Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Abe becomes new Japanese PM -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Abe becomes new Japanese PM

Reporter: Shane McLeod

MAXINE MCKEW: To overseas news now and Japan today named a new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. At 52,
he holds the distinction of being the nation's youngest post war leader. Dubbed the "the prince"
for his high profile pedigree, Mr Abe has had a meteoric rise and although he lacks experience he
enjoys widespread popularity. But in style Mr Abe is a contrast to his flamboyant predecessor,
Junichiro Koizumi. After initially making his name by talking tough on North Korea, some observers
fear that Mr Abe's hawkish stance on foreign policy could put further strain on Japan's already
sensitive relations with its neighbours, China and South Korea. The ABC's north Asian correspondent
Shane McLeod prepared this profile of Shinzo Abe.

SHANE MCLEOD: After months of playing the role of man most likely, Shinzo Abe has finally taken out
the big prize. 52 is young for a Japanese Prime Minister, but that hasn't stopped his seemingly
inevitable rise to become the leader of the world's second richest country. But there are questions
over his lack of experience.

PROF GERALD CURTIS: He's had no line responsibility. He's had no executive responsibility. We don't
know how he performs in an executive position because he's never been in one. That doesn't mean he
won't do well, but there is no way to know. He is untested.

SHANE MCLEOD: He may be untested, but his forthright views have made him popular. Opinion polls
show more than half the population is happy to endorse him as Japan's next Prime Minister. Mr Abe
seems likely to follow the trail of economic reform blazed by his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi. On
foreign policy, the signs are he might take a more hardline stance. Mr Abe first rose to prominence
after travelling to North Korea with Mr Koizumi in 2001. Since then, he's pushed for Pyongyang to
be upfront about the fate of Japanese citizens, who were abducted by its spies in the 1970s and
'80s. He's gone as far as to call for sanctions, something Mr Koizumi shied away from. He's
demonstrated a hawkish take on everything from relations with China to Japan's right to possess
nuclear weapons, a radical stance in the only country ever to suffer a nuclear strike, and he's
even been accused of pressuring the national broadcaster NHK to tone down a documentary on the
alleged wartime use of sex slaves.

GERALD CURTIS: This history issue for Japan is something they cannot make believe doesn't exist as
a tremendous constraint on Japan's relations with its neighbours. As long as they don't face up to
that reality, they'll find themselves in trouble with the Chinese and the Koreans and so on.

SHANE MCLEOD: At rallies, he's been appealing to the nation's sense of patriotism.

SHINZO ABE (TRANSLATION): I want Japan to be a beautiful country where children can be proud of
being born.

SHANE MCLEOD: Mr Abe himself was born into a proud political dynasty. His father was a Foreign
Minister in the early 1980s and his grandfather Nobutsuke Kishi a post war Prime Minister. Kishi
had spent two years in custody as an accused war criminal before being released. He went on to help
found the Liberal Democratic Party. He cherished a dream of revising Japan's pacifist constitution,
the one imposed by the occupying Americans. Now his grandson says changing the Constitution is one
of his top priorities.

GERALD CURTIS: Now sees the opportunity to kind of finally undo, basically, a lot of the things the
American occupation of Japan imposed. That's what constitutional reform is all about. That's where
this idea that Japan has been like a sumo player playing in a ring that was designed by others, by
rules created by others. He's said as much.

SHANE MCLEOD: That it's even been contemplated is evidence that these days in Japan politics are
being played under different rules. Five years under Junichiro Koizumi have seen the ailing economy
turn around and meant big changes for Japanese politics. Ichita Yamamoto is one of the new breed.
He's an Upper House MP and strong supporter of Mr Abe and he even wrote this song for him. Its
title You Should Make It.

SHANE MCLEOD: Why do you support Mr Abe?

ICHITA YAMAMOTO: Because he's the only one who can lead the post-Koizumi era. He's the only man who
can continue the current reform. That's the reason. Thank you.

SHANE MCLEOD: When he's not belting out a rock tune for Mr Abe, Ichita Yamamoto is supporting him
in other ways. He's a regular commentator on radio shows like this one in Tokyo.

ICHITA YAMAMOTO: One thing he wants to say is Japan has its own national interest. Also, China and
South Korea have their own national interests.

SHANE MCLEOD: The real test of whether that can work is Yasukuni Shrine. The war memorial in Tokyo
has become the symbol of everything that's gone wrong in Japan's relationship with its neighbours.
China and Korea say visits to the shrine by Junichiro Koizumi show Japan hasn't come to terms with
its past because as well as thousands of soldiers, the shrine is home to the spirits of convicted
war criminals. Mr Abe has refused to say if he'll continue to visit the shrine as Prime Minister.

GERALD CURTIS: He wants to be a successful Prime Minister. It is pretty hard to think how he will
be successful and have relations with China become poisoned by an insistence on visiting a shrine
that honours the class A war criminals. So, my hope is that he will at the end of the day decide
it's better not to go. But I wouldn't put any money on it at the moment.