Photo/IllutrationFrom left: Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Finance Minister Taro Aso and Defense Minister Taro Kono on Sept. 11 (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

South Korean media raised concerns over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reshuffled Cabinet on Sept. 11, but Chinese government officials voiced expectations of improved relations with the new administration.

The South Korean TV news broadcasting station YTN criticized the appointment of Taro Kono as defense minister after having served as foreign minister.

The station said Kono “only showed enthusiasm in criticizing South Korea. It appears that Prime Minister Abe highly evaluated such a stance.”

YTN also expressed wariness about the number of close political allies that Abe selected for his Cabinet, including Koichi Hagiuda and Toshimitsu Motegi. Hagiuda was named education minister while Motegi was picked as the new foreign minister, two important Cabinet posts that oversee issues of high interest in South Korea.

The station said those picks would likely “more strongly push forward the position of the Japanese government” on such issues as compensation for wartime Korean laborers and former “comfort women.”

Seoul had previously criticized the whitewashing from Japanese school textbooks of any mention of Korean women forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during World War II.

But the tone was much more positive in Beijing during a Sept. 11 news conference by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who touched upon the change in Japanese foreign ministers.

While saying Kono had “made much effort over the past two years to improve and develop the China-Japan relationship,” Hua expressed the hope of working with Motegi “in order to construct a relationship that meets the demands of a new age.”

(This article was written by Takuya Suzuki in Seoul and Takashi Funakoshi in Beijing.)