Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda replaced five of his cabinet ministers on Friday, to meet the opposition’s conditions for talks on raising taxes, an official said.

The remaining 12 ministers kept their positions, including the foreign and finance ministers, government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said.

The reshuffle was expected to see Katsuya Okada, former secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), named deputy prime minister, Kyodo News agency quoted political sources as saying.

Mr. Okada is said to have strong experience in negotiating with the opposition, which controls the upper house, and whose support Noda needs for his plan to raise the consumer tax to 8 per cent by April 2014, from its current 5 per cent.

Mr. Noda’s reshuffle appeared to address the threat by the opposition to boycott the talks unless certain ministers are removed.

Naoki Tanaka, currently the chairman of the DPJ’s administration committee, was to replace Defence Minister Yasuao Ichikawa, according to the Kyodo News agency.

Mr. Ichikawa has been criticized for incompetence by the opposition, which controls the upper house. He has publicly claimed to be a layman in matters of defence policy.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kenji Yamaoka was also to be moved aside, replaced by Jin Matsubara, previously the senior vice transport minister. Matsubara was to also take over Yamaoka’s position as chairman of the National Public Safety Commission.

Mr. Yamaoka has come under fire for alleged involvement in pyramid investment schemes, and for making insensitive remarks about the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by US servicemen on the island of Okinawa.

Both of the replaced ministers were censured by the upper house last month.

Justice Minister Hideo Hiraoka was likely to be replaced by Toshio Ogawa, currently the secretary general of the DPJ upper house caucus, Kyodo quoted political sources as saying. Mr. Ogawa was senior vice justice minister under former prime minister Naoto Kan.

Mr. Noda was expected to name the remaining two ministers replaced later Friday.

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