Abe, Shinzo

Abe, Shinzo shēn´zō ä´bā [key], 1954–, Japanese political leader. The son and grandson of politicians (his grandfather was Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi), he served as secretary to his father and succeeded to his father's seat in the Diet in 1993. Abe gained attention in 2002 for taking a strong stand against North Korea over its kidnapping of Japanese citizens, and in 2003 he became secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic party. Becoming chief cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Koizumi in 2005, Abe was regarded as Koizumi's likely successor, and succeeded him as party president and prime minister in 2006. A strong conservative and an apologist for Japan's role in World War II, Abe has supported revising the constitutional limitations on Japan's military, increasing Japan's role in international affairs, taking a harder line in Japan's relations with North Korea. In office, he succeeded in repairing ties with China that had been damaged under his predecessor and secured passage of educational reforms and of an upgrading of the defense agency to ministry status, but a series of government scandals and the LDP's loss of control of the Diet's upper house (July, 2007) led to Abe's resignation in Sept., 2007. Yasuo Fukuda succeeded him. Five years later he was again elected leader of the LDP. In Dec., 2012, he led the party to a landslide victory and again became prime minister; early elections in 2014 and 2017 also resulted in landslide wins, and made him Japan's longest serving prime minister. His time in office since 2012 has been marked by continual tensions with China over disputed islands (also an issue with Taiwan and South Korea), tensions with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, increases in defense spending along with the easing of some restrictions of Japan's military, and tensions with South Korea over Japan's treatment of Koreans during World War II.

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