Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida wants to leave his post in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet reshuffle next month, domestic media said on Wednesday, a sign he may be planning to challenge the increasingly unpopular leader for the top job.
Support for Abe has plunged to its lowest since the prime minister returned to office in December 2012 with a promise to revive Japan's stale economy and bolster its defences, opinion polls showed this week.
In a bid to turn the tide, Abe is considering a wholesale shakeup of his cabinet on Aug 3, replacing more than half of his 19 ministers, while retaining key ally Chief Cabinet Minister Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minister Taro Aso, Kyodo news agency said, quoting unidentified sources close to the matter.
It was not certain that the 59-year-old Kishida would refuse to stay on if Abe pressed him to do so, Kyodo added, however, quoting his aides. Reuters could not immediately reach Kishida's
political aides for comment.
"Kishida's exit from the cabinet would signal his desire to replace Abe and reinforce perceptions that Abe is on the ropes," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus.