External Affairs

Look Forward to Taking Our Partnership to New Heights: Modi to Japan's New PM

Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament's lower house on Wednesday, becoming the country's first new leader in nearly eight years.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated Yoshihide Suga on his appointment as Japan’s prime minister, and said that he was looking forward to take the “special strategic and global partnership” between the two countries to new heights.

Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament’s lower house on Wednesday, becoming the country’s first new leader in nearly eight years, as he readied a “continuity cabinet” expected to keep about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup.

Suga, 71, Abe’s longtime right-hand man, has pledged to pursue many of Abe’s programmes, including his signature “Abenomics” economic strategy, and to forge ahead with structural reforms, including deregulation and streamlining bureaucracy.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, resigned because of ill health after nearly eight years in office. Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary.

Suga won 314 votes out of 462 cast by parliament’s lower house members. The chamber takes precedence in electing a premier over the upper house, which was also expected to pick Suga because of a ruling bloc majority.

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Suga, who won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race by a landslide on Monday, faces a plethora of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society.

Katsunobu Kato, outgoing health minister and a close Suga ally, is expected to become chief cabinet secretary.

“Suga will continue Abe’s economic policies and there will be no short-term impact on markets,” said Kensuke Niihara, chief investment officer of State Street Global Advisors Japan.

“In the longer term, because foreign investors’ interest in Japanese stocks has been low, if he presses ahead with structural reforms and deregulations, that is a theme investors like and would be a positive surprise,” Niihara added.

With little direct diplomatic experience, Suga must also cope with an intensifying US-China confrontation, build ties with the winner of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election and try to keep Japan’s own relations with Beijing on track.

(With inputs from Reuters)