A veteran politician and long-time cabinet member, Yoshihide Suga takes the lead at a difficult time for the world’s third-largest economy.
Like many other nations, Japan is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused the biggest economic slump on record following years of economic stagnations.
Japan is also dealing with a rapidly ageing society, with nearly a third of the population older than 65.
Yoshihide Suga, 71, has served for years as chief cabinet secretary, the most senior role in government after the prime minister.
He has already promised to carry on much of the previous administration’s agenda, including the economic reform program dubbed Abenomics.
Born the son of strawberry farmers, Yoshihide Suga comes from a humble background that sets him apart from much of Japan’s political elite.
He only slowly within the political ranks. He first worked as a secretary for an LDP lawmaker before eventually embarking on his own political career, from city council elections to becoming a member of the Diet in 1996.
In 2005 he became a cabinet minister under Junichiro Koizumi and gained further influence in the subsequent Abe cabinet.
As Shinzo Abe’s right-hand man, Yoshihide Suga gained a reputation for being efficient and practical and the outgoing prime minister strongly supported his ally’s bid for the leadership.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to resign for health reasons.
Shinzo Abe, 65, said he did not want his illness to get in the way of decision making, and apologized to the Japanese people for failing to complete his term in office.
He has suffered for many years from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, but he said his condition had worsened recently.
In 2019, Shinzo Abe became Japan’s longest serving prime minister. His current period in office began in 2012.
Shinzo Abe will remain in his post until a successor is chosen.
In 2007, he resigned abruptly from an earlier term as prime minister because of his struggles with ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition that he has lived with since he was a teenager.
Shinzo Abe has a reputation as a staunch conservative and nationalist, and for stimulating growth with his aggressive economic policy known as “Abenomics”.
The prime minister has strengthened Japan’s defenses and boosted military spending, but has been unable to revise the constitution’s pacifist Article 9, which bans a standing army for anything other than self-defense.
Shinzo Abe said his health started to decline as his ulcerative colitis made a resurgence around the middle of July.
He was now receiving a new treatment for the condition which had to be administered on a regular basis and would not give him enough time to carry out his prime ministerial functions, he added.
Shinzo Abe said he could not make any mistakes in terms of important decision making, and therefore had decided to step down.
He said: “I made a judgement I should not continue my job as a prime minister.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented.”
Shinzo Abe also expressed regret at not fulfilling his core pledges – forcing North Korea to return Japanese citizens abducted decades ago; sorting out a territorial dispute with Russia; and overhauling the constitution to give more power to the military.
The Japanese prime minister has said he has “great confidence” in President-elect Donald Trump and he believes they can build a relationship of trust.
Shinzo Abe described the 90-minute meeting in Trump Tower, New York, as “candid”, with a “warm atmosphere”.
Some of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric cast doubt over long-standing US alliances, including with Japan.
The meeting was Donald Trump’s first face-to-face with a world leader since winning the presidential election.
Image source Reuters
The United States and Japan have been key allies since the end of World War Two, when the US helped Japan rebuild its economy.
Donald Trump has vowed to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which PM Shinzo Abe strenuously supports as a means of countering China’s growing economic strength.
The deal was approved by the Japanese parliament, despite the likelihood that it would be cancelled when Donald Trump takes office.
The president-elect has also said Japan needs to pay more to maintain US troops on its soil, and has floated the idea that Japan and South Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons to counter the threat from North Korean missiles.
The meeting was reportedly arranged when Shinzo Abe rang Donald Trump to congratulate him, mentioning that he would be passing through New York on the way to an Asia-Pacific trade summit in Peru.
Speaking after the meeting, Shinzo Abe said: “We were able to have a very candid talk over a substantial amount of time. We held it in a very warm atmosphere.
“I do believe that without confidence between the two nations the alliance would never function in the future and as the outcome of today’s discussion I am convinced Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence.”
Yoshihiko Noda, the former Japan’s finance minister, has become the new prime minister.
Yoshihiko Noda, 54, is the seventh prime minister in six years, inheriting a parliament racked by division, a sluggish economy and a nation struggling to recover from the 11 March tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis.
The new prime minister’s election, after last week former PM Naoto Kan resignation, was a formality in the lower house of parliament, in which the governing Democratic party of Japan (DPJ) has a comfortable majority.
Yoshihiko Noda, who became the leader of DPJ on Monday, was later approved as prime minister by the upper house too, which the opposition controls.
Yoshihiko Noda, the former Japan’s finance minister, has become the new prime minister
Noda had four competitors for the position DJP’s leader in a contest that exposed deep factional divisions.
The new prime minister may attempt to solve the party inside problems by appointing his opponents to new cabinet posts. There were no indications until now that he was preparing to bring in members of other parties, whose co-operation he needs to end political blockage in the upper chamber.
Yoshihiko Noda highlighted that he is open to the idea of a grand coalition that could see members of the Liberal Democratic party return to the cabinet two years after they were beaten by DPJ.
The new prime minister priorities are to revive the economy, rein in the strong yen and oversee the reconstruction of the tsunami-ravaged north-east coast and the operation to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi.
“I’m aware that we have problems with the strong yen and deflation,”Yoshihiko Noda told media.
“But at the same time, we need to maintain fiscal discipline.”
As finance minister, Yoshihiko Noda approved three interventions in the global currency markets in attempt to weaken the yen.
Possible successors for Japan’s finance minister include Katsuya Okada, the DPJ’s secretary general, and Yoshito Sengoku, a former socialist turned free marketeer.