With the resignation of Prime Minister Abe, the future of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy has been called into question. Abe was indeed one of the key architects of this vision and he devoted enormous energy to flesh it out. For sure, his successor, Suga Yoshihide, will have his hands full with domestic issues, from tackling the COVID-related economic crisis to implementing daunting structural reforms.
The prime ministership of Abe Shinzo has had a considerable impact on the relationship between Japan and Australia, as well as Canberra’s own foreign policy perspectives. The two countries have come to see each other as their central security partner outside of their respective alliances with the United States, and their most reliable partner with Washington in its current unpredictable state.
Bilateral relations between Japan and China are one of the scarecrows that hover over the issues of East Asia’s security and trade. Several elements characterize the divide between the two countries, mainly historical disputes over the Japanese invasion in the 1930s and the close relationship developed by Japan and the United States after the Second World War.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is generally credited with improving and intensifying bilateral relations with the US, especially on security matters. In 2014 he moved to reinterpret Article 9 of the constitution that bars Japan from waging war and maintaining military forces. In doing so, he overturned his own Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) longstanding position against exercising the right of collective self- defense. In 2015 he agreed to new US-Japan Defense Guidelines that greatly expand Japan’s commitment to provide military support to the US in the event of conflict.
Young people in Japan like to talk about people’s personalities, by saying that someone is “Yin” (dark) and another is “Yang” (light). According to Oxford Reference, “Yin-Yang” is the “two great opposite but complementary forces at work in the cosmos.” Suga Yoshihide, Japan’s new prime minister, worked in close tandem with Abe Shinzo for nearly eight years, like “Yin-Yang.” Although Suga’s name is little known internationally, he helped the former Prime Minister promote his political agenda, particularly on domestic policy issues.
Amending Japan’s postwar Constitution has been one of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s primary goals. Abe called for a constitutional amendment until 3 May 2020 (the Constitution Day), during the Covid-19 emergency.
After Abe Shinzo announced his early retirement at the end of August, Japan has had to come to terms with a significant structural change on top of all the challenges left by the Covid-19 pandemic. By his own admission, the sharply elected new Premier, Suga Yoshihide, Abe’s right-hand man, is better-versed in domestic issues rather than foreign policy—a feature that might prove to be challenging, to say the least, in ever-changing regional and international scenarios such as the ones Suga is today asked to navigate.
After almost eight years as Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo retired. On 16 September the national Diet (Japan’s parliament) nominated Suga Yoshihide as his successor. Since Abe announced his intention to resign on 28 August, the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) has gone through three frantic weeks to find an agreement on the succession.
Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has resigned. Officially because of reasons related to his health but unofficially and in reality there is probably much more than meets the eye. Abe’s involvement in various scandals and his recently rapidly plummeting public approval rates might indeed have played a role why Abe decided to throw in the towel. Or: the reason why he was urged by his fellow Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) members to call it quits to contain further damage to the party. Who knows.
The G7 summitry is in serious doubt. As is widely reported, German Chancellor Merkel declined the invitation by US president Trump, currently holding the G7 presidency, to attend the meeting, and in turn Mr Trump announced that the meeting would be postponed until September, with its membership expanded to Russia, Australia, India and South Korea.