September 8, 2019 / 4:48 AM / a month ago

Japan's foreign minister Kono may move to defense in cabinet shuffle: Sankei

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono speaks beside South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (not pictured) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) during a press conference after the ninth trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting among China, South Korea and Japan at Gubei Town in Beijing, China, 21 August 2019. Wu Hong/Pool via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono is being considered for the role of defense minister when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffles his cabinet next week, the country’s Sankei Shimbun reported on Sunday.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said Kono may be tapped to succeed current Defense Minster Takeshi Iwaya following the foreign affairs minister’s tough stance against South Korea over wartime issues which have strained political and trade ties between the two countries.

Abe is hoping that the 56-year-old Kono, who is known for his close ties with the United States and positive relationship with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will strengthen Japan’s role in trilateral security cooperation between Tokyo, Washington and Seoul amid the ongoing dispute, the Sankei said.

The Defense Ministry was not immediately available for comment on the issue.

The Yomiuri newspaper reported on Wednesday that Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was set to replace Kono as foreign minister in the reshuffle expected on Sept. 11.

Kono, who has served as foreign minister since August 2017, is the son of former chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, who wrote a landmark 1993 apology to “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

First elected to parliament in 1996, Kono is a fluent English speaker and was educated at Georgetown University in Washington.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Michael Perry

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