Steady China-Japan ties expected as Suga picks continuity cabinet

By Xu Keyue Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/16 21:38:40

Yoshihide Suga (center) is inaugurated Japan's 99th Prime Minister on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Members of Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's cabinet were revealed on Wednesday after Suga was nominated Japan's 99th prime minister. The new cabinet keeps in place eight ministers from Shinzo Abe's team, suggesting that the new administration may continue Abe's policies toward China, analysts said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday congratulated Suga on his election as Japan's new prime minister.

Suga's new cabinet includes many familiar faces as he vowed to stay the course set by his predecessor, Kyodo News reported. Chinese observers noted that Suga's cabinet is likely to promote "innovation and reform" slogans, such as a constitutional amendment, but unlikely to make big policy changes as the new administration is meant to safeguard stability.

The new administration will focus on reviving Japan's battered economy, control its COVID-19 situation, and keep regional disputes with Asian neighbors, including China and South Korea, under control, analysts said.

The new defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, is Abe's younger brother and grandson of the late Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. He has never served in a senior government capacity, but Kishi had visited the island of Taiwan several times in recent years, prompting Taiwan media to hype him as "super friendly" to the island.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin congratulated Kishi at Wednesday's press conference, and noted that China hopes Japan abides by the one-China principle and refrains from official exchanges with the island of Taiwan.

Liu Junhong, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, who specializes in Japan affairs, told the Global Times that Japanese politicians "know fairly well" of the pros and cons of a relationship with the island and Chinese mainland, and that Kishi is unlikely to continue the visits. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry's comment is a gentle reminder to Japanese officials to respect China's bottom line, Liu noted.

Previous defense minister Taro Kono was nominated as administrative reform minister. Kono is active on social media, and in June, he made the decision to halt the government's plan to deploy the US-developed Aegis Ashore missile interception system. 

As for China-Japan relations, Liu said the main trend will be stability, although some setbacks could occur as disputes still exist, and as China-US tensions escalate. "Suga is wise enough to keep disputes under control," he said. 

Experts stressed that Japan's diplomatic strategy will also be adjusted according to the results of the US presidential election. Japan will continue to tie itself to an alliance with the US, while also developing its relations with China to maximize its interests, analysts said.


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