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Politics

Japan's Abe kicks off year 7 as prime minister

Including his first stint, record in sight as longest-serving leader

Shinzo Abe could become Japan's longest-serving prime minister in November.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enters the seventh year of his second run as the Japanese leader Wednesday, advancing closer to an all-time record for days served in the nation's top political office.

Including his first stint, which ran from 2006 to 2007, Abe has been prime minister for a total of 2,558 days. He will surpass Shigeru Yoshida's 2,616 days in February and beat the postwar record of 2,798 days held by Eisaku Sato in August.

Barring unforeseen events, Abe, who began his second term in December 2012, will become Japan's longest-serving prime minister ever in November, topping Taro Katsura's 2,886-day record set in the early 20th century.

"No matter how many years it's been, I hope to devote all my energy and stay engaged for the country and for the people," Abe said on Tuesday.

"My failures and experience [during the first stint] have been a crucial driver for me in the last six years," he said.

Before he can set a new record, Abe must lead the ruling coalition to victory in the upper house election in the summer of 2019. He also needs to ensure the economy will not lose steam after the planned consumption hike that October. Resolving a territorial dispute with Russia is high on his diplomatic agenda.

"The prime minister has been spearheading reforms without wavering," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday. "He has produced results in both reviving the economy and foreign policy."

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