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Yuriko Koike becomes new Japanese defense chief
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16:02, July 04, 2007

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Yuriko Koike formally assumed the post of defense minister Wednesday, becoming the first Japanese female defense chief in place of Fumio Kyuma, who resigned a day earlier over controversial comments on atomic bombing in World War II.

The 54-year-old Koike was appointed top defense official Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Kyuma quitted over remarks he made on the weekend that could be taken to justify the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Koike attended an imperial attestation ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, Kyodo News said. The quick post shift is widely believed to control negative influences to the ruling bloc by the contentious remarks before the July 29 upper house election, which poses a major political test for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe has instructed Koike to place priority on the steady implementation of a final agreement made last year with the United States to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan, Kyodo said.

"We hope to proceed (with the Futemma relocation) while listening to the voices of the local people," the report quoted Abe as saying.

Koike, a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is now serving her fifth term in the House of Representatives and was a special advisers appointed by Abe to boost the functions of the prime minister's office.

Koike won her first Cabinet post as environment minister and then doubled as minister in charge of Northern Territories and Okinawa affairs under former premier Junichiro Koizumi.

She graduated from the University of Cairo in 1976 and was an Arabic interpreter and TV anchorwoman before turning to national politics.

Kyuma, 66, is the third minister that has been replaced from Abe's original 17-member Cabinet formed in September, following administrative reform minister Genichiro Sata, who quit in December over a political funds scandal, and farm minister Toshikazu Matsuoka, who committed suicide over political funds scandals.

In a speech Kyuma made Saturday at a university in Chiba prefecture, he said that "I understood the bombing (in Nagasaki) brought the war to its end. I think it was something that couldn't be helped."

The remarks immediately drew criticism from atomic bomb victims, government officials and opposition parties. Kyuma apologized over the remarks on Sunday, which apparently still could not cease its aftereffects.

Source: Xinhua

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