The Japanese parliament yesterday confirmed Shinzo Abe for another term as prime minister after his election triumph, but the return to power stirred warnings from China over a bid to change the pacifist constitution.
The lower house voted overwhelmingly for 60-year-old Abe, with 328 votes against 73 for acting opposition leader Katsuya Okada. That was followed by an upper house poll that officially confirmed Abe as prime minister.
His new Cabinet was largely unchanged, with Taro Aso returning as deputy prime minister and finance minister, Fumio Kishida as foreign minister and Yoichi Miyazawa in the industry minister post.
Industry is a key portfolio that oversees Japan’s nuclear power sector, as Abe looks to restart more atomic reactors shuttered after the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
The only new face was Gen Nakatani, replacing Akinori Eto as defense minister after Eto declined reappointment in the midst of a political funding scandal.
Nakatani, 57, headed the defense agency — later upgraded to a government ministry — from 2001 to 2002.
“The environment surrounding Japan has been drastically changing, so I was told to prepare security legislation to enable seamless responses,” Nakatani said at the prime minister’s office, quoted by Kyodo News.
On top of trying to kickstart the world’s third-largest economy, Abe has vowed to pursue a nationalist agenda, including persuading a skeptical public of the need to revise the pacifist constitution.
However, efforts to alter the charter, imposed by the US after the end of World War II, have proved divisive at home and strained already tense relations with China.
“Abe and his new defense minister ... need to tread carefully,” China’s Xinhua news agency said yesterday.
“The two both advocate a stronger role for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, and the international community should keep a wary eye on them and constantly remind them not to go too far,” it said.
However, relations have begun to thaw after a more than two-year chill that Beijing blamed partly on Abe’s provocative nationalism, including a visit to a controversial war shrine, and equivocations on Japan’s wartime record of enslaving women for sex.
Abe was to speak to reporters at about 9:10pm yesterday before holding his new Cabinet’s first meeting, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
The incumbent Cabinet resigned en masse yesterday morning, following the ruling coalition’s victory in Dec. 14 polls that were billed as a referendum on Abe’s economic growth blitz, dubbed Abenomics.
The conservative leader has pledged to concentrate on resurrecting the economy, calling it his “top priority, but many observers said the snap election was more likely aimed at fending off rivals before a ruling party leadership vote next year.
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