SHINZO ABE: Japan’s record-breaking PM bids adieu | Daily News


 

SHINZO ABE: Japan’s record-breaking PM bids adieu

Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C-R) receives flowers from the staff after his last Cabinet meeting at Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo yesterday. - AFP
Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C-R) receives flowers from the staff after his last Cabinet meeting at Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo yesterday. - AFP

JAPAN: Shinzo Abe resigned Wednesday as Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, ending a tenure studded with headline-grabbing moments, from a turn as Super Mario to a controversial shrine visit that sparked regional anger.

Abe made building a close personal relationship with US President Donald Trump a cornerstone of protecting the key alliance.

In 2016, he flew to New York to chat with the then President-elect, becoming the first foreign leader to meet Trump at his Manhattan skyscraper.

The pair regularly golfed together, and Trump was the first head of state to meet Japan’s new emperor.

But there were plenty of awkward moments.

In 2017, a video went viral of Trump almost wrestling with Abe in a handshake that lasted 19 seconds and ended with the Japanese leader visibly grimacing and appearing relieved the encounter was over.

And then there was their 2018 golf game, when Abe tumbled backwards into a bunker and Trump marched down the fairway seemingly oblivious.

It was about the last thing anyone expected from Japan’s straight-laced Prime Minister, but in 2016, Abe decided to show his commitment to the Tokyo Olympics in rather unusual fashion -- by appearing as video game icon Super Mario.

Few political leaders can say their tenure literally involved the end of an era, but in Japan, the abdication of former Emperor Akihito meant the Heisei imperial era came to an end in 2019.

The new Reiwa era began in May 2019 and Emperor Naruhito formally ascended the Chrysanthemum throne in October, in a ceremony steeped in tradition and grandeur.

Abe has said little about what he thinks his legacy will be, but he has cited one particular point of pride: bringing then-US President Barack Obama to Hiroshima in 2016.

Obama became the first sitting US President to visit the site, where he paid tribute to victims of the world’s first atomic attack, though stopping short of offering an apology for the bombing.

Later that year, the two leaders made a poignant joint pilgrimage to Pearl Harbour, the first visit by a sitting Japanese leader to the memorial there, issuing symbolic declarations about the power of reconciliation and warning against the drumbeat of conflict. -AFP


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