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Japan's Parliament, as Expected, Selects Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister


Shinzo Abe has become Japan's youngest prime minister since the Second World War. The 52-year-old nationalist was selected by the Japanese parliament as expected, succeeding Junichiro Koizumi. The new prime minister wasted no time in selecting his Cabinet.

With the Liberal Democratic Party firmly in control of Japan's parliament, there was no doubt Tuesday who would be selected as prime minister.

Lawmakers cheered the announcement of the lower house vote showing L.D.P. President Shinzo Abe defeating Democratic Party president Ichiro Ozawa by 339 - 115. Several leaders of smaller parties received votes in the single digits.

Within hours of his election, Mr. Abe unveiled his Cabinet lineup, which includes two women and one non-politician.

Among the Koizumi administration officials retained in office is outspoken conservative Taro Aso, who kept his post as foreign minister.

Aso telling reporters that he believes the new administration will be able to achieve a Sino-Japanese summit, something that was not possible during Mr. Koizumi's five years in office.

China, along with South Korea, objected to Mr. Koizumi's repeated visits to a Tokyo shrine that honors convicted war criminals among Japan's war dead. The two neighboring countries saw the visits as a sign of Japan's lingering militarism, and relations with both deteriorated during Mr. Koizumi's tenure.

Mr. Abe's other selections are in line with his stated goals of revising Japan's pacifist post-war constitution, bringing patriotism back into the classroom, and pursuing a more assertive diplomacy while repairing relations with the country's neighbors. He has also pledged to continue the reform policies of the Koizumi administration.

Lawmaker Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a fluent English speaker - a rarity in the Japanese political world - is the new chief Cabinet secretary and top government spokesman. Shiozaki will also hold a new post dedicated to resolving the fate of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents during the Cold War.

Among other top appointments, former labor minister Akira Amari, known for his friendly ties with China, becomes trade minister. Fumio Kyuma returns as head of Japan's defense agency, a post he held a decade ago. The new finance minister - considered one of the most powerful Cabinet positions - is Koji Omi, who has served in several previous cabinets.

Mr. Abe, at 52, becomes the youngest prime minister in Japan in the post-World War II era. He is also the first leader born after the war.

He is scheduled to lay out his administration's goals in a policy speech to parliament on Friday.

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