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Japanese popularist, pragmatic new PM Suga pushed Abe’s eyes

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has left on Sunday for his first overseas tour since taking over from his former boss Shinzo Abe last month, heading to Vietnam and Indonesia.

The choice to visit Southeast Asia emphasizes Japan’s efforts to counter Chinese influence and build stronger economic ties and defenses in the region, in line with Abe’s vision.

It also reflects pandemic facts. With the U.S.’s political ties to the country before the November 3 election, Suga did not immediately go to Washington to talk to Japan̵

7;s most important ally after he replaced Abe, who resigned for health.

As he emerges from Abe’s shadow with promises to “work for the people,” Suga proves in some way to be a harder line. It raises hacks within Japan and could riot neighbors, dissatisfied with Abe’s nationalist agenda.

Abe promises to restore Japan’s diplomatic destruction and national pride by launching ultra-nationalist policies such as traditional family values ​​and amending the pacifist constitution after World War II to allow a broader military role abroad for his country.

While Abe traveled abroad relentlessly during his nearly eight-year tenure, often as Japan’s highest salesman, Suga almost stayed home to manage bureaucrats to push for economic, security and more. more household policies.

Suga is expected to sign a bilateral defense agreement and technology transfer agreement with Vietnam as part of Tokyo’s efforts to promote the export of Japanese-made military equipment. This is a signal that Suga will surely follow in Abe’s footsteps in diplomacy.

At home, Suga was introduced to his back-to-back work that pushed Abe’s agenda as chief secretary of the Cabinet. He successfully used his modest background as the son of a strawberry farmer and a teacher and his low profile, energetic style to produce a more popular image than his predecessor.

In much of the world, including Japan, which has been conquered in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Suga has focused more on delivering results. Right now, it appears he is trying to differentiate himself from Abe by pumping a hodge-podge of consumer-friendly policies intended to demonstrate his practical and quick work.

With national elections expected during the month, there is little time to waste.

(Asterisk) All I have in mind is to discuss what needs to be done without hesitation and quickly, and start from whatever is possible … and let people recognize the change, “Suga told reporters on Friday as he marked his first month in office.

He instructed his Cabinet to expedite the approval of many projects such as the removal of the requirement for Japanese style “hanko” stamps, which are widely used in place of signatures on business and government documents. He continues his earlier efforts to lower the cellphone rate and promote the use of computers and online government and business.

Improving Japan’s low birth rate and population decline, he favors providing insurance coverage for infertility treatments.

“Right now, Prime Minister Suga is working on policies that are easy to understand and popular with many people, because his administration’s goal is to maintain high levels of support,” said Ryosuke Nishida, a sociologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “He is boldly tackling reforms step by step, and that is his strategy to make his government look as if it has achieved results.”

At the same time, Suga’s refusal to approve the appointments of the six professors from a slate of 105 in the state-funded Science of Science of Japan has received accusations that he is trying to expose dissent and academic freedom.

The flap does not seem to wreak havoc on a serious crisis for Suga, who did not provide any explanation other than saying his decision was legal and that the team of academics advising and reviewing government policies should be accepted. -public acceptance.

But it added concerns that Suga might be more justified than Abe in dismissing the opposition: The council, founded in 1949, repeatedly opposed military technology research at universities, as recently as 2017 Opposition to government funding for such research is in stark contrast to Abe’s efforts to build on Japan’s military capabilities.

Many Japanese, especially academics, were wary of abuse of power given to the country’s history of militarism before and during World War II and post-communist anti-war campaigns.

Historian Masayasu Hosaka, who writes in the Mainichi newspaper, described it as a “purge.”

The surprise decision sent support ratings for Suga’s Cabinet which was just above 50% last week from above 60% shortly after he took office.

Adding to aggravating the possible disruption to academic freedom, the Ministry of Education urged public schools to display a black cloth symbolizing mourning along with the national flag, and to have a moment of silence to show respect for the latter Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, whose state-funded funeral was held on Saturday.

Such movements are not surprising under Abe, who was the grandson of war leader Nobusuke Kishi and heir of a political dynasty stuck in his ultra-conservative agenda.

But while Suga’s own personal ideology is unknown, he followed Abe’s example in making ritual donations of religious ornaments Saturday at the Yasukuni Shrine to pay homage to the dead in the war. China and South Korea are considering the shrine, which also commemorates the slain criminals of the Japanese war, a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past.

Suga “seems to be a person with no ideology or political vision,” Nishida said. “His failure to articulate a mid-term goal is worrying … It seems that everything he does is for election income.”

That may prove dangerous, say some analysts. The heavyweights within the Liberal Democratic Party administration gave Suga, a self-made politician who was not affiliated with any of the party factions, their support when Abe suddenly stepped aside.

Suga could lose support just as easily despite his carefully designed Cabinet and executive party lineups, showing he is wary of his unsettled situation, said Koichi Nakano, an international political professor at Sophia University in Tokyo and Abe’s outspoken critic.

(asterisk) Actually, the LDP is a party of hereditary politicians, and that is Mr. Suga’s weakness, (asterisk) Nakano said.


Follow Mari Yamaguchi at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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