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Japan's New Cabinet Meets for 1st Time After Reshuffle


Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's new Cabinet met for the first time Saturday, after being sworn in at a ceremony in front of Emperor Akihito at the imperial palace.

At the meeting, Mr. Fukuda pledged to fight rising prices and go ahead with his reform policies.

Mr. Fukuda replaced 13 of his 17 government ministers Friday, including his economic team, in an effort to revive the country's stagnant economy. He named Kaoru Yosana as his new economics minister, while tapping Bunmei Ibuki as finance minister.

The Japanese prime minister said the new Cabinet is charged with implementing reforms to improve people's lives, including dealing with issues such as rising fuel costs and a declining domestic birth rate.

Mr. Fukuda also said he would not dissolve parliament and call elections. His agenda has been stalled by the main opposition Democratic Party, which controls the upper house of parliament and has called for snap elections. The political stalemate has sunk Mr. Fukuda's approval ratings to around 20 percent.

The economic and finance ministers are long-serving members of the prime minister's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Yosana is a strong advocate for raising the national sales tax to combat Japan's growing national debt. Ibuki is secretary-general of the ruling party, second only behind Mr. Fukuda.

Mr. Fukuda has also named two women to the Cabinet. Seiko Noda, a former postal minister who was once ousted from the LDP, receives the consumer affairs portfolio. Kyoko Nakayama, a leading advocate on the issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s, is in charge of the ministry that handles the abduction issue.

The four ministers held over from the previous Cabinet include Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.