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.”