Japan's 'balancing act' Cabinet
Zenko Suzuki, Japan's new prime minister, has appointed a Cabinet designed to carry out his "politics of harmony." Internationally, the Cabinet is expected to continue the late Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira's policy of close cooperation with the United States, the West European powers, and China.
Mild-mannered Mr. Suzuki showed his political skill by balancing faction against faction, by respecting both party seniority and the "change of generations" demanded by younger party members in the wake of the Liberal Democrats smashing victory at the polls June 23.
The new Cabinet includes almost all the main aspirants for the prime ministership, avowed and unavowed, from Yasuhiro Nakasone and Toshio Komoto to Kiichi Miyazawa and Ichiro Nakagawa. Another potential premier, Shintaro Abe, holds a top party post as chairman of the Liberal Democrat's policy board.
Mr. Suzuki named his immediate predecessor, acting Prime Minister Masayoshi Ito, as forein minister. Mr. Ito is new to foreign affairs but has been rewarded for the firm, fair manner in which he held the helm of state after Mr. Ohira's sudden passing June 12.Mr. Ito also met President Carter, Chinese Premier Hua Guofeng, and other leaders of government who attended Mr. Ohira's memorial service in Tokyo July 9.
The chief Cabinet secretary is Mr. Miyazawa, a former foreign minister who internationally is probably the most experienced member of the new Cabinet. Mr. Suzuki is said to be grooming Mr. Miyazawa for succession by giving him a job that is equivalent to that of chief of staff.
Two potentially troublesome rivals, Messrs. Nakasone and Komoto, have reluctantly accepted the relatively minor posts of state minister for administrative management and for economic planning, respectively. Mr. Suzuki apparently persuaded the two that the reorganization and streamlining of the bureaucracy and the effort to hold the line on prices will be the new government's most important domestic tasks. Both Mr. Nakasone and Komoto stressed that they had accepted their assignments out of a sense of duty to the urgent task of rebuilding party unity.
The new finance minister, Michio Watanabe, has a reputation for forthrightness and energy, a combination he will need when he tries to reconcile the demand for a greater defense budget with the need for restraining government expenditures in an effort to reduce the steady growth of deficit financing.
Handling the delicate issue of trade disputes with the United States and Western Europe will be the task of Rokusuke Tanaka, who was chief of staff to Mr. Ohira during the Tokyo economic summit last summer. Mr. Tanaka has been given the portfolio of international trade and industry.
The defense minister, Joji Omura, is a former Home Ministry bureaucrat with a reputation for getting things done. The Defense Ministry is the fulcrum for the persistent US demand that Japan strengthen its own defense. A commission appointed by the late Mr. Ohira recently reported that the defense equipment budget, currently accounting for only a fifth of the roughly $10 billion spent on defense last year, should be increased by 50 percent.
Supposedly all factions in the Liberal Democrat Party have been dissolved. In fact, the factional balance in the new Cabinet is as follows: Ohira faction, six members, including the prime minister; Tanaka faction, four; Fukuda faction, four; Nakasone faction, two; Komoto faction, two; Nakagawa faction, one; independent, two, of whom one, Mr. Watanabe, is on good terms with former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Mr. Nakasone.
Mr. Tanaka, on trial on corruption charges in connection with the Lockheed scandal, seems to have increased his influence within a party from which he has formally resigned. Party vice-president Eiichi Nishimura is a Tanaka man, as is the new chairman of the party's executive board, Susumu Nikaido.