Yoshihide Suga sworn in as Japan's 99th Prime Minister

Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga receiving a certificate from Emperor Naruhito as outgoing PM Shinzo Abe (third from right) looked on at a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo yesterday.
Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga receiving a certificate from Emperor Naruhito as outgoing PM Shinzo Abe (third from right) looked on at a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Mr Yoshihide Suga was sworn in by Emperor Naruhito as Japan's 99th Prime Minister yesterday, after he was formally elected to the role by the Diet.

The 71-year-old, a stalwart in outgoing leader Shinzo Abe's administration as Chief Cabinet Secretary since December 2012, said at his first news conference as Prime Minister that he will continue with Mr Abe's policies.

These include the three arrows of Abenomics, comprising fiscal spending, monetary easing and structural reforms.

On foreign policy, he stressed that his goals were to strengthen Japan's security alliance with the United States while building stable ties with China, as well as to pursue Mr Abe's Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision.

But Mr Suga also portrayed himself as a reformist who will dismantle "vested interests, bad precedents and siloed systems".

Yesterday, he named a Cabinet that largely comprises familiar faces to pursue these goals.

Among the eight ministers who retained their positions were Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who turns 80 on Sunday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, 64, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, 39.

The new Cabinet has Japan's first Digital Minister - a role that replaces the former IT Policy Minister - with Mr Suga hoping to streamline government processes and promote areas such as telemedicine and online learning.

Mr Abe's brother Nobuo Kishi, 61, who has close ties with Taiwan, was named Defence Minister. China warned Japan yesterday against "any form of official exchanges with Taiwan", which it regards as a breakaway province.

 
 
 

Mr Kishi replaces Mr Taro Kono, 57, who is now Administrative Reform Minister.

Mr Suga's inauguration drew felicitations from world leaders.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a letter to Mr Suga that his appointment was a "testament to confidence in your ability to steer Japan through these difficult times".

He cited areas such as ageing and infrastructure in third countries as areas where the two countries can work together.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2020, with the headline 'Yoshihide Suga sworn in as Japan's 99th Prime Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe