Suga replaces Abe as Japan prime minister

Yoshihide Suga became Japan's first new prime minister on Wednesday in nearly eight years, pledging to contain COVID-19 and push reforms.

Yoshihide Suga became Japan’s first new prime minister on Wednesday in nearly eight years, pledging to contain COVID-19 and push reforms after retaining about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup in his Cabinet.

In his first remarks after being elected by parliament, Suga emphasized his will be a Cabinet of continuity, seeking to further the policies championed by Abe.

“We need to carry forward the policies that the Abe administration was pushing. I feel that is the mission for which I have been called,” Suga told reporters.

He sidestepped questions on the possibility of a snap election to consolidate his position, saying that “what the public wants right now is that we manage to end the pandemic soon and at the same time we steadily restore the economy.”

He dwelled little on political ideology or foreign policy goals, instead pledging administrative reform, an end to “bureaucratic silos,” and greater digitalization of government. He said he would seek strong ties with the US and stable relations with China and Russia.

The 71-year-old takes the top job after decades in politics, most recently in the role of chief Cabinet secretary.

His new Cabinet is full of familiar faces, with Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi staying on, and the outgoing premier’s brother Nobuo Kishi appointed to lead the defense ministry. Yasutoshi Nishimura remains economy minister.

Xi sends congratulatory message

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to Yoshihide Suga on his election as Japanese prime minister.

In his message, Xi pointed out that China and Japan are friendly neighbors to each other, and are both important countries in Asia and the world.

Developing a China-Japan relationship that features long-term stability and friendly cooperation not only serves the fundamental interests of both nations, but also contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world, Xi said.

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