— Japan has a new prime minister. The Diet (parliament) on Wednesday selected Shinzo Abe to again lead the country after his Liberal Democratic Party scored a solid comeback in elections this month. That ends a three-year stay in power for the Democratic Party of Japan.
Abe said his top priorities are to overcome the country's economic and diplomatic crises.
At his initial news conference, following his selection by lawmakers to lead Japan, Abe lamented that any country that gives up on economic growth has no future.
Abe said he wants to achieve results as soon as possible to earn the public's trust and avoid the fate of many of his predecessors who could barely last one year in office.
Shinzo Abe succeeds Yoshihiko Noda whose fate was sealed after the DPJ lost its control of the lower house in elections earlier this month.
It is a stunning comeback for Abe, a third-generation politician, who suddenly resigned as prime minister five years ago amid declining popularity.
Abe said medication is effectively treating the inflammatory bowel disease that compelled him to step aside just short of one year in office in 2007.
There were five prime ministers in between Abe's previous departure and his return to the post.
The Democrat Party of Japan came to power three years ago, amid a prolonged economic decline, after the electorate voted out the scandal-ridden LDP which has governed the country for most of the period since World War II.
Speaking to reporters, Abe emphasized that a closer alliance with the United States is key to stable diplomacy for Japan.
Abe's return is being viewed cautiously in East Asia. That is due to his tough talk regarding Japan's worsening territorial disputes with its neighbors, his desire to strengthen Japan's defense forces and unapologetic views on the country's harsh, 20th century colonization of part of China and the whole of the Korean peninsula.
China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, told reporters that Beijing is willing to make joint efforts with Tokyo “to promote healthy and stable development of Sino-Japan relations.”
Hua said China hopes “Japan can stick to the path of peaceful development and play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability of the region.”
Abe's key Cabinet appointments are giving some clues to the direction he plans to take.
His new defense minister is Itsunori Onodera, who favors stronger security ties with the United States.
Fumio Kishida is the new foreign minister. He has previous Cabinet experience dealing with Okinawa where there is widespread discontent over the long-stalled relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps air station.
To help push through a $120 billion public works and other emergency stimulus spending plan, Abe has selected former prime minister Taro Aso as finance minister. Aso will also serve as deputy prime minister.
New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front C) and his cabinet ministers pose for a photo after their first cabinet meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.
Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe bows after being named Japan's new prime minister at the lower house of Parliament in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.
Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd R) receives a certificate from Emperor Akihito (L) as former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (2nd L) watches, during a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.
Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe casts a vote at the Lower House of the Parliament in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.