Japanese Finance Minister to Take Party Post

Will continue as minister till replacement named

Jun Azumi, Japan’s finance minister, will take a senior position in the country’s governing Democratic Party, although he will continue with ministerial duties until a replacement has been named.

Reuters reported Monday that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda made the announcement, saying that Azumi will become acting secretary general of the party. Noda also announced that Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who currently oversees the response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, will also be taking a new position. He will become the party’s chief of policy.

Noda said in the report, "I have decided on new positions for both Azumi and Hosono, but I have informed both ministers that they are to carry out their duties until their replacements have been decided to avoid a vacuum."

Despite the fact that Noda is naming a new finance minister, it is unlikely to be a sign of a shift in his policy. Noda has been firm on the need for additional fiscal discipline, and Japan has been pursuing measures to slow the appreciation of the yen. The switch in personnel is not believed to signal a departure from either approach.

Noda himself was re-elected head of the party last week, but the government is currently beset by disputes with neighboring countries, most notably China. It will have to work to change perceptions in the months leading up to the next election.

That could be difficult given the present row with China over a group of uninhabited islets to which both countries have laid claim. On Monday that situation was further complicated by the arrival of three Chinese ships, which entered what Japan considers its territorial waters near the islets in the East China Sea. Sovereignty over the islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, has been in dispute for decades.

Adding to the debacle over the islets is Taiwan’s claim to them as well. Later in the day, according to a group of Taiwanese fisherman, as many as 100 fishing boats plan to arrive at the islands, escorted by 10 Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels.

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