New Japanese PM unveils youthful cabinet

Yoshihiko Noda tries to steer Japan through disaster recovery, a nuclear crisis and a lengthy economic slump.

Tokyo: Japan`s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda picked close allies on Friday for key positions in his Cabinet as he tries to steer his troubled nation through disaster recovery, a nuclear crisis and a lengthy economic slump.

Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said that Koichiro Gemba, 47, would become Japan`s foreign minister and Jun Azumi, a 49-year-old former journalist, would take over the finance portfolio.

Both are relatively young in a Japanese political world previously dominated by elder statesmen, and both are closely allied with Noda.

Yoshio Hachiro, 63, was selected minister of trade and economy.

"They will work like loaches mired in mud and sweating to get the job done," Fujimura said when announcing the lineup at the Prime Minister`s residence. Loaches, a type of bottom-feeding, eel-like fish, have become a bit of an odd buzzword after Noda described himself as one in what has largely been interpreted as a self-deprecating remark.

Like Noda, Gemba studied politics in a well-known school created by Panasonic Corp founder Konosuke Matsushita, who wanted to reform Japanese politics to become more democratic. Azumi previously worked for public broadcaster NHK.

Noda retained Goshi Hosono as the minister in charge of dealing with the nuclear crisis in Fukushima prefecture, in northeastern Japan.

He also kept Michihiko Kano, who ran against him for the party leadership and is considered well connected with veteran legislators, as agriculture minister.

Noda`s full Cabinet was to be officially appointed by the emperor on Friday afternoon.

Bureau Report

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