Prime Minister Fumio Kishida decided Monday to name former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani as his special adviser on human rights issues to address China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in its far-western Xinjiang region and pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.
Nakatani’s appointment is expected to be formalized Wednesday, when Kishida launches his second Cabinet in a special parliamentary session. The prime minister said in September that he would create the new post — a move that has already angered China. Beijing typically slams such moves as interference in its internal affairs.
“I was asked to give appropriate advice and proposals regarding human rights issues by consulting with the foreign and industry ministers,” Nakatani told reporters after meeting Kishida at the Prime Minister’s Office. “As a politician who has worked intensely on human rights issues, I hope to utilize my knowledge and experience.”
Kishida, who took office in early October, is forming his new team after his Liberal Democratic Party secured a majority in the Oct. 31 House of Representatives election.
Kishida, a former foreign minister who became president of the ruling party in late September, said during the LDP leadership race that he would establish the new post to address major international human rights problems.
Nakatani, who backed Kishida in the leadership race, is co-head of a cross-party group launched in April to draw up legislation that will enable Japan to impose sanctions on countries over human rights abuses.
The cross-party group was established in response to criticism that Japan has been slow compared with the United States and other Western countries in taking action over human rights violations in China, Hong Kong and Myanmar.
For the new Cabinet to be launched on Wednesday, Kishida has also decided to appoint his close aide and former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as foreign minister, a source close to the matter has said.
Kishida is currently doubling as foreign minister since Toshimitsu Motegi took up the LDP’s No. 2 post of secretary-general last Thursday.
The appointment of Hayashi will come as Japan faces a host of diplomatic challenges, including China’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas and North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and missile launches, on top of growing strategic competition between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific.
Hayashi, who has served as defense, agriculture, as well as economic and fiscal policy minister, is the No. 2 leader of an LDP faction led by Kishida.
A graduate of the University of Tokyo, Hayashi, a 60-year-old House of Representatives lawmaker and son of a former finance minister, also studied at Harvard University.
Hayashi resigned as a member of the House of Councilors, the upper chamber of parliament, and won a single-seat district in Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the Oct. 31 Lower House election.
The LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito retained a comfortable majority in the election, paving the way for Kishida to continue as Japan’s leader.
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