What Happened: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reshuffled his Cabinet and unveiled new appointments to his administration, The Japan Times reported Sept. 11. Abe kept Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in their current posts, but moved Foreign Minister Taro Kono to head the Defense Ministry, replacing him with Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
Why It Matters: With Abe's tenure set to end in late 2021, the latest reshuffle may have been intended to set the course for the last stage of his premiership, which includes the signing of a trade deal with the United States and a prolonged confrontation with South Korea.
Background: Although Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party continue to enjoy widespread public support, the government will face significant economic and political headwinds in the coming months. Notable challenges include the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, continued trade pressure from Washington, as well as an impending consumption tax hike in October that is expected to hurt domestic spending amid low inflation.