In November 2014, while Abe was attending the APEC forum meeting in China and the G20 Summit in Australia, rumours began appearing in the press that he was planning to call a snap election in the event that he decided to delay the second stage of the consumption tax increase. It was speculated that Abe planned to do this to "reset" Diet business after it had become gridlocked due to the fallout from ministerial resignations in October, or because the political situation would be less favorable to re-election in 2015 and 2016.
On 17 November GDP figures were released that showed Japan had fallen into recession, the two-quarters of negative growth following the first stage in the consumption tax rise in April. Abe held a press conference on 21 November and announced that he was delaying the rise in the consumption tax by 18 months, from October 2015 to April 2017, and calling a snap general election for 14 December. Abe described the election as the "Abenomics Dissolution" and asked the voters to pass judgment on his economic policies. Abe's popularity fell slightly with the announcement and he declared that he would resign if his coalition did not win a simple majority, though analysts agreed this was highly unlikely due to the weak state of the opposition. The opposition parties attempted to field a united front in opposition to Abe's policies, but found themselves divided on them.
In the elections, the LDP won 291 seats, a loss of 3, but the Komeito gained 4 to win 35. Therefore, the governing coalition maintained its two-thirds majority in a slightly-reduced lower house of 475.
On 24 December 2014 Abe was re-elected to the position of Prime Minister by the House of Representatives. The only change he made when introducing his third cabinet was replacing defense minister Akinori Eto, who was also involved in a political funding controversy, with Gen Nakatani. In his February policy speech, as the Cabinet weathered a Moritomo Gakuen school scandal, Abe called upon the new Diet to enact "most drastic reforms since the end of World War II" in the areas of the economy, agriculture, healthcare and other sectors.
On a tour of the Middle East in January 2015, Abe announced that Japan would provide 200 million dollars in non-military assistance to countries fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as part of a 2.5 billion-dollar aid package. Shortly after this, ISIL released a video in which a masked figure (identified as Mohammed Emwazi or "Jihadi John") threatened to kill two Japanese hostages, Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, in retaliation for the move unless Abe's government paid 200 million dollars of ransom money. Abe cut short his trip to deal with the crisis, declared that such acts of terrorism were "unforgivable" and promised to save the hostages while refusing to pay the ransom. The Abe cabinet worked with the Jordanian government to attempt to secure the release of both hostages, after further videos were released by ISIL linking their fate to that of the pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh, with deputy foreign minister Yasuhide Nakayama conducting negotiations in Amman. Both hostages were killed, ISIL releasing news of Yukawa's death on 24 January and Goto's on 31 January. Abe condemned the killings as a "heinous act", declared that Japan would "not give in to terrorism" and pledged to work with the international community to bring the killers to justice. There was some criticism of Abe for his move to pledge aid against ISIL while they were holding Japanese citizens hostage, but polls showed support for his administration increasing in the aftermath of the crisis. He later used the example of the hostage crisis to argue the case for the collective self-defense legislation that his government introduced in the summer of 2015 (see below).
In April 2015, he addressed a joint sitting of the U.S. Congress, the first Japanese prime minister to do so. In his speech he referred to the Japan-US Alliance as the "Alliance of Hope", promised that Japan would play a more active security and defense role in the alliance and argued that the TPP would bring both economic and security benefits to the Asia-Pacific region. The address served as part of a state visit to the United States, the eighth of the Obama Presidency, which the president referred to as a "celebration of the ties of friendship" between America and Japan. During the visit, Abe attended a state dinner at the White House.
Like his predecessors Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi, Abe issued a statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II on 14 August 2015. This statement had been widely anticipated, with some commentators expecting Abe to amend or even refuse to repeat the previous leaders' apologies for Japan's role in the war. In the statement, Abe committed to upholding the previous apologies and expressed "profound grief and eternal, sincere condolences" for the "immeasurable damage and suffering" Japan had caused for "innocent people" during the conflict. He also argued that Japan should not be "predestined to apologize" forever, noting that more than eighty percent of Japanese people alive today were born after the conflict and played no part in it. The governments of both China and South Korea responded with criticism of the statement, but analysts noted that it was muted and restrained in tone, in comparison to the harsher rhetoric that has been used previously. A representative of the US National Security Council welcomed the statement, and referred to Japan as having been a "model for nations everywhere" in its record on "peace, democracy, and the rule of law" since the war's end. Professor Gerald Curtis of Columbia University argued that the statement "probably satisfies no constituency" either in Japan or abroad, but that by repeating the words "aggression", "colonialism", "apology" and "remorse" used in the Murayama Statement of 1995, it was likely to be enough to improve relations with China and Korea.
In December 2015, Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed deals in which India agreed to buy Shinkansen technology from Japan (financed in part by a loan from the Japanese government), and for Japan to be raised to full partner status in the Malabar naval exercises. Also agreed at the talks was a proposal for Japan to sell non-military nuclear technology to India, to be formally signed once technical details were finalized. Demonstrating their close relationship, Abe described Modi's policies as "like Shinkansen—high speed, safe and reliable while carrying many people along". In return, Modi complimented Abe as a "phenomenal leader", noted how India-Japan relations had a "wonderful human touch" and invited him to attend the Ganga aarti ceremony at Dashashwamedh Ghat in his Varanasi constituency. Analysts described the nuclear deal as part of Japan and India's efforts to respond to growing Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific region.
In Seoul in November 2015, Abe attended the first China–Japan–South Korea trilateral summit held for three years with Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The summits had been suspended in 2012 due to tensions over historical and territorial issues. The leaders agreed to restore the summits as annual events, negotiate a trilateral free trade agreement and work to check North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, and announced that trilateral co-operation had been "completely restored".
Japan's relations with South Korea have improved somewhat during Abe's third term, in the aftermath of Abe's war anniversary statement. Abe and Korea's President Park Geun-hye held their first bilateral meeting in November 2015, where they both agreed to resolve the issue of so-called "Comfort women" which Park described as the biggest obstacle to closer ties. In late December 2015, foreign ministers Fumio Kishida and Yun Byung-se announced in Seoul that a deal had been reached to resolve the "comfort women" issue, in which Japan agreed to pay 1 billion yen into a fund to support the 46 surviving victims, and issued a statement that contained Abe's "most sincere apologies and remorse". Abe later telephoned Park to issue the apology. In return, the South Korean government agreed to consider the matter "finally and irreversibly resolved" and work to remove a statue from in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Both sides agreed to refrain from criticizing each other over the issue in the future. President Park stated that the agreement would be a "new starting point" for relations between the two countries, although both leaders received some domestic criticism: Abe for issuing the apology, Park for accepting the deal.
Shortly after Donald Trump had won the US presidential election, Abe cut his presence at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima short, in order to have an informal, impromptu meeting with the then President-elect, at the Trump Tower. After Trump's inauguration, they had a formal meeting at Mar-a-Lago, discussed security, in light of a North Korean threat, with Abe stating that Japan will be more committed to Japan–United States relations. They also golfed alongside South African professional golfer Ernie Els.
In his April speech to Congress, Abe announced that his government would "enact all necessary bills by this coming summer" to expand the Self-Defense Forces' capacity for operations and to give effect to the cabinet's July 2014 decision to re-interpret the constitution in favor of collective self-defense. Therefore, the Abe cabinet introduced 11 bills making up the "Peace and Security Preservation Legislation" into the Diet in May 2015, which pushed for a limited expansion of military powers to fight in a foreign conflict. The principal aims of the bills were to allow Japan's Self-Defense Forces to come to the aid of allied nations under attack (even if Japan itself was not), to expand their scope to support international peacekeeping operations, and to allow for Japan to take on a greater share of security responsibilities as part of the US-Japan Alliance.
In order to allow for enough time to pass the bills in the face of lengthy opposition scrutiny, the Abe cabinet extended the Diet session by 95 days from June into September, making it the longest in the post-war era. The bills passed the House of Representatives on 16 July with the support of the majority LDP-Komeito coalition. Diet members from the opposition Democratic, Innovation, Communist and Social Democratic parties walked out of the vote in protest at what they said was the government's move to force the bills through without sufficient debate and ignore "responsible opposition parties". Abe countered by arguing that the bills had been debated for "as many as 113 hours" before the vote. While common practice in many other parliamentary democracies, a government using its majority to "railroad" controversial bills through the Diet in the face of political and public opposition is a subject of criticism in Japan.
As a result of these moves, Abe faced a public backlash, and opinion polls showed that his approval ratings fell into negative figures for the first time since he returned to power in 2012, with 50 percent disapproving and 38 percent approving of the cabinet according to one Nikkei survey at the beginning of August. Many protested the legislation outside the Diet buildings, denouncing what was referred to as "war bills" by opponents. Organizers of the protests estimated that up to 100,000 protesters marched against the bills' passage of the lower house in July. During Diet committee hearings on the bills, constitutional scholars (some of whom had been invited by the ruling parties) and a former supreme court justice argued that the legislation was unconstitutional. Abe was publicly criticised by atomic bomb survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi in his speech at the Nagasaki memorial ceremony on 9 August, when he stated that the defense reforms would take Japan "back to the wartime period". Members of the Abe cabinet said that they would make a greater effort to explain the contents of and the reasons for the security legislation to the public, with the LDP releasing an animated cartoon commercial, and Abe appearing live on television and internet chat streams to make the case for the legislation and take questions from members of the public.
The security bills were finally approved 148 votes to 90 by the House of Councillors and became law on 19 September, following opposition attempts at delaying tactics and physical altercations in which some Diet members attempted to stop the relevant chairman calling the vote to move the bill out of committee and to a general vote. After the vote, Abe issued a statement saying that the new laws "will fortify our pledge to never again wage war", and that the legislation, rather than being "war bills", was instead "aimed at deterring war and contributing to peace and security". He also pledged to continue to explain the legislation to try to gain "greater understanding" from the public on the issue. Following the bills' passage, Abe was expected to once again return his focus to economic issues.
On 18 October 2015 Abe presided over the triennial fleet review of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Forces. In his speech to personnel on board the destroyer Kurama he announced that "by highly hoisting the flag of 'proactive pacifism,' I'm determined to contribute more than ever to world peace and prosperity". Later that day he went aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, becoming the first Japanese prime minister to set foot on an American warship.
In December 2015, the Abe government announced the creation of a new intelligence unit, the International Counterterrorism Intelligence Collection Unit [ja], to aid counter-terrorism operations, to be based in the Foreign Ministry but led by the Prime Minister's Office. This was reported as being part of efforts to step up security measures in preparation for the 2016 G7 Summit in Shima, Mie, and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. In the same month the cabinet approved Japan's largest-ever defense budget, at 5.1 trillion yen, for the fiscal year beginning in April 2016. The package included funding intended for the purchase of three "Global Hawk" drones, six F-35 fighter jets and a Boeing KC-46A midair refueling aircraft.
In September 2015 Abe was re-elected as president of the LDP in an uncontested election after LDP Diet member Seiko Noda failed to garner enough support to stand as a candidate. Following this Abe carried out a cabinet reshuffle, once again keeping the key ministers of Finance, Economy, Foreign Affairs and the Chief Cabinet Secretary in post. He also created a new ministerial position for the coordination of policies related to the economy, population decline, and social security reform, which was filled by Katsunobu Katō.
At a press conference after his official re-election as LDP President, Abe announced that the next stage of his administration would focus on what he called "Abenomics 2.0", the aim of which was to tackle issues of low fertility and an aging population and create a society "in which each and every one of Japan's 100 million citizens can take on active roles". This new policy consisted of targets which Abe referred to as "three new arrows"; to boost Japan's GDP to 600 trillion yen by 2021, to raise the national fertility rate from an average of 1.4 to 1.8 children per woman and stabilize the population at 100 million, and to create a situation where people would not have to leave employment in order to care for elderly relatives by the mid-2020s. Abe explained that the government would take measures to increase wages, boost consumption, and expand childcare, social security and care services for the elderly to meet these goals.
This new iteration of Abenomics was met with some criticism by commentators, who argued that it was not yet clear if the first three arrows had succeeded in lifting Japan out of deflation (inflation was some way below the 2 percent target), that the new arrows were merely presented as targets without the necessary policies to meet them, and that the targets themselves were unrealistic. However, opinion polls during the final months of 2015 showed the Abe cabinet's approval ratings once again climbing into positive figures after the change in emphasis back to economic issues.
At the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in early October 2015, Abe hailed the agreement for creating an "unprecedented economic zone" and opening up possibilities for an even wider Asia-Pacific free trade deal and Japanese trade with Europe. He also promised to mitigate any negative effects on the Japanese agricultural sector. GDP figures released in November 2015 initially appeared to show that Japan had entered a second recession since the implementation of Abenomics, however these figures were subsequently revised to show that the economy had grown by 1 percent in the third quarter, thus avoiding recession.
In December 2015, the two parties making up Abe's governing coalition agreed to introduce a reduced rate of consumption tax for food when the anticipated tax increase from 8 to 10 percent takes place in April 2017. This deal was reached after Abe was seen to come down strongly in favor of the position held by his junior coalition partner the Komeito, that the tax rate should be reduced, which prompted some disagreement from members of his own party, who favored a policy of greater fiscal consolidation through taxes. Abe dismissed the chairman of the LDP's tax panel Takeshi Noda (who opposed the reduction), and appointed Yoichi Miyazawa, who was more favorable to the policy, as his replacement. Abe declared the tax deal to be "the best possible result" of the negotiations.
At the 2016 election to the House of Councillors, the first that allowed Japanese citizens 18 and over to vote, Abe led the LDP–Komeito pact to victory, with the coalition being the largest in the House of Councillors since it was set at 242 seats. The election's results opened the debate on constitutional reform, particularly in amending Article 9 of Japan's pacifist constitution, with pro-revisionist parties gaining the two-thirds majority being necessary for reform, alongside a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, which would ultimately lead to a nationwide referendum. Abe remained relatively quiet on the issue for the remainder of the year, but in May 2017, announced that the constitutional reform would be in effect by 2020.
The 2017 general election was held on 22 October. Prime Minister Abe called the snap election on 25 September, while the North Korea crisis was prominent in the news media. Political opponents of Abe say the snap election was designed to evade questioning in parliament over alleged scandals. Abe was expected to retain a majority of seats in the Diet. Abe's ruling coalition took almost a majority of the vote and two-thirds of the seats. The last-minute campaigning and voting took place as Typhoon Lan, the biggest typhoon of 2017, was wreaking havoc on Japan.
On 20 September 2018, Abe was re-elected as leader of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party. On 19 November 2019, Abe became Japan's longest-serving prime minister, surpassing the 2,883-day record of Katsura Tarō. On 24 August 2020, Abe became the longest-serving prime minister in terms of consecutive days in office, surpassing Eisaku Satō's 2,798-day record.
In March 2018, it was revealed that the finance ministry (with finance minister Tarō Asō at its head) had falsified documents presented to the parliament in relation to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, to remove 14 passages implicating Abe. It was suggested that the scandal could cost Abe his seat as Liberal Democratic party's leader. Further accusations arose the same year that Abe had given preferential treatment to his friend Kotarō Kake to open a veterinary department at his school, Kake Gakuen. Abe denied the charges, but support for his administration fell below 30% in the polls, the lowest since taking power in 2012. Those who called for him to step down included former prime minister Junichirō Koizumi. The scandal has been referred to as "Abegate".
The scandals, while not damaging his political standing permanently, did little good to his image. In July 2018, Abe's public standing was further hit after he held a drinking party with LDP lawmakers during the peak of the disastrous floodings in western Japan. In 2020, Abe came under further criticism for extending the term of top Tokyo prosecutor Hiromu Kurokawa, who later resigned amid a gambling scandal; Abe's approval rating fell from 40% to 27% during the month of May 2020, largely due to his handling of the Kurokawa situation.
Abe supported the 2018 North Korea–United States summit. Shortly after the summit was announced, Abe told reporters he appreciated "North Korea's change" and attributed the diplomatic change in tone to the coordinated sanctions campaign by the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Abe, however, cautioned President Trump not to strike a compromise on North Korea's missile program that would leave Japan exposed to short-range missiles that do not reach the U.S. mainland or relieve pressure on North Korea too soon before complete denuclearization. Abe also expressed a desire to hold a bilateral meeting with North Korea on the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens, pressing President Trump to raise the matter at the summit.
In 2018, Abe paid a 2-day formal visit to China, in the hopes of improving foreign relations, where he had several meetings with President Xi Jinping. At this time, Abe promised that in 2019 he would ease restrictions on the eligibility for Chinese citizens to obtain Japanese visas, especially among teenagers. Abe also stated that he hoped Xi Jinping would visit Japan in order to cultivate better relations between two countries. Abe cautioned Xi Jinping over protests in Hong Kong at the G20 Summit. Abe told Xi it is important for "a free and open Hong Kong to prosper under 'one country, two systems' policy".
Abe's ulcerative colitis relapsed in June 2020 and resulted in his health deteriorating through the summer. Following several hospital visits, Abe announced on 28 August 2020 that he intended to again resign as Prime Minister, citing his inability to carry out the duties of the office while seeking treatment for his condition. During the press conference announcing his resignation, Abe indicated that he would remain in office until a successor was chosen by the LDP and declined to endorse any specific successor. Abe expressed regret at being unable to fully accomplish his policy goals due to his early resignation. Yoshihide Suga was elected as his successor by the LDP on 14 September 2020 and took office as Prime Minister on 16 September.
Abe is affiliated to the openly revisionist organization Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference).
Abe is widely viewed as a right-wing nationalist. The British journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of BBC described him as "far more right wing than most of his predecessors". Since 1997, as the bureau chief of the "Institute of Junior Assembly Members Who Think About the Outlook of Japan and History Education", Abe led the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. In 2007, he denied to reporters that Japan forced women into sexual slavery during World War II. On his official homepage, he questions the extent to which coercion was applied toward the comfort women, dismissing South Korean positions on the issue as foreign interference in Japanese domestic affairs. In a Diet session on 6 October 2006, Abe revised his statement regarding comfort women and said that he accepted the report issued in 1993 by the sitting cabinet secretary, Yōhei Kōno, where the Japanese government officially acknowledged the issue. Later in the session, Abe stated his belief that Class-A war criminals are not criminals under Japan's domestic law.
In a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee in February 2006, Shinzo Abe said, "There is a problem as to how to define aggressive wars; we cannot say it is decided academically", and "It is not the business of the government to decide how to define the last world war. I think we have to wait for the estimation of historians".
On a TV program in July 2006, he denied that Manchukuo was a puppet state.
Abe published a book called Toward a Beautiful Nation (美しい国へ, Utsukushii kuni e) in July 2006, which became a bestseller in Japan. The Korean and Chinese governments, as well as noted academics and commentators, have voiced concern about Abe's historical views.
In March 2007, in response to a United States Congress resolution by Mike Honda, Abe denied any government coercion in the recruitment of comfort women during World War II, in line with a statement made almost ten years before on the same issue, in which Abe voiced his opposition to the inclusion of the subject of military prostitution in several school textbooks and then denied any coercion in the "narrow" sense of the word, environmental factors notwithstanding. This statement provoked negative reactions in Asian and western countries; a New York Times editorial on 6 March 2007 commented for instance:
A 2007 Washington Post editorial, "Shinzo Abe's Double Talk", also criticized him: "he's passionate about Japanese victims of North Korea—and blind to Japan's own war crimes". In The New York Times in 2014, an editorial called Abe a "nationalist" who is a profound threat to American–Japanese relations, and an opinion piece labeled Abe's position on the subject of comfort women a "war on truth". The same editorial presented him as a revisionist, a view largely accepted by the international and part of the Japanese press. Writing in the London Review of Books, political scientist Edward Luttwak called Abe a "pragmatic Japanese Tory driving through reforms at home, while weaving an alliance aimed at containing China."
In a speech to LDP lawmakers in Tokyo on 8 March 2019, Steve Bannon said that "Prime Minister Abe is a great hero to the grassroots, the populist, and the nationalist movement throughout the world". According to Bannon, Abe was the first nationalist leader to win an election in an industrialized democracy and successfully govern as a nationalist." "Prime Minister Abe was Trump before Trump", Bannon declared, eliciting laughter from some LDP lawmakers.
The Asahi Shimbun also accused Abe and Shōichi Nakagawa of censoring a 2001 NHK program concerning "The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal". The "tribunal" was a private committee to adjudicate comfort women; about 5,000 people, including 64 victims from Japan and abroad, attended. The committee members, who claimed to be specialists of international law, claimed that Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese government were responsible for the use of comfort women. The TV program, however, did not mention the full name of the tribunal and keywords such as "Japanese troops" or "sexual slavery", and it also cut the sight of the tribunal, the host grouping, statements of the organizer, and the judgment itself. Instead, it presented criticism against the tribunal by a right-wing academic and his statement that "there was no abduction of sex slaves and they were prostitutes".
On the day following the Asahi Shimbun report, Akira Nagai, the chief producer and primary person responsible for the program held a press conference and ensured the report of the Asahi Shimbun. Abe stated that the content "had to be broadcast from a neutral point of view" and "what I did is not to give political pressure". Abe said, "It was political terrorism by Asahi Shimbun and it was tremendously clear that they had the intention to inhume me and Mr. Nakagawa politically, and it is also clear that it was a complete fabrication." He also characterized the tribunal as a "mock trial" and raised objection to the presence of North Korean prosecutors, singling them out as agents of North Korean government. Abe's actions in the NHK incident have been criticized[who?] as being both illegal (violating the Broadcasting Act) and unconstitutional (violating the Japanese Constitution).
A news program aired on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) on 21 July 2006 about a secret biological weapons troop of Imperial Japanese Army called Unit 731, along with a picture panel of Shinzo Abe, who has no relation to the report. Abe said in a press conference, "It is a truly big problem if they want to injure my political life". The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications inquired into fact relevance and stated that there had been an omission in editing the TV program fairly, making an administrative direction of exceptional stringent warning based upon the Broadcasting Act.
On 24 October 2006, a report emerged that Abe's new administration had called on the NHK to "pay attention" to the North Korean abductees issue. Critics, some even within Abe's own LDP party, charged that the government was violating freedom of expression by meddling in the affairs of the public broadcaster.
In December 2006, it was revealed that former Prime-Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government, in which Abe was Chief Cabinet Secretary, had influenced town hall-style meetings, during which paid performers would ask government officials favorable questions.
On 22 November 2012, it was reported that TBS's early morning TV show "Asazuba" accidentally displayed Abe's photo alongside a news report about an NHK announcer's arrest for a sex offense. Abe's face filled viewers' screens along with the name of NHK announcer Takeshige Morimoto, who anchors NHK's "Ohayo Nippon" program on Saturday and Sunday. Morimoto was arrested for allegedly groping a woman on the train. Abe posted on his public Facebook page "This morning on the TBS show 'Asazuba,' when a newscaster reported on a story regarding the apprehension of a molester, a photo of me was shown. Images of this blunder can now be seen clearly across the Internet, Have the slander campaigns already begun!? If this were merely an accident, it would be proper for the TV station to give me a personal apology, but as yet I haven't heard a single word." The newscaster acknowledged that the incorrect image had been displayed, but merely stated that the photo was "unrelated" and did not refer to the politician by name. Neither Abe nor his office has received any form of apology.
Abe has visited Yasukuni Shrine on several occasions. While serving as Chief Cabinet Secretary in the government of Junichiro Koizumi, he visited in April 2006, prompting South Korea to describe the trip as "regrettable". He visited again on 15 August 2012, the anniversary of the end of World War II, and after winning the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party, he visited on 17 October 2012 in an official capacity as party president.
He initially refrained from visiting the shrine as a sitting Prime Minister. He did not visit at all during his first term from September 2006 to September 2007, unlike his predecessor Koizumi, who had visited yearly while in office. Abe's not visiting the shrine prompted a Japanese nationalist named Yoshihiro Tanjo to cut off his own little finger in protest and mail it to the LDP. While campaigning for the presidency of the LDP in 2012, Abe said that he regretted not visiting the shrine while Prime Minister. He again refrained from visiting the shrine during the first year of his second stint as prime minister in consideration for improving relations with China and Korea, whose leaders refused to meet with Abe during this time. He said on 9 December 2013 that "it is natural that we should express our feelings of respect to the war dead who sacrificed their lives for the nation… but it is my thinking that we should avoid making [Yasukuni visits] political and diplomatic issues". In lieu of visiting, Abe sent ritual offerings to the shrine for festivals in April and October 2013, as well as the anniversary of the end of World War II in August 2013.
His first visit to the shrine as prime minister took place on 26 December 2013, the first anniversary of his second term in office. It was the first visit to the shrine by a sitting prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi visited in August 2006. Abe said that he "prayed to pay respect for the war dead who sacrificed their precious lives and hoped that they rest in peace". The Chinese government published a protest that day, calling government visits to the shrine "an effort to glorify the Japanese militaristic history of external invasion and colonial rule and to challenge the outcome of World War II". Qin Gang of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Abe is "unwelcome by Chinese people… Chinese leaders won't meet him any more". The Mainichi Shimbun argued in an editorial that the visit could also "cast a dark shadow" on relations with the United States, and the US embassy in Tokyo released a statement that "the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors". The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials urge Abe not to visit the shrine and pay homage to war criminals anymore. Public intellectual Amitai Etzioni of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, who was a child in Germany when the Nazis rose to power, has stated in response to Abe's visits, "Unlike Japan, [Germany] faced their past, came to terms with it and learned from it. Japan should do the same." Etzioni criticized Prime Minister Abe's visit to the shrine as well as what he refers to as Japan's recent "nationalist wave" in an op-ed for The Diplomat. On 15 August 2014, the 69th anniversary of the surrender of Japan in World War II, Abe chose to not visit the shrine, in what was perceived as a diplomatic gesture to South Korea, and China. Despite Abe's absence, China and South Korea both voiced their disapproval at Japan's leadership as a large number of politicians, and three cabinet members, did attend the shrine to mark the anniversary.
On 28 April 2013, a new public event, the Restoration of Sovereignty Day, was held in Tokyo to mark the 61st anniversary of the end of the US occupation of Japan. It had been proposed by Abe in 2012. Since the US occupation of Okinawa ended only in 1972 and nearly three-quarters of US troops in Japan continue to be stationed in Okinawa, the event, which was attended by Emperor Akihito, was denounced by many Okinawans who saw it as celebrating a betrayal, and there were demonstrations in both Okinawa and Tokyo.
In 2015, Abe's government refused to admit refugees affected by conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. Abe stated that Japan must solve its own problems before accepting any immigrants. Abe has favored short-term working visas for migrant workers to "work and raise incomes for a limited period of time, and then return home".
Abe's older brother, Hironobu Abe, became president and CEO of Mitsubishi Shōji Packaging Corporation, while his younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, became Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Abe married Akie Matsuzaki, a socialite and former radio disc jockey, in 1987. She is the daughter of the president of Morinaga, a chocolate manufacturer. She is popularly known as the "Domestic opposition party" due to her outspoken views, which often contradict her husband's. Following her husband's first stint as prime minister, she opened an organic izakaya in the Kanda district of Tokyo, but is not active in management due to the urging of her mother-in-law. The couple have no children, having undergone unsuccessful fertility treatments earlier in their marriage.
In addition to his native Japanese, Abe speaks English.
Abe's first cabinet was announced on 26 September 2006. The only minister retained in his position from the previous Koizumi cabinet was Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who had been one of Abe's competitors for the LDP presidency. In addition to the cabinet positions existing under Koizumi, Abe created five new "advisor" positions. He reshuffled his cabinet on 27 August 2007.