Shinzo Abe takes office for 3rd term as Japan's prime minister after win in snap election - InfoNews

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Shinzo Abe takes office for 3rd term as Japan's prime minister after win in snap election

Minister in charge of Supporting Women's Empowerment Haruko Arimura arrives in kimono at the prime minister's official residence for Imperial Palace to attend the attestation ceremony, in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Shinzo Abe was re-elected by Japan's parliament on Wednesday to serve another term as prime minister after winning a renewed mandate for his "Abenomics" strategies that helped revive the world's third-biggest economy. Abe appointed a former military officer, Gen Nakatani, as defense minister, but kept the other members of his previous Cabinet. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
December 24, 2014 - 5:35 AM

TOKYO - Shinzo Abe took office Wednesday for a third term as Japan's prime minister, appointing a former military officer as his defence minister but keeping the other members of his previous Cabinet.

Parliament re-elected Abe after his Liberal Democratic Party won a renewed mandate in a Dec. 14 snap election that the prime minister said was needed for him to carry out further economic and political reforms.

Gen Nakatani, Abe's new defence minister, headed the Defence Agency in 2001-2002 under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, before it won full-fledged ministry status. A graduate of the National Defence Academy, he attained a rank of first lieutenant before leaving the military.

Nakatani favours a stronger role for the military, which is constrained by the country's commitment to pacifism under the constitution drafted by the American occupation forces following Japan's defeat in World War II.

Nakatani said Abe specifically asked him to tackle "national security in order to protect Japanese territory, the people's lives and properties."

This time, "I feel more strongly about my responsibility," he said. "Japan's security environment has changed, and we must fortify our national security."

Nakatani's predecessor, Akinori Eto, was one of several ministers whose political funding reports were questioned by opposition lawmakers during the recent parliamentary session. Two resigned their Cabinet posts but were re-elected anyway.

Abe favours revising the constitution as part of his effort to fortify Japan's military, after already revising policies to allow the defence forces to aid allies if they come under attack under a policy dubbed "collective self-defence." Analysts said Abe likely wanted a stronger figure to help handle anticipated fierce questioning over defence-related issues in upcoming parliamentary debates.

Nakatani said he would seek the enactment of legislation needed to accommodate Japan's right to collective defence. He said he intends to explain to the public that the purpose is not "to allow Japan to wage war or to use aggression, but to protect the territory of Japan and the people's lives and property."

Apart from his security agenda, Abe faces strong pressure to more aggressively tackle politically tough reforms for boosting the economy, two years after he took office for a second time. He also served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 before quitting due to health problems.

The economy fell into recession last year following a sales tax hike in April to 8 per cent from 5 per cent, prompting Abe to put off until 2017 a tax hike planned for October 2015.

Since Abe must call the next election by December 2018, he could have another four years to deliver on pledges to open markets and streamline regulations that have hindered Japan's competitiveness. So far, Japan's powerful bureaucracy and its rural and commercial sectors have resisted major changes, foiling earlier reform efforts.

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Associated Press writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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