This morning the sun rose on Japan’s youngest post-war Prime Minister. At 52, Shinzo Abe, is the country’s first political leader since then not to have lived through the imperial defeat of 1945. An advocate of tighter ties with Washington and a bigger place for Japan in world affairs, he was elected by two thirds of parliament.
Abe takes over from the hugely popular Junichiro Koizumi who decided to step down after two terms in office. Koizumi backed Abe as his successor, an endorsement readily followed by MPs. Although Abe is new to politics, he can draw on family experience. His father was foreign minister, his grandfather and great uncle, prime minister. An avowed conservative, he is expected to name several right wingers in his first cabinet to be announced shortly.
He has already outlined his plans to bolster Japan’s position as a world player, and revise the constitution drawn up for the country by the US at the end of the Second World War The shake-up could even see Japan reinstating its right to go to war. Another key policy for the new PM is to seek a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Abe’s election is being watched closely by China and South Korea, relations with whom were strained by Koizumi’s public visits to the Yasukuni war shrine which honours criminals as well as ordinary soldiers.