- Associated Press - Monday, October 1, 2012

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reshuffled his Cabinet for the third time this year Monday in hopes of boosting flagging public support for his government amid speculation that elections will be called in coming months.

Mr. Noda appointed 10 new ministers in the 18-member Cabinet, saying the new lineup will tackle domestic and international issues facing the country and acknowledging that much remains to be done.

The most prominent changes include Koriki Jojima as finance minister, Seiji Maehara as national policy minister and Makiko Tanaka — an outspoken lawmaker and one of Japan’s most famous female politicians — as education minister.

Eight Cabinet posts will not change hands, including key positions in charge of defense, foreign affairs, and economics and trade.

“We will do our best to tackle the issues that are still halfway done, such as recovery from the (2011 tsunami) disaster, the battle to control the nuclear crisis and revival of the Japanese economy,” Mr. Noda said at a press conference announcing the lineup.

Mr. Noda, in office for a year, has seen his support rating slide below 30 percent amid public discontent over his push to double the sales tax to 10 percent and general dismay with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which swept to power three years ago amid high hopes for change. But he handily won a party leadership vote last month.

He has said he would call elections “soon,” but he has given no time frame and lately has suggested he wants to remain in office to address Japan’s various problems. Elections must be called by the summer of 2013 at the latest.

Polls show that voters prefer the main opposition party, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, but many people are undecided.

Mr. Noda’s government has been put under pressure by a territorial dispute with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

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