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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012
Taki back as justice chief in ministerial merry-go-round
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reappointed Makoto Taki as justice minister Wednesday after his scandal-hit predecessor had to quit after only three weeks in office, exposing the Democratic Party of Japan's lack of suitable ministerial candidates.
Taki, 74, was only replaced as justice minister in Noda's Oct. 1 Cabinet reshuffle, but his successor, Keishu Tanaka, stepped down Tuesday citing poor health after his past yakuza ties and acceptance of illicit donations were exposed in the media.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Taki had been asked to head the ministry again due to his expertise in legal affairs. Scandals aside, Tanaka was also assailed for lacking experience.
Still, given that Noda had stressed that the goal of reshuffling his ministerial pack was to strengthen the Cabinet's functions, he is bound to come under criticism for reappointing a minister he replaced less than a month ago.
In September, Taki told a news conference that he was ready to step down as justice minister because of his age. He had also signed off on two executions at the end of the month, a controversial decision justice ministers often make when their term is about to expire.
However, he now finds himself back in the same post about 3½ weeks since Noda axed him from the Cabinet.
"Just when I thought the load was off my mind, I feel the weight of responsibility (again). I would like to focus my energy on this job," Taki said Wednesday after accepting Noda's offer.
Noda is thought to have decided to play it safe by reappointing a minister with plentiful experience, and to be seeking to minimize the risk of another damaging scandal erupting by opting for a trusty old hand rather than bringing in a new face.
"Taki actually served only four months in his post and he was not (originally on the list of) Cabinet ministers who had served over a year" that Noda planned to dismiss Oct. 1, Fujimura said.
Fujimura, meanwhile, will assume Tanaka's brief as state minister in charge of the North Korea abductee issue. Since he will become the eighth minister under the DPJ's rule to oversee the sensitive matter, the relatives of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s have expressed anger over the ministerial merry-go-round.