TOKYO, Sep 13 (AFP) - Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida replaced his defence and foreign ministers on Wednesday, while increasing the number of women in the cabinet, in a major reshuffle.
The replacement of the two key ministers, which came as North Korea fired two ballistic missiles and tensions with China rise, was motivated by internal party politics.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi was succeeded by former justice minister Yoko Kamikawa, 70, one of five women in the new cabinet, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
Kamikawa was justice minister when Japan executed five years ago the leader and members of Aum Shinrikyo, sentenced to death for their role in the fatal 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway.
Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada was succeeded by Minoru Kihara, 54, who previously served as parliamentary secretary of defence.
Shunichi Suzuki retains his position as finance minister in the world's third-largest economy.
Farm minister Tetsuro Nomura, who recently was accused of calling treated water released from the stricken Fukushima plant "contaminated water", was replaced by Ichiro Miyashita, 65.
Kishida, 66, took office in October 2021 but his poll ratings have dived as rising prices hit consumers.
Kishida said on Sunday he plans to "implement a bold economic package" to address the impact of rising prices on voters.
His standing has also faltered within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and he will have to stand for internal re-election next year.
Public support for the Kishida government stood at 36 percent against 43 percent for disapproval, according to the latest poll released Monday by national broadcaster NHK.
Public support for his cabinet has been hit in recent months due to issues including the troubled new "My Number Card" identification system.
A majority of voters are not satisfied with the government's policy to address inflation, according to a Yomiuri poll published last month.
Kishida's cabinet has also been hit by scandals including "inappropriate behaviour" by his son, who was removed from the position of his secretary earlier this year.
A magazine reported that Shotaro Kishida had invited relatives to the official residence for a party last year, with photos of some pretending to hold a press conference and one lying down on red-carpeted stairs.
Five women, up from two in the previous cabinet, is the joint highest record in Japanese politics.
In June, Kishida's government set numerical targets of female executives for companies listed on the prestigious Prime section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
By 2025, companies should appoint at least one woman director, and by 2030, they should increase the ratio of female directors to at least 30 percent, it said.