Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe


Shinzo Abe was first elected Prime Minister for a brief term from 2006 to 2007, making him the youngest Prime Minister elected since WWII; however, he stepped down in 2007 citing health issues.  In 2012, Abe was reelected as Prime Minister in a landslide victory as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.  Abe comes from an elite, high profile political family. His father, Shintaro Abe, was a former foreign minister and his grandfather was former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.  In 2017 Abe won a snap election, reaffirming his position and clearing the path for him to become Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister in history.

Shinzo Abe has garnered a reputation throughout his tenure as Prime Minister as a right-wing hawk.  He has taken a muscular stance on Japanese defense, especially in regards to territorial issues.  Domestically, Abe has employed what is informally known as his “Abenomics”, a three-pronged series of monetary, fiscal, and structural policies that aim to increase Japan’s GDP and counter the chronic deflation it has faced over the last three decades.  To boost the economy, Japan’s central bank, the Bank of Japan, has engaged in massive asset purchases to inject liquidity into the economy, while Abe has pumped 19.3 trillion yen into the Japanese economy through government spending on critical infrastructure projects.  Abe has also pushed through structural reforms, including slashing business regulations, liberalizing Japan’s labor market and agricultural sector, decreasing corporation tax, and increasing diversity in the workforce.  Abe’s foreign policy takes a two-pronged approach, and is dominated by his zero sum view of the international community. First, Abe is determined to create an independent Japan. To this end he pushed for the right to Japan’s collective defense, a highly contradictory move, in 2015, and hopes to amend Japan’s constitution to allow for a standing army by 2020.  He has also implemented policies to counter China’s rise in the region, including disputing China’s territorial claims in the East China Sea.  Second, Abe aims to maintain a close relationship with the United States to protect Japan while Abe pursues its first goal.

In a news conference following the G7 summit, Shinzo Abe expressed his thoughts on how the summit went.  He described the discussions between the leaders on trade as “heated.” Abe emphasized the need for trade with fair and free rules that complies with the World Trade Organization.  Furthermore, in line with Abe’s commitment to economic growth, he commented that the G7 leaders would monitor market trends and work to keep the economy as stable as possible. A high priority of Abe’s administration has been and continues to be ensuring the return of 12 Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Abe noted that the G7 remained united on the issues surrounding North Korea. The leaders supported the historic U.S.-North Korea summit, and Abe added that if the abductees are returned and the nuclear and missiles issues are resolved, Japan is willing to move forward with North Korea and work on relations. Shinzo Abe noted the importance of countries to call for the application of the United Nations Security Council resolutions surrounding issues with North Korea. He expressed gratitude for the G7 summit and hope for promoting democracy, human rights, rule of law and freedom.

“I believe it is important that we Japanese write a constitution for ourselves that would reflect the shape of the country we consider desirable in the 21st century.” 

“We are determined to be united and take the leadership for the peace and prosperity of the world through candid discussions, despite various discrepancies of opinions.”  

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