Japan's prime minister on Monday created two Cabinet posts to oversee the nuclear crisis and tsunami reconstruction efforts as he hopes to shore up his administration against criticism of its handling of the crises.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan named Ryu Matsumoto as reconstruction minister and made Goshi Hosono his minister in charge of handling the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
He also gave special advisory positions to two other senior politicians.
The moves are seen as an attempt by Kan to strengthen his hand against a growing number of critics who perceive a lack of leadership following the March 11 disaster.
He has said he would be willing to step down, but only after significant steps are made toward putting Japan's recovery on a solid footing. He has also set several preconditions, including the passage of budget bills and a renewable energy measure.
"I'm aiming at (stepping down) after achieving those bills," Kan told a news conference late Monday.
Hosono, who has been director of the government's nuclear crisis task force, will also be in charge of power conservation. An electricity shortage is expected in Tokyo because of the nuclear crisis, and the government has taken several steps to prevent problems.
Matsumoto, previously Kan's environment minister, will be replaced by Justice Minister Satsuki Eda, who will hold a double portfolio. Popular Cabinet member Renho will become an advisor, along with Shizuka Kamei, the leader of a smaller party in parliament.
"The main purpose of the new appointment is to push for reconstruction from the disaster and take steps to prevent another nuclear accident," Kan said. "Three months have passed since the disaster. It's time to start thoroughly discussing how we can be better prepared."
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano earlier Monday announced the new lineup, in which he also serves administrative reform minister, taking over Renho's former post. Renho uses one name.
The earthquake and tsunami disaster left about 23,000 people dead or missing on the northeast coast, and touched off the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
The disaster brought out deep rifts within Kan's party and has strengthened the largest opposition bloc, which has slammed his response as dithering and poorly coordinated.
Kan's support with the voters is also slipping.
A major newspaper reported Monday that support for his Cabinet has fallen to 26 percent, with 42 percent of the respondents saying he should be replaced as soon as possible. The telephone poll of 893 voters was conducted over the weekend by The Nikkei, a conservative business daily, and the TV Tokyo Corp. A poll of that size would normally have about a 3 percent margin of error.
The result marked a two-percentage-point drop for the Cabinet. Sixty-five percent of the respondents said they did not support the Cabinet.
Kan took office just over a year ago. He is Japan's fifth leader in four years.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.