This morning the sun rises on Japan’s youngest post-war prime minister. Shinzo Abe, 52, is the first political leader not to have lived through Imperial defeat in 1945. He is also one of the least experienced, only entering cabinet a year ago. Two thirds of LDP party members voted him in as leader last week, and he has already begun making key appointments.
Abe has a reputation as being pro-American and willing to improve relations with China but unashamed about Japan’s past and keen to convince the Japanese to feel the same way. Abe does not have the unprecedented charisma of his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi, but he does have ambition, and he has vowed to shake up Japan’s constitution, originally written by the US army, to make it more “appropriate” for modern Japan.
Koizumi was a master at reaching out to the public, but his very public visits to the Yasukuni war shrine angered China and South Korea, as it honours war criminals as well as ordinary soldiers. Abe criticised these visits, but will public opinion mean he has to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps?