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How Able Is Abe?

Courtesy Reuters

A SOFTER TOUCH FOR JAPAN

When Junichiro Koizumi retired as Japan's prime minister last September, he left big shoes to fill. Although major reforms to Japan's economy had begun years prior to his election in 2001, Koizumi greatly advanced the process -- in part through specific achievements, but more important by catalyzing public demand for change and by giving reform an aura of inevitability. Now Shinzo Abe, his handpicked successor, will have to live up to the expectations Koizumi created.

At first glance, Abe seems a study in contradiction. He is Japan's first prime minister to be born after World War II, yet he draws inspiration from his late grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, a wartime leader imprisoned for three years after Japan's surrender. Although Abe is often misperceived as an ultranationalist, he has worked hard since taking office to repair frayed ties with China and South Korea, making concessions that his less

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