China will be keeping a close eye on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, especially his desire to revise the pacifist Constitution and a speech planned next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Chinese state media said Monday, a day after the ruling coalition scored a landslide election victory.
The South Korean government, meanwhile, expressed hope that the result will lead to improved bilateral relations.
Chinese news outlets noted that Abe could now stay in power for another four years, after his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, retained their two-thirds majority in the Lower House.
In a commentary, the official Xinhua News Agency likened Abe’s victory to “magic,” saying it had come about despite his failure to revive the economy and to deal with pressing social challenges.
Beijing is irked by the thought of the Abe administration lasting longer than most of its predecessors. Chinese leaders have been infuriated by what they see as Abe’s unrepentant attitude toward wartime history and his hawkish security policies.
Sino-Japanese relations, already shredded by the Senkaku Islands territorial dispute, reached a nadir after Abe took power in late 2012 and the following year visited Yasukuni Shrine, which for critics is a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. In two years in office, Abe only held his first face-to-face talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping about a month ago.
Xinhua and other Chinese state media called attention to the fact that victory by the ruling bloc, winning 325 seats in the 475-member Lower House, gives it the power to override the Upper House and frees up Abe to meet his long-sought goal of amending the war-renouncing Constitution.
China, a country with bitter memories of Japan’s past aggression, is also focused on what Abe will say in a planned statement next summer on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The Global Times cited Yang Bojiang, deputy chief of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that whether the two countries can mend relations depends on what Abe does.
In Seoul, however, a senior South Korean official expressed hope Monday that Abe’s general election will result in better ties.
“We expect it will help Japan improve friendly ties with neighboring countries on the basis of a stable political foundation and a correct understanding of history,” the Foreign Ministry official said.
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