Hawkish Abe back in power as Japan’s PM

Hawkish Abe back in power as Japan’s PM

Hawkish Abe back in power as Japan’s PM

Shinzo Abe (C) bows after being officially elected as Japan’s new premier. Abe won conservative support with nationalistic pronouncements on diplomacy. EPA photo

Shinzo Abe was elected Japan’s prime minister by the lower house of Parliament yesterday after he swept to power on a hawkish platform of getting tough on diplomacy while fixing the economy.

The powerful lower house named the 58-year-old as the country’s new leader following a resounding national election victory for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party earlier this month over the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). As expected, Noda’s cabinet resigned en masse yesterday morning before the LDP-controlled lower house named Abe as next leader.

Lawmakers voted in Abe’s favor by 328 votes to 57 for the DPJ’s newly chosen leader Banri Kaieda, the industry minister during last year’s Fukushima nuclear crisis. Abe, who previously served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, appointed former Premier Taro Aso as his finance minister and deputy. Abe appointed lower house lawmaker Fumio Kishida to the key post of foreign minister as the government seeks to balance a bolder diplomatic stance with the need to repair frayed ties with China and South Korea.

Abe won conservative support with nationalistic pronouncements on diplomacy in the midst of a territorial row with Beijing over a group of East China Sea islands, saying Japan would stand firm on its claim to the chain.

But he quickly toned down the campaign rhetoric and has said he wants improved ties with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner. Abe called for a solution through what he described as “patient exchanges.” The new leader, whose key campaign platform was reviving the world’s third largest economy, has also said he would look at revising Japan’s post-war pacifist Constitution, alarming officials in China and South Korea.

He vowed to pressure the Bank of Japan for further easing measures to boost growth, while also promising big government spending to spur the economy.

Earlier yesterday, the yen tumbled against the dollar on growing speculation that the Bank of Japan will usher in further easing measures to boost the economy, a key plank of Abe’s campaign.

China calls to meet ‘halfway’

China called on Abe to meet Beijing “halfway” to try and improve relations that have been hurt by a debilitating territorial dispute. “We hope the new Japanese administration will meet the Chinese side halfway and make concrete efforts to overcome difficulties in bilateral relations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. She added such efforts were needed “so as to push bilateral relations back on to the normal track of development.”

“We are ready to work with the Japanese side to push forward the steady and sound development of bilateral relations,” Hua said.

China and Japan are at odds over small islands in the East China Sea that both claim, though Japan controls. China calls them the Diaoyu Islands, while Japan refers to them as the Senkaku Islands. Hua reiterated China’s position on the dispute, calling the Diaoyu Islands “China’s inherent territory,” while adding that Beijing wants to resolve the dispute “through dialogue and negotiation.”