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Japan’s next PM: No quarter for China, reach out to Russia

Published time: December 16, 2012 21:51
Edited time: December 17, 2012 02:53
Shinzo Abe speaks during a TV interview after he put rosettes by successful general electoral candidates' names on a board at the party headquarters in Tokyo on December 16, 2012 (AFP Photo / Yoshikazu Tsuno)

Shinzo Abe speaks during a TV interview after he put rosettes by successful general electoral candidates' names on a board at the party headquarters in Tokyo on December 16, 2012 (AFP Photo / Yoshikazu Tsuno)

As Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda steps down after exit polls reveal a complete defeat of his party in parliamentary elections, the winner of the race Shinzo Abe states that Tokyo won’t concede China "one millimeter" of “Japan’s islands.”

"China is challenging the fact that (the islands) are Japan's inherent territory. Our objective is to stop the challenge," Shinzo Abe, leader of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), declared Sunday.

Though official results from Japans parliamentary election are not expected any earlier than Monday afternoon, exit polls already show the LDP’s landslide victory in the poll.

Acknowledging the defeat, PM Noda resigned as head of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and said he was quitting his office. The DPJ has been in power for three years. In the new parliament it is projected to take no more than 77 seats out of 480.

Abe’s party is eyeing around 300 places and its ally, New Komeito party, looks set to win about 30 seats. This would give the alliance a two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament and a possibility to overrule the upper-house’s decisions.

A serious-looking Abe, though satisfied with the victory, still remarked that the win looks like a protest vote against the DPJ than a strong endorsement of his party.

"I think the results do not mean we have regained the public's trust 100 percent. Rather, they reflect 'no votes' to the DPJ's politics that stalled everything the past three years," he told NHK. "Now we are facing the test of how we can live up to the public's expectations, and we have to answer that question."

Abe has already served as Japanese PM between 2006 and 2007. By 2009, the LDP had enjoyed almost 50 years of unbroken rule when the parliament was snatched by Noda’s party.

In one of his first interviews, Abe reiterated to journalists of some of his more hard-line views.

"Japan and China need to share the recognition that having good relations is in the national interests of both countries," he said. "China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations."

The PM-to-be pledged that he would not concede even "one millimeter" in the territorial row with China.

Abe’s views include upgrading the country's "Self Defense Forces" to make Japan a full-scale military force. The politician also wants to revise Japan's pacifist constitution.

Japan and China’s long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of a small chain of islands in the East China Sea flared up badly in September after Tokyo nationalized the territory. This triggered wide protests across China and Japanese businesses suffered boycotts.

As for other international relations, Abe hailed an era of “mending”.

"We also need to deepen ties with Asia. I want to build up ties with Asian nations including India and Australia. After enhancing our diplomacy, I want to improve relations with China," he said.

He also talked of improving relations with Russia.

“When I was the PM, I met President Vladimir Putin several times. Now that he’s been reelected and I will take the office for a second term, we will improve the relations between our countries. Moreover, I would like to solve the territorial dispute and sign the peace treaty,” he said.

Tokyo’s relations with Moscow have been marred by another on-going territorial dispute – over the chain of Southern Kuril Islands. The territory comprises the islands of Kunashir, Shikotan, the Khabomai Rocks and Iturup, which fell under Soviet control after WW2 and have since been considered Russian territory since. Japan, however, insists the islands – known as the Northern Territories by the Japanese – belong to them.

Due to this dispute, Russia and Japan have not been able to sign a peace treaty since the end of WW2, which at times sets technical barriers between the two countries.