Profile: Shinzo Abe

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 26 September 2012 Shinzo Abe resigned as prime minister in September 2007 citing ill health

Shinzo Abe, 58, became Japan's prime minister after his Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) landslide election win.

It is Mr Abe's second shot at the top job, after a brief term as prime minister in 2006-7.

Then he was Japan's youngest leader since World War II - but he stepped down less than a year later, citing ill health, as support for his administration plummeted.

Now Mr Abe is back and leading the country, after the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito secured a majority in the lower house, ousting the ruling Democratic Party (DPJ).

"I have experienced failure as a politician and for that very reason, I am ready to give everything for Japan," he wrote in a magazine article ahead of the election.

Popular appeal

The Yamaguchi-born lawmaker, known as a right-wing hawk, hails from a high-profile political family.

His father, Shintaro Abe, was a former foreign minister. His grandfather was former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, who was arrested as a suspected war criminal after World War II but never charged.

Mr Abe graduated in political science from Seikei University before studying politics at the University of Southern California.

He won his first seat in parliament in 1993 and then went on to become deputy cabinet secretary. In September 2003 he became secretary-general of the then-ruling LDP.

Appointed to the cabinet for the first time in October 2005, he was given the high-profile role of chief cabinet secretary.

When he became prime minister a year later, he was seen as a man in predecessor Junichiro Koizumi's image - telegenic, outspoken and with a similar popular appeal to voters.

Start Quote

I promise to protect Japan's land and sea, and the lives of the Japanese people no matter what”

End Quote Shinzo Abe

In the early days of his premiership he scored a number of political hits, achieving a high-level rapprochement with China and winning local support with a tough line on North Korea.

A conservative, Mr Abe pushed for a more assertive foreign policy and a greater role for Japan on the world stage.

Under his administration, a bill passed setting out steps for holding a referendum on revising the country's pacifist constitution.

Mr Abe also called for a greater sense of national pride and backed a law requiring the teaching of patriotism in schools.

But a series of scandals and gaffes - both by him and his ministers - harmed the government, and his approval ratings fell dramatically.

He provoked anger in China and South Korea when he said there was no evidence that women were forced to become sex slaves by the Japanese army during World War II. He was forced to clarify his remarks and went on to issue an apology in parliament.

But most damaging to Mr Abe was the revelation that over the years the government lost pension records affecting about 50 million claims.

A heavy loss for his ruling LDP in upper house elections in July 2007 provided a catalyst for his decision to resign.

He stood down from the post in September of that year and disappeared from the political spotlight.

Second chance

With his election as LDP leader in September 2012, he returned to Japan's political stage, quickly expressing a strong stance on territorial rows with China and South Korea.

"Japan's beautiful seas and its territory are under threat, and young people are having trouble finding hope in the future amid economic slump," he said.

"I promise to protect Japan's land and sea, and the lives of the Japanese people no matter what."

He followed up his party leadership win with a visit in October to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, in a move that angered regional neighbours.

He has also expressed a desire to amend central bank laws to prop up the country's economy.

Speaking after his general election win on 16 December 2012, he acknowledged widely-held sentiment that the LDP victory was more due to anger at DPJ failures than a statement of confidence in the LDP.

"People will be strictly watching if the LDP will be able to live up to expectations," he said.

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