Last night, Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe won in the general election, securing a fourth term as head of the Asian state. Calling a snap election in mid-September in an attempt to increase the seats held by his center-right Liberal Democratic party amid the ongoing North Korea crisis. Abe’s party picked up over 60% of the vote, securing a safe majority and forming a government with the Komeito party, the smaller center-right party of Japan.
President Trump called Abe Sunday to congratulate him on the win.
“My immediate task is to deal with North Korea,” Abe told the press Sunday, after his victory. “It will take tough diplomacy. With the mandate given by the people, I would like to exercise my command in diplomacy.”
Abe is seeking to reform the Japanese post-WWII constitution before 2020 in an attempt to build up the Japanese armed forces to counter the North Korean threat, and to act as a balance against growing Chinese influence in the region.
Over the summer, Abe’s approval rating was slipping amid a series of nepotism scandals regarding government grants he awarded to friends and family. It recovered last month to around 50% after his response to North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test, the most powerful nuclear test it’s conducted thus far.
Early Monday morning, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera warned Song Young-moo, South Korean Defense Minister, and James Mattis, US Secretary of Defense, that the North Korean threat had reached a “critical, imminent” level.
Trump is scheduled to visit Abe in Tokyo next month as part of his Asia tour. Abe has gone to great lengths to embrace Trump, in order to maintain the US military presence in the region. Thus far, the strategy has paid off, as Trump has taken a hard-line stance on the Hermit Kingdom and his “rocket man” Kim Jong-un. A war of words between the North Korean dictator and the US president has escalated in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, at a dinner in the White House attended by US military commanders, Trump remarked it was “the calm before the storm.”