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What might the West expect from Japan’s new leader??

Shinzo Abe was Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister since WII. His resignation was unexpected but the Liberal Democratic Party moved swiftly to choose a new leader. Their choice was Yoshihide Suga who has been Abe’s Cabinet Secretary for several years. That suggests continuity at least with existing domestic policies and especially with ‘Abe’s economies’ where Suga was one of the architects. Recent media reports suggest he may at last be prepared to tackle the “shattered” regional banking sector, where Suga is on record as saying Japan has “too many regional banks”. But before that slowing international business may force Suga to compromise with Japan’s powerful exporters if the Yen continues to strengthen against the US dollar.

China’s increasingly aggressive assertation of her role as the major power in SE Asia, was the major defence and foreign policy issues of Abe’s premiership. Suga will face the same difficult issues, but here the West may see a significant change. Suga is more pragmatic than Abe and is perhaps more sceptical of the true value of the US alliance.

The West often underestimates the role of history as a significant factor, even today, in Sino-China relations. Abe was unapologetic for the ‘New Prosperity’ Empire of 1930-45. China more than America is every day reminded that WWII started with Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931.

Suga may soon go for a snap election to give him a mandate to realign Japan’s defence strategy and her allies in SE Asia.