Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe assumed office again after being elected by the lower house of parliament yesterday on a platform of getting tough on diplomatic issues while fixing the economy.
Abe, who was previously in power from 2006 to 2007, unveiled his new Cabinet within hours of his election, as he rushes to draft an extra budget to spur the flagging economy.
Earlier yesterday, the yen tumbled against the US dollar on growing speculation that the Bank of Japan will usher in further easing measures — a key plank of Abe’s campaign.
Abe, 58, achieved a resounding election victory earlier this month for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
Yesterday, he secured 328 votes to 57 for the DPJ’s new leader, Banri Kaieda, who was the Japanese Minister of Industry during last year’s nuclear crisis.
Abe, the country’s seventh leader in less than seven years, replaces former Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose DPJ suffered a stinging defeat at the polls.
The party, which came to power in 2009, was seen as being punished for policy flip-flops and its clumsy handling of the atomic disaster.
Abe has vowed to pressure the Japanese central bank for further easing measures to boost growth, while also promising big government spending to spur the economy.
He won conservative support with nationalistic pronouncements over the row with Beijing over the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) Islands in the East China Sea, saying that Japan, which calls them the Senkakus, would stand firm on its claim. The islands are also contested by Taiwan.
He has also said he would consider revising Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution, alarming officials in China and South Korea.
However, Abe has quickly toned down the campaign rhetoric, saying he wants to improve ties with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner.
Speaking after Abe’s election, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) told reporters: “We hope the new Japanese administration will meet the Chinese side halfway and make concrete efforts to overcome difficulties in bilateral relations.”
She added that such efforts were needed “so as to push bilateral relations back on to the normal track of development.”
Xinhua news agency carried a commentary emphasizing the important economic relationship between China and Japan, the world’s second and third-largest economies respectively.
“For an export-oriented economy like Japan, to regain growth means strenuous work to bolster its stagnant domestic market and expand overseas trade as well,” Xinhua said. “However, the prospect would be something hard to come by should Tokyo choose to play with fire amid simmering tensions not only with China, but also with other neighbors like South Korea and Russia.”