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Japan's Suga Wins Ruling Party Leadership Race, Paving Way for Him to Become Next Prime Minister

In late August, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the country's ruling coalition that he was set to resign, amid speculation about his health issues.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has been elected leader of the country's leading Liberal Democratic Party, which enables him to succeed Shinzo Abe as the next prime minister. In late August, Abe announced his intention to step down, citing health issues.

According to the results of the voting held on Monday, Suga got 377 votes, while his rivals - ex-Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida - received 68 and 89 votes, respectively.

"A political vacuum is inadmissible amid the ongoing national crisis in light of the coronavirus infection spreading. I plan to inherit and develop the effort made by Prime Minister Shnizo Abe," Suga said, as aired by the NHK broadcaster.

Earlier this month, Hiroshi Moriyama, the chairman of the parliamentary affairs committee with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said that Japan’s new cabinet will be formed on 16 September, two days after the parliament appoints a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Suga, Abe’s longtime right-hand man, previously said he would continue the prime minister's signature economic policy, and seek a peace treaty with Russia and a meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

He also stressed that Japan's alliance with the United States will be a core part of his foreign policy plans.

“It is important that Japan builds strong relations with other Asian countries, with the Japan-US alliance remaining the core of our foreign policy,” Suga said during a televised debate with his rivals in the leadership race on Saturday.

Suga also underlined the importance of Japan’s participation in a range of international economic agreements, and called for a revival of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The US, under President Donald Trump, pulled out of the TPP in 2017.

Shinzo Abe, Japan's outgoing prime minister, is leaving office due to ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease that already caused him to abandon the premiership in 2007. Despite those circumstances, he once again assumed the prime minister's chair in 2012 and went on to become the longest-serving Japanese head of government.