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Abe starts “diplomatic season” with eye on LDP presidential election in September

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe departed on June 6 for the U.S. and to attend the G7 Summit in Canada. This marks the start of a full-fledged diplomatic season for Abe focusing on the North Korea situation. As soon as the regular Diet session adjourns, the political focus will shift to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election this fall. Abe will be steering his administration while closely watching developments relating to both diplomacy and the LDP presidential election.

 

If Abe is able to chalk up diplomatic achievements, it would help his reelection to a third term as LDP president. While former Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba and Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida have emerged as possible candidates in the election, only the incumbent prime minister has the privilege of engaging in summit diplomacy, so his aides see this as part of the “campaign” for the LDP presidential election.

 

With economic policies losing novelty more than five and a half years since the start of the second administration, many LDP members bank on the results of summit diplomacy to stop the defection of party supporters.

 

However, expectations for diplomatic achievements are a double-edged sword. If the rising public expectations for holding a Japan-DRPK summit at an early date to resolve the abduction issue are not met, a strong sense of disappointment with the administration may follow. Abe’s aides lament that “it is difficult to control expectations.”

 

Diplomacy will also affect the schedule of the LDP election. The term of the party president expires on Sept. 30, so voting is expected to take place in mid- or late September. Certain party members are already talking about Sept. 23 because if the campaign period for the election overlaps with Abe’s participation in the UN General Assembly, it would be easier for him to highlight his diplomatic achievements as prime minister.

 

Major political and diplomatic schedules of Abe and President Donald Trump

 

 

Abe

Trump

June 7

Japan-U.S. summit

June 8-9

G7 Charlevoix Summit

June 12

 

U.S.-DPRK summit

June 20

Regular Diet session adjourns

 

July

Visit to France and other countries

 

Summer?

First meeting of new Japan-U.S. ministerial talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade

Mid-Sept.

Visit to Vladivostok, Russia

End of primaries for midterm elections

Mid- or late Sept.

Attend UN General Assembly?

Sept.

LDP presidential election

 

Nov. 6

 

Midterm elections

 

(Abridged)

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