With the election of Shinzo Abe, many Japan watchers have warned that a rising nationalism could pull the country into a dangerous confrontation with China. Yet, from the looks of Abe's cabinet, Reiji Yoshida argues that the first priority of the Abe government is getting its economic house in order:
With the Upper House election approaching in July, Abe this time around seems to be focusing on economic issues first by appointing most of his close aides and party heavyweights to the economic and financial posts.
Among them are Finance Minister Taro Aso, a former prime minister and advocate of public works spending, who has hinted he might delay the 2014 sales tax hike.
Abe has also created the new post of "economic revitalization minister" and given it to Akira Amari, one of his closest allies.
His hawkish diplomacy meanwhile seems to be on hold — at least for now. The new foreign and defense ministers — Fumio Kishida and Itsunori Onodera — are not regarded as outright hawks, choices that apparently reflect Abe's newfound efforts to soften his diplomatic profile and avoid more friction with Japan's neighbors, who still have memories of the war.
Indeed, Abe's comments repeatedly emphasize that his focus is on economic issues and the Upper House election.
Yoshida notes that there's still an appetite among Abe's cabinet for measures, such as watering down apologies for World War II-era crimes (no "apology tour" for Abe), that will stoke regional unease.