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Japan's Parliament Picks Suga To Succeed Abe As Prime Minister


Now let's turn to Japan where there's been a change in leadership. The country's parliament voted in its first new prime minister in eight years. This follows the sudden resignation of Japan's longest serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who says he resigned due to poor health. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The ruling Liberal Democratic Party chose Yoshihide Suga as its president on Monday. Suga introduced himself at a press conference.


PRIME MINISTER YOSHIHIDE SUGA: (Non-English language spoken).

KUHN: "I'm the eldest son of a farmer who was raised in Akita Prefecture until high school," he said. "I was born without ties to power. So I jumped into politics and started from scratch." For the past eight years as chief cabinet secretary, Suga served as Abe's spokesman, parrying reporters' questions about a string of cronyism scandals that dogged his boss. He was asked about those scandals on Monday.


SUGA: (Non-English language spoken).

KUHN: "We must correct what we find objectively wrong," he responded tersely. "It's important to give the people thorough explanations about everything." The 71-year-old Suga was responsible for implementing Abe's policies throughout the government.

SHIHOKO GOTO: He is a consummate political operative.

KUHN: Shihoko Goto is a Japan expert at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. She says Suga has a reputation for being effective but not very charismatic.

GOTO: He's very gray. Gray is not a good color in politics right now.

KUHN: Suga will need to muster some charm, Goto says, to match Shinzo Abe, whose personal rapport with President Trump has helped to stabilize the bilateral relationship. Suga has promised to carry on Abe's policies aimed at reviving the economy and strengthening Japan's military. Goto says the Japanese want continuity and stability because before Abe's eight-year tenure...

GOTO: Japan had had revolving door of leaders, six prime ministers in six years. No one wants to see a return of that.

KUHN: Now, Goto says, Suga needs to secure the public support through an election. But given the epidemic, that might have to wait. By law, that vote has to be held by September 2021 at latest.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEEB'S "FLUID DYNAMICS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.