandals.

Kan, a one-time leftist activist, received a generally warm welcome from the press, with one major daily highlighting that he was the first prime minister in over a decade not to hail from a political dynasty.

"Japan`s politics has turned a new page," the Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial.

"Mr. Kan was raised in the family of an ordinary salaryman. He has a unique background, as many of the post-war prime ministers came from political families or the bureaucracy."

Kan, 63, previously served as finance minister and deputy premier in Hatoyama`s centre-left government, which came to power last year in a groundbreaking election that ended decades of conservative rule.

Newspapers warned Kan must take swift action to tackle problems including the issue that brought down Hatoyama, plans to relocate the unpopular US airbase on Japan`s subtropical island of Okinawa.

Hatoyama resigned on Wednesday after he backtracked on an election promise to move the Marine Corps base off Okinawa, enraging locals as well as the pacifist Social Democrats, who quit his coalition.

As the dispute festered for months, the last premier and his ministers baffled leaders in the United States, Japan`s bedrock ally of the post-war era, with often vague and contradictory statements.

"The Japan-US alliance is deeply damaged because of the policy errors by the Hatoyama administration," the Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial. "It is important to end America`s distrust of Japan."

Kan was holding a closed-door meeting Saturday with his top aides at the headquarters of his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to discuss the cabinet lineup to be announced on Tuesday.

Former vice finance minister Yoshihiko Noda, a 52-year-old fiscal hawk, may be promoted to become finance minister amid growing pressure to revive the world`s number two economy and slash mounting public debt, media reported.

Yoshito Sengoku, the former national strategy minister, was expected to be tapped for chief cabinet secretary, a powerful ministerial-level position often regarded as second only to the premier, the reports said.

Some key ministers, including Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, were seen as likely to retain their posts as Kan seeks a measure of continuity ahead of upper house elections in July.

Bureau Report

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