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Asia Minute: Japan’s New Prime Minister Starts with Some Familiar Teammates

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, right, leaving after an extraordinary session at the upper house of parliament Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Tokyo.

For the first time in nearly eight years,Japan has a new Prime Minister. While Shinzo Abe has left the government, his influence remains — including in the cabinet of his successor.

Yoshihide Suga is known in Japan as more of a political fixer than a policy architect.  For Shinzo Abe’s entire term as Prime Minister, Suga was the chief cabinet secretary.

In Japan, that’s a position that involves a lot of work behind the scenes, as well as in front of the media — often as the administration’s main spokesperson.

The 71-year old has a reputation for understanding the often-complicated world of Japan’s bureaucracy — an area where’s promised to “reduce inefficiencies” and carry out some as of yet unspecified reforms. But overall, most analysts expect continuity for most of the policies of former Prime Minister Abe, who will remain a member of Japan’s parliament — the Diet.

Suga’s cabinet will include many familiar faces— 80-year old Taro Aso remains deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, and Suga is retaining Abe’s Foreign Minister as well — keeping continuity in an area that is not known as a particular strength of his.

International reaction has been cordial from key players in the region and the world — from China and South Korea to the United States.

At this point expectations are not for any radical shifts in Japanese policy, but already there are questions about how long the current prime minister will stay in office.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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