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 was the 90th Prime Minister of Japan, elected by a special session of the National Diet on 26 September 2006. He was Japanmarker's youngest post-World War II prime minister and the first born after the war. He resigned abruptly on 12 September 2007 after months of mounting political pressure. He was replaced by Yasuo Fukuda.


Abe was born into a political family, and studied political science in Japan. He has also studied in the United Statesmarker. He worked in the private sector until 1982 when he began the first of several government jobs. He entered politics in 1993 when he won an election in the Yamaguchi Prefecturemarker. Abe served under Prime Ministers Yoshirō Mori and Junichiro Koizumi, eventually becoming Koizumi's Chief Cabinet Secretary. Abe gained national fame for the strong stance he took against North Koreamarker, which eventually propelled him to presidency of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Prime Minister's office. While expected to follow the economic policies of his predecessor, Abe was also expected to improve the previously strained relations with the People's Republic of Chinamarker.

Early life

Abe was born in Nagatomarker and soon moved to Tokyo. He attended Seikei elementary school and Fuku Yu high school. He studied political science at Seikei Universitymarker, graduating in 1977. He later moved to the United Statesmarker and studied "English for foreign students" and possibly political science at the University of Southern Californiamarker. In April 1979, Abe began working for Kobe Steel. He left the company in 1982 and pursued a number of governmental positions including executive assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, private secretary to the chairperson of the LDP General Council, and private secretary to the LDP secretary-general.

Abe was born into a political family of significance. His grandfather, Kan Abe, and father, Shintaro Abe, were both politicians. Abe's mother, Yoko Kishi, is the daughter of Nobusuke Kishi, prime minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960. Kishi had been a member of the Tōjō Cabinet during the Second World War. Since GHQ's policy changed and became more anti-communist, Kishi was released from Sugamo Prisonmarker, and later established the Japan Democratic Party. In 1950 Shigeru Yoshida's Liberal Party and Kishi's Democratic Party merged as an anti-leftist coalition and became the Liberal Democratic Party of today.

Member of House of Representatives

Shinzō Abe was elected to the first district of Yamaguchi Prefecturemarker in 1993 after his father's death in 1991, winning the most votes of any election in the prefecture's history. In 1999, he became Director of the Social Affairs Division, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Yoshirō Mori and Junichiro Koizumi Cabinets from 2000–2003, after which he was appointed Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Abe is a member of the Mori Faction (formally, the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyū-kai) of the Liberal Democratic Party. This faction is headed by former prime minister Yoshirō Mori. Junichiro Koizumi was a member of the Mori Faction prior to leaving it, as is the custom when accepting a high party post. From 1986 to 1991, Abe's father, Shintaro, headed the same faction. The Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyū-kai has sixty members in the House of Representatives and twenty six in the House of Councillors.

Abe was chief negotiator for the Japanese government on behalf of the families of Japanese abductees taken to North Koreamarker. As a part of the effort, he accompanied Koizumi to meet Kim Jong-il in 2002. He gained national popularity when he demanded that Japanese abductees visiting Japan remain, in defiance of North Korea.

On October 31, 2005, he was nominated Chief Cabinet Secretary of the fifth Koizumi Cabinet, succeeding Hiroyuki Hosoda.

He was the leader of a project team within the LDP that did a survey on "excessive sexual education and gender-free education." Among the items to which this team raised objections were anatomical dolls and other curricular materials "not taking into consideration the age of children," school policies banning traditional boys' and girls' festivals, and mixed-gender physical education. The team sought to provide contrast to the Democratic Party of Japan, which it alleged supported such policies.

On September 20, 2006, Abe was elected as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. His chief competitors for the position were Sadakazu Tanigaki and Taro Aso. Yasuo Fukuda was a leading early contender but ultimately chose not to run. Former Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori, to whose faction both Abe and Fukuda belonged, stated that the faction strongly leant toward Abe.

On September 26, Abe was elected prime minister with 339 of 475 votes in the Diet's lower house and a firm majority in the upper house.

Prime Minister

Abe, elected at age 52, in 2006, was the youngest prime minister since Fumimaro Konoe in 1941.

Domestic policy

Economy

Abe expressed a general commitment to the fiscal reforms instituted by his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. He has taken some steps toward balancing the Japanese budget, such as appointing a tax policy expert, Koji Omi, as Minister of Finance. Omi has previously supported increases in the national consumption tax, although Abe has distanced himself from this policy and seeks to achieve much of his budget balancing through spending cuts.

Education

Since 1997, as the bureau chief of "Institute of Junior Assembly Members Who Think About The Outlook of Japan and History Education," Abe supported the controversial Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and the New History Textbook. He denies the abduction of comfort women by Japanese troops, claims that a history textbook must contribute to the formation of national consciousness, and cites South Koreanmarker criticism of the New History Textbook as foreign interference in Japanese domestic affairs.

In March 2007, Abe along with right-wing politicians have proposed a bill to encourage nationalism and a "love for one's country and hometown" among the Japanese youth. .

Imperial household

Abe holds conservative views in the Japanese imperial succession controversy, and has said he opposes amending Japanese law to permit female blood lines to succeed the imperial family. Succession of the imperial family by the female blood line should not be confused with ascension of a woman to the Chrysanthemum Throne as Empress.

Foreign policy



North Korea

Shinzō Abe has generally taken a hard-line stance with respect to North Koreamarker, especially regarding the North Korean abductions of Japanese.

In 2002, negotiations between Japan and North Korea, Prime Minister Koizumi and General Secretary Kim Jong Il agreed to give abductees permission to visit Japan. A few weeks into the visit, the Japanese government decided that the abductees would be restricted from returning to North Korea where their families live. Abe took credit for this policy decision in his best-selling book, . North Korea criticized this Japanese decision as a breach of a diplomatic promise, and the negotiations aborted.

On July 7, 2006, North Korea conducted missile tests over the Sea of Japanmarker. Abe, as Chief Cabinet Secretary, cooperated with Foreign Minister Taro Aso to seek sanctions against North Korea in the United Nations Security Council.

China, South Korea, and Taiwan

Abe has publicly recognized the need for improved relations with the People's Republic of Chinamarker and, along with Foreign Minister Taro Aso, seeks an eventual summit meeting with Chinese paramount leader Hu Jintao. Abe has also said that Sino-Japanese relations should not continue to be based on emotions.

On August 4, 2006, the Japanese media reported that Shinzō Abe had visited the Yasukuni Shrinemarker (a shrine that includes convicted Class A war criminals in its honored war dead) in April of that year. Abe claimed the visit was of a personal and non-official nature, as Former Prime Minister Koizumi has in the past. The Chinese and South Korean governments expressed concern over the visit. Both Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso have stated that any visits to Yasukuni are a domestic matter. In the end, Abe visited the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery on August 15, 2007 and abstained from visiting the Yasukuni shrine.

Moreover, Abe is respected among politicians in Taiwanmarker who are part of the Pan-Green Coalition seeking Taiwanese independence. Chen Shui-bian welcomed Abe's ministership. Part of Abe's appeal in Taiwan is historical: his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was pro-Taiwan, and his great-uncle Eisaku Satō was the last prime minister to visit Taiwan while in office.

Abe has expressed the need to strengthen political, security, and economic ties within the Southeast Asian region. Abe has increased its allies in its international campaign to counter the North Korean nuclear cards. So far, Abe has successfully visited the Philippines and Indonesia, and although China is not within the Southeast Asian region, Japan has also sought for their support.

India

Shinzō Abe's three day visit to India in August 2007 was said to be the start of a new Asian alliance, building on the long history of strong, friendly bilateral relations enjoyed by India and Japan. Abe proposed a 'Broader Asia" alliance of democracies as a counterweight to China's growing influence in the realm of economics and military power. Abe's initiative was seen to be the "fifth" bilateral link in this emerging scenario whereas the US-Australia, US-Japan, Japan-Australia, and US-India links are already established. A sixth link of the India-Australia is said to be the logical corollary in an attempt to create a new quadrilateral of military co-operation which China has labeled the "Asian NATO."

Abe's India foreign policy was pragmatic, as it was based on boosting Japan's resurgent economic indicators, while gaining a crucial partner in Asia. India, alone amongst all major Asian countries, does not have a history of serious military dispute with Japan. Japan served as India's benefactor during a stage of the Indian freedom struggle during World War II (it supported Subhas Chandra Bose, a.k.a. Netaji and the Indian National Army). This, coupled with the lone dissenting judgement by the Indian judge Radhabinod Pal during the War Crime tribunal of Japanese Class A war criminals and the cultural impact of Buddhism (which originated in India), has endeared India to the Japanese.

Defense

Abe also sought to revise or broaden the interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan in order to permit Japan to maintain de jure military forces. He had stated that "we are reaching the limit in narrowing down differences between Japan's security and the interpretation of our constitution."

Like his predecessors, he supported the Japanese alliance with the United Statesmarker.

Cabinets

Abe's first cabinet was announced on September 26, 2006. The only minister retained in his position from the previous Koizumi cabinet was Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who had been one of Abe's competitors for the LDP presidency. In addition to the cabinet positions existing under Koizumi, Abe created five new "advisor" positions.Shinzō Abe reshuffled his cabinet on August 27, 2007.

First

(September 26, 2006)
First, Realigned

(August 27, 2007)
Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki Kaoru Yosano
Internal Affairsmarker Yoshihide Suga Hiroya Masuda
Justice Jinen Nagase Kunio Hatoyama
Foreign Affairs Taro Aso Nobutaka Machimura
Finance Koji Omi Fukushiro Nukaga
Educationmarker Bunmei Ibuki
Health Hakuo Yanagisawa Yōichi Masuzoe
Agriculture Toshikatsu Matsuoka 1

Norihiko Akagi1
Masatoshi Wakabayashi 2
Economy Akira Amari
Landmarker Tetsuzo Fuyushiba
Environment Masatoshi Wakabayashi 1 Ichirō Kamoshita
Defense3 Fumio Kyuma 4 Masahiko Kōmura
Public Safety,

Disaster Prevention
Kensei Mizote Shinya Izumi
Economic and Fiscal Policy Hiroko Ōta
Financial Policy Yuji Yamamoto Yoshimi Watanabe
Administrative Reform Yoshimi Watanabe 5
Regulatory Reform Fumio Kishida
Okinawa/Northern Territories, Technology Sanae Takaichi
Birth Rate, Youth and Gender Equality Yōko Kamikawa
National Security Advisor Yuriko Koike
Economic Policy Advisor Takumi Nemoto
North Korean Abductions Advisor Kyoko Nakayama
Education Advisor Eriko Yamatani
Public Relations Advisor Hiroshige Seko


Notes:
  1. Toshikatsu Matsuoka committed suicide on May 28, 2007, hours before being due for questioning in connection to allegations of misappropriation of government funds. He was replaced by Norihiko Akagi, who himself resigned on August 1, 2007 due to suspicions of similar conduct. Masatoshi Wakabayashi was appointed Agriculture Minister, which he served concurrently with his post as Environment Minister.
  2. Masatoshi Wakabayashi was appointed Agriculture Minister on September 3, 2007, following Takehiko Endo's resignation due to a financial scandal.
  3. Prior to Abe's administration, this post was known as "Director General of the Defense Agency". In December 2006, its status was elevated to ministry level.
  4. Fumio Kyuma resigned on July 3, 2007 for controversial remarks made about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He was replaced by Yuriko Koike, then National Security Advisor.
  5. Yoshimi Watanabe was appointed Minister of State for Administrative Reform upon the December 28, 2007 resignation of Genichiro Sata. He served in this capacity concurrently with his role as Minister of State for Regulatory Reform.


Unpopularity and sudden resignation

After Agricultural Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka committed suicide, Abe's approval rating remained below 30% for months according to opinion polls of Jiji Press. Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party suffered great losses in the upper house election. Another agricultural minister, Norihiko Akagi, who was involved in a political funding scandal, resigned after the election.

In an attempt to revive his administration, Abe announced a new cabinet on August 27, 2007. However, the new agricultural minister Takehiko Endo, involved in a finance scandal, resigned only 7 days later.

On September 12, 2007, only three days after a new parliamentary session had begun, Abe announced his intention to resign his position as prime minister at an unscheduled press conference. Abe said his unpopularity was hindering the passage of an anti-terrorism law, involving among other things Japan's continued military presence in Afghanistanmarker. Party officials also said the embattled prime minister was suffering from poor health, with Abe blaming crippling diarrhea. On September 26, 2007 Abe officially ended his term as Yasuo Fukuda became the new Prime Minister of Japan.

Personal life

View on history

Since 1997, as the bureau chief of the 'Institute of Junior Assembly Members Who Think About the Outlook of Japan and History Education', Abe led the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. On his official homepage he questions the extent to which coercion was applied toward the Comfort Women, dismissing Korean "revisionism" as foreign interference in Japanese domestic affairs. In a Diet session on October 6, 2006, Abe revised his statement regarding comfort women, and said that he accepted the report issued in 1993 by the sitting cabinet secretary, Yōhei Kōno, where the Japanese government officially acknowledged the issue. Later in the session, Abe stated his belief that Class A war criminals are not criminals under Japan's domestic law .

In a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee in February 2006, Shinzō Abe said, 'There is a problem as to how to define aggressive wars; we cannot say it is decided academically', and 'It is not the business of the government to decide how to define the last world war. I think we have to wait for the estimation of historians'. However, on a TV program in July 2006 he denied that Manchukuo was a puppet state.

Abe published a book called in July 2006, which became a bestseller in Japan. In this book, he says that Class A war criminals (those charged with crimes against peace) who were adjudicated in the Tokyo Tribunal after World War II were not war criminals in the eye of domestic law. The Korean and Chinese governments, as well as noted academics and commentators, have voiced concern about Abe's historical views.

In March 2007, in response to a United States Congress resolution by Mike Honda, Abe denied any government coercion in the recruitment of comfort women during World War II, in line with a statement made almost ten years prior regarding the same issue, in which Abe voiced his opposition about the inclusion of the subject of military prostitution in several school textbooks and then denied any coercion in the "narrow" sense of the word, environmental factors notwithstanding.



However, it provoked negative reaction from Asian and Western countries, for example, The New York Times editorial on March 6, 2007, “What part of “Japanese Army sex slaves” does Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have so much trouble understanding and apologizing for? ... These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993.... Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue. A Washington Post editorial "Shinzo Abe's Double Talk" on March 24, 2007 also criticized him that "he's passionate about Japanese victims of North Korea -- and blind to Japan's own war crimes."

Response to mass media

The Asahi Shimbun also accused Abe and Shōichi Nakagawa of censoring a 2001 NHKmarker program concerning "The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal" . The "tribunal" was a private committee to adjudicate comfort women; about 5,000 people including 64 casualties from Japan and abroad attended. The committee members, who claimed to be specialists of international law, claimed that Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese government were responsible for the use of comfort women. The TV program, however, did not mention the full name of the tribunal and keywords such as 'Japanese troops' or 'sexual slavery', and it also cut the sight of the tribunal, the host grouping, statements of the organizer, and the judgement itself. Instead, it presented criticism against the tribunal by a right-wing academic and his statement that 'there was no abduction of sex slaves and they were prostitutes' .

On the day following the Asahi Shimbun report, Akira Nagai, the chief producer and primary person responsible for the program, held a press conference and ensured the report of the Asahi Shimbun. Abe stated that the content "had to be broadcasted from a neutral point of view" and 'what I did is not to give political pressure.' Abe said "It was a political terrorism by Asahi Shimbun and it was tremendously clear that they had intention to inhume me and Mr. Nakagawa politically, and it is also clear that it was complete fabrication." He also characterized the tribunal as a "mock trial" and raised objection to the presence of North Koreanmarker prosecutors singling them out as agents of North Korean government. Abe's actions in the NHK incident have been criticized as being both illegal (violating the Broadcast Law) and unconstitutional (violating the Japanese Constitution).

A news program aired on TBS on July 21, 2006 about a secret biological weapons troop of Imperial Japanese Army called 'Unit 731', along with a picture panel of Shinzō Abe, who has no relation to the report. Abe said in a press conference, "It is a truly big problem if they want to injure my political life." The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communicationsmarker inquired into fact relevance and stated that there had been an omission in editing the TV program fairly, making an administrative direction of exceptional stringent warning based upon Broadcast Law.

On October 24, 2006, a report emerged that Abe's new administration had called on the NHKmarker to "pay attention" to the North Korean abductees issue. Critics, some even within Abe's own LDP party, charged that the government was violating freedom of expression by meddling in the affairs of the public broadcaster.

In December 2006, it was revealed that former Prime-Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government, in which Abe was Chief Cabinet Secretary, had influenced town hall style meetings, during which paid performers would ask government officials favorable questions.

See also



References

  1. Fukuda set to become new Japan PM - CNN.com
  2. 学校法人 成蹊学園 成蹊ニュース(2006年度)
  3. Profile: Shinzo Abe BBC News
  4. Shinzo Abe the Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe's official website
  5. [1] (Kishi Yōko)
  6. The Abe Enigma Time Magazine
  7. Kodomo wa shakai no takara, kuni no takara desu jimin.jp (LDP site)
  8. Shinzo Abe to Succeed Koizumi as Japan's Next Prime Minister Bloomberg
  9. Mori faction unease mounts / Ex-premier stumped over Abe, Fukuda and party leadership race Daily Yomiuri
  10. Abe elected as new Japan premier, BBC News. Accessed 26 September 2006.
  11. Abe Is Chosen as Japan's Youngest Leader in 65 Years, Bloomberg, September 26, 2006.
  12. Japan's Abe Unexpectedly Names Omi Finance Minister, Bloomberg, September 26, 2006.
  13. 日本歴史教科書問題, s-abe.or.jp, April 16, 2004.
  14. New Japan PM vows strong China ties, CNN, September 26, 2006.
  15. Japan's Abe Says Talks Needed to Improve Ties With China, South Korea VOA News
  16. Abe visited Yasukuni in mid-April/Unannounced visit likely to draw protests Daily Yomiuri Online
  17. China expresses concern over reported Abe visit to Yasukuni Yahoo! Asia News
  18. Japan marks end of WWII; Abe skips Yasukuni visit, but one minister, Koizumi go; Abe's Cabinet to steer clear of Yasukuni on surrender day
  19. 安倍新政権に期待 親台派の印象強く, Mainichi Shimbun, September 26, 2006.
  20. http://www.nerve.in/news:25350081594
  21. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/world/asia/31memo.html
  22. New Japanese Leader Looks to Expand Nation's Military, NewsHour, September 20, 2006.
  23. Abe attempts to save his LDP with Cabinet reshuffle, Japan News Review, August 27, 2007.
  24. "Embattled Japanese PM stepping down" CBC News. Accessed on September 12, 2007.
  25. "Japanese prime minister resigns" BCB News. Accessed on September 12, 2007.
  26. Why Did Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Resign? Crippling Diarrhea., JapanProbe.com, January 12, 2008.
  27. http://www.s-abe.or.jp/poritics/textbook/textbook.htm
  28. Abe clarifies views on 'history issue,' reaffirms apologies, Daily Yomiuri, October 7, 2006.
  29. サンデープロジェクト/志位委員長の発言/(大要)
  30. Abe's "normal" Japan, ZNet, Oct. 5, 2006.
  31. History Redux: Japan’s Textbook Battle Reignites, Japan Policy Research Institute Working Paper No. 107 (June 2005).
  32. Japan's difficult drive to be a 'beautiful country', The Hankyoreh, September 2, 2006.
  33. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070302a9.html The Japan Times March 2, 2007
  34. Japan Press Weekly Special Issue - November 2006.
  35. New York Times, " No comfort” Published: March 6, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/06/opinion/06tues3.html, accessed March 8, 2007
  36. Shinzo Abe's Double Talk, The Washington Post, March 24, 2007.
  37. LDP pressure led to cuts in NHK show, Asahi Shimbun, January 12, 2005.
  38. VAWW Net - "What is the Women's Tribunal?", retrieved Sept 29, 2007.
  39. 安倍晋三氏の事実歪曲発言について, Violence Against Women in War Network Japan, January 17, 2005.
  40. War and Japan's Memory Wars, ZNet, January 29, 2005.
  41. Japan to order more public media coverage of North Korea abductees, International Herald Tribune, October 24, 2006.
  42. Japan's Leaders Rigged Voter Forums, a Government Report Says, New York Times, December 14, 2006.


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