TOKYO, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet Wednesday, adding more women and lawmakers sympathetic toward China.
In the first cabinet turnover since he took office in December 2012, Abe bumped the number of female ministers up from two to five. The number of female cabinet members equates to that of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet of more than 10 years ago. The move is part of Abe's commitment to raise the presence of women in senior positions by 2020.
Two lawmakers Abe appointed to senior party positions are known for their congenial attitudes towards China. Although the prime minister is known for riling his Chinese counterparts with reports claiming ownership of the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, Abe hopes to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing in November -- a goal that requires prior diplomatic outreach.
Sadakazu Tanigaki was appointed as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's secretary general and minister of state for revitalizing rural communities. Tanigaki is known for favoring a more diplomatic approach with China and is trusted more by the Chinese government than the cabinet's more conservative members, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Abe is hoping the move will help up his approval rating, which has dipped below 50 percent in recent weeks.
"The LDP still has a problem of having too few women ready to serve in government, and too many men who resent their advancement," said Tobias Harris, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence.