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Ball is in China's court after Abe's win

Shinzo Abe, widely viewed as a right-wing nationalist, assumes office this week as prime minister of Japan, the seventh time the country's leadership has changed hands in six years and his second turn at the helm since 2007.

The election manifesto of Abe's party, the Liberal Democrats, contained such proposals as changing the constitution so Japan can exercise its right to collective self-defense. It also took strong positions on territorial disputes with the country's neighbors.

Abe himself took a hawkish stance, insisting for example that the Senkaku islands, also claimed by China, are “Japan's inherent territory.”

However, indications are that his actions as prime minister won't reflect campaign rhetoric.

For one thing, he is dispatching a special envoy to China, Masahiko Komura, the party's vice president, to improve relations on that front. Special envoys are also being sent to South Korea and Russia, other countries with which Japan has territorial disputes.

Moreover, at a press conference Saturday, Abe said he wanted to “make efforts to return to the starting point of developing the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” with China. “The Japan-China relationship,” he said, “is one of extremely important bilateral ties.”

While he had proposed posting officials on the disputed islands — known to China as the Diaoyus — to strengthen Japan's control over them, since the election he has only said that he would think about the possibility.

As for relations with South Korea, Abe is canceling a “Takeshima Day” ceremony originally scheduled for Feb. 22, which was meant to assert Japan's claims to a group of islands held by Seoul also known as Dokdo.

Abe has also been in contact with Russia. President Vladimir Putin has disclosed that the new Japanese leader wishes to sign a peace treaty.

December 27, 2012    vzc43@
Abe may be hawkish and anti-Beijing, China should retain its status quo as far as its foreign policy is concerned. If he refuses to negotiate or collaborate, let him be, no big deal. (vzc1943)
December 28, 2012    swooi@
Japan is always smarter than all the other Asians. They just need to say to everybody that Senkaku is Japanese territory and there is just no need to discuss or talk about this issue anymore.

This claim by the others on Senkaku is just not worth the bother at all.
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