Abe becomes 3rd equal longest-serving Japanese PM with 2,720 days in office

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) receives a visit from the Yoshimoto Shinkigeki comedy theatrical troupe at his official residence in Tokyo on Thursday. Photo: KYODO pool. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Jun 8, 2019, Kyodo. Shinzo Abe became Japan’s third equal longest-serving prime minister on Thursday with a total of 2,720 days in office, tying with Japan’s first prime minister Hirobumi Ito, reported the Japan Today.

Abe now trails Eisaku Sato who served for 2,798 days and Taro Katsura who was prime minister for 2,886 days. Abe will become the second longest-serving Japanese leader in August and the longest in November, providing he remains in office.

Following a one-year stint between 2006 and 2007, Abe returned to power in 2012 focusing on economic revitalization under the “Abenomics” policy mix.

Political circles in Japan are abuzz with speculation that Abe may be considering dissolving the more powerful lower house for an election so it can coincide with one for the upper house already planned for this summer.

“I will fulfill my responsibility by moving forward every policy that I promised the Japanese people (I would carry out),” Abe told reporters at his office.

The road to Abe becoming the longest-serving prime minister is expected to be rough with the upper house race and the planned consumption tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent in October.

Despite his pledge to resolve postwar diplomatic challenges, the prospects appear slim for a swift breakthrough in peace treaty negotiations with Russia as both countries remain far apart over a territorial dispute.

On North Korea, Abe has softened his stance by calling for a summit with its leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions but no date has been set. Pyongyang has criticized Abe’s offer as “brazen.”

Abe has made it his diplomatic priority to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s while he is in office. His current term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ends in September 2021.

The biggest problem he faces may be the economy amid emerging signs that the latest expansion phase — which began in December 2012 just as he took office — may have already ended and growing uncertainty over an ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s right hand man, said the administration has placed its “highest priority” on economic revitalization for the past six years and five months.

“We will proceed with policies to achieve a virtuous cycle of growth and redistribution and make sure the economy grows,” Suga said.

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