New Japanese PM Suga seeks to strengthen alliance with US and support stable ties with China & Russia

Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has pledged to pursue policies that will beef-up his country’s alliance with the US, and expressed hope that Tokyo will establish stable relations with both China and Russia.

Suga made the statements during his first news conference as PM after being sworn in earlier on Wednesday as the successor to Shinzo Abe, who resigned after nearly eight years in office due to ill health. Suga had served under him as chief cabinet secretary, acting also as top government spokesman.

The new prime minister, who said he would stick with the ‘Abenomics’ growth policies while pushing reforms including deregulation, retained about half of his predecessor’s cabinet line-up.

On the diplomatic front, Suga, 71, said that the Japan-US alliance will remain the foundation of foreign policy. US President Donald Trump welcomed Suga’s inauguration, the White House said on Wednesday, and looks forward to working with him to continue pursuing “the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Suga made a three-day visit to Washington in May last year to discuss North Korea with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His second overseas trip as top government spokesman was to Guam in 2015, to discuss the planned transfer of some of the US Marines stationed in Okinawa. The talks were held amid wrangling with local residents of the southernmost Japanese prefecture over a controversial plan to relocate a key US base there.

During a ruling party election debate on Saturday, Suga paid tribute to Abe’s leadership and diplomacy. “I don’t think I can match that,” he added. “I think there is a diplomatic stance that would fit me and I will stick to my own style, while also seeking assistance from the Foreign Ministry.” Toshimitsu Motegi is staying on as foreign minister in Suga’s cabinet.

Chinese analysts expect Suga to continue Abe’s policies toward Beijing and “keep disputes under control” as China-US tensions escalate, the Global Times reported. The analysts said, however, that Japan’s diplomatic strategy will likely be adjusted according to the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election.

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