Japan's defence minister said Friday she wants to leave her position when embattled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffles his cabinet next week in a bid to salvage his government.
Abe, an outspoken conservative, has refused to step down over a major election defeat last month and is hoping to boost his rock-bottom approval ratings through Monday's reshuffle.
Abe's first cabinet was plagued by scandal. Media reports have speculated that some top candidates for ministerial posts were hoping not to be tapped, fearing that his government will not last.
Defence Minister Yuriko Koike, often seen as a rising star in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, cited a scandal at the defence ministry over leakage of sensitive information about US-designed Aegis destroyers.
"I want to take responsibility," Koike told reporters on a visit to New Delhi, as quoted by Jiji Press. "I want to hand over the baton."
Koike is Japan's first female defence chief. A former television anchorwoman, she speaks fluent English and Arabic.
But she has also been embroiled in a widely publicised battle about appointments at her ministry.
Koike took office only in July after her predecessor quit over remarks suggesting that the US nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified.
Abe, in Kuala Lumpur at the end of a three-nation tour to Indonesia, India and Malaysia, declined to discuss the reshuffle in detail but said he wanted the new cabinet to pursue "reforms" and boost regional economies.
Abe took office in September with an unabashedly ideological agenda, including moving to rewrite the post-World War II pacifist constitution.
The opposition accused him of ignoring bread-and-butter issues such as massive mismanagement of the pension system and income inequality.
The Liberal Democrats lost nearly half of the seats they were defending in the July 29 upper house election, losing control of the chamber for the first time since the conservative party was created in 1955.
A ruling party panel tasked with reviewing the election results offered unusual public criticism of the premier Friday.
"People had doubts about his leadership and ability to govern due to his slow response to scandals and lenient measures towards those who were involved in them," the report said.
The review called on the cabinet to strengthen crisis management.
In his less than a year in office, Abe has seen three of his ministers quit and another commit suicide over gaffes or money scandals.
The political turmoil raised doubts about the leadership of Abe, who at 52 is Japan's youngest prime minister in recent times and succeeded popular veteran leader Junichiro Koizumi.
Last Mod: 24 Ağustos 2007, 16:56