Incoming prime minister and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chief Shinzo Abe is set to visit the United States as early as January to strengthen the bilateral alliance.
Abe also places emphasis on improving Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, which have been strained over territorial issues.
However, Japan’s neighbors are wary that Japan will tilt to the right under the next LDP-led government. The party pledged during the election campaign to open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and consider permanently stationing government officials on the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are also claimed by China.
The success of the Abe administration’s diplomacy hinges largely on whether the archconservative Abe, who refrained from making radical statements during the election campaign, will respond realistically to diplomatic issues.
In an about 10-minute telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 18 — two days after the LDP scored a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election — Abe underscored the need to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance to improve Tokyo’s strained relations with Beijing.