Japan's Abe Set to Become PM
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
Japan's Abe Set to Become PM
(Linda Sieg, Reuters) Boston Globe
"I will take over the torch of reforms and the torch of idealism" was the first words by Mr Abe upon being elected president of the ruling LDP, and destined to become the Prime Minister next week. The word reminded some (elderly Japanese) of the inaugural address by the late and ever popular U.S. President J.F. Kennedy, in which he said, "Let the word go forth from this time and place, ... that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage...."
Indeed, it is quite possible that he had JFK in his mind, considering Mr Abe personal history, when the remark was made.
Shinzo Abe was born in 1954 as a son of Shintaro Abe, who was a son-in-law of Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi was a prominent politician who became the Prime Minister in 1957. This was twelve years after the end of WWII, and perhaps more importantly, only five years after Japan regained independence in 1952, upon signing the peace treaty with the winners of the war. Kishi's most prominent accomplishment was to renew the Japan-US Security Treaty in 1960 despite strong protest by the opposers. Amidst growing public furor over the treaty, Kishi resigned on July 15, 1960, on the date the renewed treaty became effective. Shintaro Abe was also a politician, assisting Kishi as a personal secretary in 1956, and after serving a number of ministerial posts, being Foreign Minister from 1982 to 1986. He died of cancer in 1991.
A graduate of Tokyo's Seikei University in 1977, Shinzo Abe studied politics at the University of Southern California. He worked at Kobe Steel before entering political life as an aide to his father, Shintaro Abe in 1982, upon Shintaro becoming Foreign Minister. After his father's death, Mr Abe ran for parliament and was elected in 1993.
Mr Abe's torch of reforms comment can be perceived as his overall policy agenda is to succeed that of his predecessor, Mr Koizumi. A lot has been talked about Mr Koizumi, but the last on the list as Prime Minister may be the fact that his popularity "as Prime Minister" is still high - around 50% - at the time of resignation, a never-before-seen phenomenon. In fact, Mr Abe's victory was largely due to his image being the follower to Mr Koizumi, as endorsed by Mr Koizumi himself expressing support for Mr Abe at the last stage of the election.
To bridge the reform and idealism, Mr Abe has indicated reform of education as the immediate top priority issue. And beyond that is the long-range political objective for Mr Abe, as has been stipulated in his recently published book 'Toward the Beautiful Nation'. Mr Abe recalls his grandfather Kishi saying there were two things needed to be accomplished for Japan to truly overcome the aftermath of the war. One was the resurgence of strong economy to bring the people out of poverty and to live happy lives, and the other was to establish a truly independent nation by casting the trauma of the war through formulating Japan's own constitution - amending the current version, which was handed down by the occupied forces for Japan to accept. Mr Abe apparently views the former task (more than) well accomplished, and it is time to tackle the latter.