Japanese Prime Minister Noda reshuffles cabinet posts

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Media captionThe BBC's Roland Buerk says the reshuffle was "a bit of political theatre"

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has reshuffled his cabinet, replacing five members including two ministers responsible for a series of gaffes.

Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa and Consumer Affairs Minister Kenji Yamaokase had been censured by the upper house over various remarks.

Twelve posts, including finance and foreign minister, remained unchanged.

Among the new appointees are former foreign minister Katsuya Okada as deputy PM to lead tax reforms.

Seen as a heavyweight, he will be tasked with building support for Mr Noda's proposal to double sales tax - Japan's equivalent of value added tax.

This currently stands at 5% but Mr Noda says it must be raised to meet rising social security costs.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo says the prime minister is hoping that by offering his two beleaguered cabinet members, he could win opposition support for his sales tax plan.

Mr Ichikawa has now been replaced by Naoki Tanaka, husband of former foreign minister Makiko Tanaka.

The outgoing defence minister had claimed he was unaware of the details regarding the 1995 gang-rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three US servicemen in Okinawa - a remark for which he was censured by the opposition-controlled upper house.

The opposition had threatened to reject any discussion about tax legislation unless Mr Ichikawa was replaced.

Mr Yamaoka has now been replaced by Jin Matsubara.

He had also been censured by the upper house for making inappropriate comments on financial issues.

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