Analysis: One year after death, Abe's influence lives on

Saturday will mark one year since the killing of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, Japan's longest serving leader. He left a lasting mark on the country's foreign policy, while his influence is still felt in the administration of current Prime Minister Kishida Fumio.

Even after taking office in the autumn of 2021, Kishida regularly sought Abe's counsel. Before making major policy decisions, he would often visit the former prime minister's office to hear his opinion.

Abe didn't impose his views on Kishida – insisting that it was ultimately for the prime minister to decide – but he would make the occasional suggestion. The meetings show that Kishida held his colleague in high esteem – although they also led to some critics labeling him "Abe's puppet."

Prime Minister Kishida was regularly seen visiting Abe's office.

Abe made his presence felt on the international stage by advocating a "panoramic" diplomacy.

Since his death, Kishida has taken up that legacy. He has been actively engaged in foreign affairs, including making a surprise visit to Ukraine in March and chairing the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May.

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Kishida's positive stance towards South Korea

One area of foreign policy in which Kishida has diverged from Abe is in his approach to South Korea. Under Abe's administration, bilateral relations sunk to what was said to be their lowest point since the end of World War Two.

But Kishida and South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol have both shown a willingness to improve ties.

Although Kishida was initially cautious, he invited Yoon to Japan in March and then headed to South Korea himself in May. They were the first such visits by leaders of both countries in 12 years.

Kishida and Yoon have welcomed the restart of mutual diplomatic visits between the countries.

Despite opposition from conservatives, Kishida has said he hopes the two countries will continue taking steps to improve relations.

Kishida becomes 'more confident'

Kishida's political beliefs haven't changed since Abe's death. However, with the security environment around Japan becoming increasingly severe, he appears to have been following the former leader's playbook more closely.

Abe had a close relationship with former US President Donald Trump.

A leader of one faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party told NHK that Kishida seems to have become more confident and more sure of his politics over the past year.

This will be put to the test at the next LDP presidential election, scheduled for September 2024. At this point, there are no potential candidates within the party who are likely to run against Kishida.

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